About the Films
An edgy, powerful portrait of three 20-something Chinese slackers looking for something to believe in, BUDDHA MOUNTAIN is fueled by a stunning performance from rising star and singing sensation Fan Bingbing, who won Best Actress at the Tokyo Film Festival for her performance as Nan Feng, a wildly impulsive aspiring singer who is often her own worst enemy. Together with her best friends, the moody, handsome Ding Bo (Chen Po Lin) and Fei Zao (Fei Long), she winds up barging into the cloistered life of a former Chinese opera star (the terrific Sylvia Chang, from EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN and THE RED VIOLIN), still grieving over the tragic death of her young son. (In Mandarin with English subtitles.)
An irresistible and unashamed chick-flick, director/writer Roseanne Liang’s delightful romantic comedy revolves around a geeky Chinese girl, Emily (Michelle Ang) who wants to make martial arts movies, and the tall, lanky New Zealand boy, James (Matt Whelan) she unexpectedly falls for. The Big Problem is her tradition-bound physician father and house-wife mother, expatriates who’ve brought their daughter to New Zealand for a better life – but never expected her to marry a non-Chinese. Loosely adapted from director Liang’s 2005 autobiographical doc BANANA IN A NUTSHELL, this is a lovely gem in the vein of Down Under comedies like MURIEL’S WEDDING. “The perfectly cast leads are delightfully convincing as they share a first kiss … a winning combo of laugh-out-loud humor and genuinely touching heartache” – Richard Kuipers, Variety.
A taxi driver’s son is mistakenly abducted in place of a rich man’s child, setting off a brutal, thrilling cat & mouse game as the desperate cabbie tries to raise the ransom before time runs out. But halfway through, fate throws an unexpected twist, and the driver suddenly finds himself crossing the line between good and evil in an attempt to save his own son. Acclaimed Singapore director Kelvin Tong delivers a tense, satisfying spin on Kurosawa’s classic HIGH & LOW, fueled by a standout performance in the lead role by Singapore/Malaysian Chinese star Christopher Lee (no relation to the Hammer Films star.) (In Mandarin with English subtitles.)
In the tradition of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and “The Name Of The Rose,” Thai director Tom Waller’s brain-teasing murder mystery is set inside a Buddhist monastery in Bangkok plagued by series of unexplained deaths. Former policeman turned monk Father Ananda (Vithaya Pansringarm, in a quiet, moving performance) is assigned to untangle the web of lies behind the grisly killing of a homeless “temple boy” – and at the same time, finds himself becoming a surrogate father to an orphan named Jak. Adapted from author Nick Wilgus’s acclaimed “Father Ananda” murder mystery series. (Los Angeles Premiere. In Thai with English subtitles.)
For the first year of Singafest, we invited supernatural horror maestro Eli Roth to pick his favorite overlooked Asian genre film. His choice – some splatterific Korean horror film or lost Shaw Bros. ghost story?? No, it’s one of famed director & actor “Beat” Takeshi Kitano’s most obscure gems, the riotous – and wildly un-P.C. – sex-comedy GETTING ANY? Loosely inspired by Kitano’s hugely successful 1980’s Japanese TV sketch show, GETTING ANY? is a savagely funny look at how advertising creates fantasies of sexual desire that can never be fulfilled. For this screening we located the only existing subtitled print of the film – in France! – which we’re bringing in just for Singafest. “It’s such a random movie, I don’t know if a print exists anywhere, but it’s so fun and a rarely seen side of him.” – Eli Roth. (In Japanese with English subtitles.)
The first full-length 3-D feature produced in Japan, TOFU BOY is a wild and whacky visual treat for kids and grown-up anime fans. Set in the Edo period, the story revolves around a lovable, gentle yokai goblin, Tofu Boy – so named because he has to balance a big white square of tofu on a plate – who’s a big disappointment to his gruff father, The King of Goblins. Put under a spell by a mischievous band of raccoon tanuki spirits, Tofu Boy wakes up several hundred years later – to find himself lost in a modern Tokyo that’s forgotten all about yokai spirits. (Los Angeles Premiere, in 3-D. In Japanese with English subtitles.)
Based on martial arts movie master Ric Meyers’s book, the documentary FILMS OF FURY is a kung fu fan’s fever dream come true, chock-full of hundreds of clips of bone-crushing, skull-slamming action featuring Bruce Lee, Gordon Liu, Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Chuck Norris and dozens of others. Essentially a greatest hits (and then some) of Kung Fu Cinema, this is a wildly entertaining tour through the history of the genre covering almost all the major filmmakers and performers, including Chang Cheh, “The Godfather of Hong Kong cinema” (ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN), the mighty King Hu (A TOUCH OF ZEN), the great Lau Kar-Leung (36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN, MY YOUNG AUNTIE) and much more. Trust me, after watching FILMS OF FURY you’ll want to rush home and pull out your DVD copies of THE FIVE VENOMS or 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER to relive it all over again! Discussion following with directors Andrew Corvey and Andrew Robinson and producer Tom Coleman (schedules permitting).
A cross between Scorsese’s GOODFELLAS and Kinji Fukasaku’s BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR & HUMANITY, director Doze Niu’s sprawling, action-packed gangster saga is set in the 1980’s in the vibrant, crime-ridden Taiwan district called Monga. Mosquito (Mark Chao) is a soft-spoken high school student who’s grown up fatherless and friendless – until he attracts the attention of the violent Temple Front gang, led by gregarious pretty-boy Dragon (Rhydian Vaughan) and his fierce lieutenant, Monk (Ethan Ruan). Accepted into the gang, Mosquito adapts willingly to a life of crime – and for the first time, feels like he’s part of a family. Only slowly does the much darker, more compromised adult world start to draw him and his friends in, as the traditional Monga gangs find themselves under attack from mainland Chinese rivals. (In Min Nan with English subtitles.)
The controversial topic of sex slavery is tackled head-on in this emotional drama starring Bebe Pham as Phuong Ly, an impoverished Vietnamese woman who falls in love with a charming, sympathetic man who wants to marry her – until their seemingly-perfect romance is sabotaged by her boyfriend’s mother. Heartbroken and fragile, she travels to Ho Chi Minh City to work as a cleaner at a marriage agency. There she meets Mitch (Jay Laisne), a visiting American seeking a Vietnamese wife. He takes a strong interest in her, and coerces her to marry him with the promise that he’ll support her family in Vietnam and she’ll live a much better life in the U.S.. As soon as she arrives in America, Phuong Ly realizes that she’s been brought there as a sex slave. Violated and abused, with no hope of escape, she finds one slim ray of light in the bond she develops with her American abuser’s young, autistic niece — both of them prisoners needing to escape.