(Full Disclosure: I volunteered for the New York Asian Festival from 2004-2006)
When the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) began nine years ago, the Subway Cinema crew was screening their films at NYC's Anthology Film Archives on 2nd and 2nd Avenue. It was the beginning of summer so it was hot and the air conditioning occasionally malfunctioned and some of the prints and DVDs had technical difficulties. This year, the festival screens its films uptown at Lincoln Center's Walter Reade theater. Their status bump is well-deserved, a sign that they really are the NYC festival for cinephiles that want a truly democratic slate of films. NYAFF has it all: action, romance, science fiction, comedy, documentaries, monster movies, exploitation, you name it. What other festival would screen Tien An Mien, a docudrama about the erection of the Tien An Mien Gate and a night of "Pink" films, subversive hour-long softcore porn with titles like Groper Train and The Japanese Wife Next Door?
The key thing to remember if you're looking over this year's stacked program and can't decide what to see during the next 10 days is that NYAFF is very much an event festival. That means they try to make each screening include a movie (duh), a prize give-away, an amped-up introduction by festival co-programmer Grady Hendrix, receptions and a post-screening Q&A. Try to get tickets for the events that seem more "eventful" than others and you won't be disappointed. No other film series in the NYC puts on a show quite like the NYAFF crew.
In that light, you should definitely check out the Pink Film Strikes Back side-bar as it's a midnight screening featuring a Q&A by pole dancer Asami and two silly pornographic films for the price of one. Hopefully there'll also be a trailer reel of other "Pink" films to tide you over. Also, be sure to be there for either of the upcoming screenings of Gallants, a throwback to old Shaw Brothers Hong Kong martial arts films starring the now 70 year-old @$$-kicker Bruce Leung, who you may know as one of the Five Deadly Venoms. Leung will be in attendance and if you ask nicely, perhaps he'll show you some moves.
Of course you should also try to check out the full five-hour cut of John Woo's blockbuster historical drama Red Cliff on July 4th. And Symbol, Hitoshi Matsumoto's new whatsit comedy. And Chaw, the new South Korean comedy that programmer Hendrix described as "Jaws but with a pig and if it were directed by Joe Dante."
Aw shucks, just check out this year's line-up here and make up your minds for yourselves.
The festival started this past Friday and continues until July 8th. Be sure to attend.