The London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) celebrates its sixth edition in 2021 with a commitment to diverse, culturally impactful cinema entertainment. After a year of shut cinema doors, LEAFF is returning home to London’s big screens with an expanded catalogue to help stimulate the renaissance of cinema and promote cultural empathy.
With cinematic offerings from eight regions – China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam – this year’s programme is an ode to the quiet and independent voices from East Asia. Two international premieres, five European premieres and 18 UK premieres will take place at our state-art-of-the-art venues, ODEON Luxe Leicester Square, The Cinema at Selfridges, as well as the newly opened ODEON Luxe West End and The Chiswick Cinema. The festival is divided into five strands: Official Selection, Competition, Hong Kong Focus, Documentary, and Retrospective.
The festival opens with a memorial to the late Benny Chan and old-school Hong Kong action films with the director’s final feature Raging Fire at ODEON Luxe Leicester Square on 21st October. Regional Crime Unit officer Cheung Sung-Bong (Donnie Yen, Ip Man) comes head to head with his former protégé, Yau Kong-Ng (Nicholas Tse, New Police Story) in an explosive plot with razor-sharp action sequences. No stranger to each other’s strengths and weaknesses, it is only a matter of time before one makes the wrong move. Upon its release, the film sustained its place at No. 1 at the China box-office for over a month.
The festival closes with the body-swapping horror-thriller, Spiritwalker, from Korean newcomer Yoon Jae-keun, on 31st October , Halloween night. When skilled combat-fighter Ian (Yoon Kye-sang, The Greatest Love) loses his memory, he finds himself caught in an eternal cycle of body swapping. With a premise that harkens back to the Western classic Momento and coupled with action-packed visuals, the film will surely be a smashing and shocking close to the festival.
Check out the festival’s official Trailer
The rest of the programme includes some of the best Box office hits from prolific East Asian filmmakers. Including Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo’s cross-cultural drama Introduction, as well as Taiwanese auteur Chung Mong-Hong’s touching Covid-19 inspired familial drama The Falls.
Coming to the UK are some of the most hotly anticipated East Asian films including Chen Yu-Hsun’s Crystal award-winning fantasy rom-com My Missing Valentine. The collaborative directorial debut of Japanese actors, Takumi Saito, Naoto Takenaka, and Takayuki Yamada, Zokki and Cho Jung-rae’s historical musical about a wandering pansori singer, The Singer.
The Competition strand is devoted to spotlighting up-and-coming talent from the East Asia region, all of whom have made three features or less. This year, twelve films will compete for of the coveted LEAFF Awards in the categories of Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actor.
This year’s competitors include Kōbe-born Yujiro Harumoto’s dramatic sophomore feature A Balance which has already bagged several awards. Filipino filmmaker Carlo Francisco Manatad award winning Whether The Weather Is Fine, and Wan Chi-Man’s timely and touching story on Hong Kong par-athlete So Wa Wai, Zero To Hero.
This year’s country focus at LEAFF will be Hong Kong. This strand comes thanks to Hong Kong International Film Festival overseas touring program that shines an international spotlight to a new wave of Hong Kong filmmakers. Three Hong Kong films from the Competition section are joined by the 4th winner of Create HK’s First Feature Film Initiative Alan Fung’s Elisa’s Day, Soi Cheang’s award winning neo-noir crime-thriller Limbo , Kin Long Chan’s heart-warming triad film Hand Rolled Cigarette, and photographer-turned-director Sunny Lau’s zany comedy-horror Sugar Street Studio.
It’s not all about feature films, spotlight are also on documentaries like Lim Chung-Man’s Keep Rolling, from one of Hong Kong’s most influential directors, Ann Hui (who was awarded the Venezia’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement last year), to Ian Thomas Ash’s Ushiku, an exposé on Japanese immigration, our documentary strand features everything from staunch journalism to intimate portraits of its subjects.
Other highlights include Three classics from renowned auteurs are restored in our retrospective programme to form a cinematic triptych of East Asian, paying tribute to some of the world’s finest filmmaking. To commemorate the late Benny Chan, LEAFF is proud to present his bold first feature A Moment Of Romance. Youn Yuh-jung’s ground-breaking Oscar and BAFTA win this year is celebrated through her breakthrough role in Kim Ki-young’s psychodrama Woman Of Fire. To mark the 21st year of Edward Yang’s Best Director win at the Cannes Film Festival, LEAFF will show his New Wave classic Taipei Story, which completes the Retrospective strand.
“LEAFF’s mission has been to champion the vibrant creativity of East Asian cinema with our loyal audience”. commented Festival Director, Hyejung Jeon, “Navigating the pandemic, we are coming back stronger than ever with a vital and exciting lineup from directors new and established. After the past difficult year, our festival is a needed coming together for our diverse community and we are so excited to show such a moving, varied line programme for them to enjoy”.
The 2021 London East Asian Film Festival will run between the 21st until 31st October. Head to the festival’s official website for the full details of the programme and buy tickets.