Following the Beijing 2008 torch relay fiasco and the opening of the largest ever Chinese cultural festival in London (China Now), the time is ripe for a festival of Far East films to grace our screens.
Returning for a bigger, brighter, louder second year, the Tiger Festival will screen thirteen features from the Far East in London and Brighton from May 29 to June 24. The independent festival is also running a short film competition with a Far Eastern theme in conjunction with nonmultiplexcinema.com as well as playing host to several side events and parties, including the official Tiger Festival Party at the ICA.
When was the last time you went to the cinema to see a purely Asian film – an Asian film without the cinematography of Chris Doyle, or the 3D wizardry of Animal Logic, or a storyline involving an American war hero? The Tiger Festival will give you a chance to do so, presenting innovative, bold cinema that offers perspectives on the world that are as varied as the region itself. So unique are the films that the festival’s organisers have had to come up with their own sub-genres to give us some sense of what’s in store: ‘Macabre Musical’, ‘Multiple Personality Thriller’, ‘Monster Fantasy Action’… This is a festival that will erase any pre-conceived notions you may have on Far Eastern cinema.
The opening night film, Memories of Matsuko (Japan, 2006, UK Premiere), is a bold choice. Part tragedy, part musical, part videogame-on-acid extravaganza, the film is largely seen through the Technicolor eyes of lost soul Shou. Asked by his estranged father to clean the apartment of a long-lost aunt who has just been found murdered, he is led to uncover her rich life, and this brings new meaning to his own. The film is certainly an acquired taste, but its bizarre mix of saccharine music video interludes and gritty dramatic bitterness makes it well worth the effort.
The festival will also screen the political satire The President’s Last Bang (Korea, 2005), giving UK audiences a rare insight into South Korea’s political climate in the late 70s. It depicts governmental corruption before focusing on the assassination of President Park Chung-hee. Director Im Sang-soo will be present for a Q&A session after the screening.
One standout from the programme is Fox Family (2006), also from Korea. With an opening line as odd as ‘Where can we find a lot of humans?’ you know you’re on to a good thing. Its initial atmosphere is very Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes, before quickly veering wildly off course to completely unexplored cinematic territory. Sex and death and their various interactions dominate the film, with a few Mighty Boosh-esque dance numbers thrown in for good measure. This is fresh filmmaking meat at its rawest.
Read our comic strip review of Johnnie To’s Mad Detective, also showing at Tiger Festival, in our June print issue. For more details on where to buy the magazine, or if you wish to subscribe, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the contents of the June issue go to our magazine page.