Terracotta Festival 2010: Preview


Terracotta Far East Film Festival

6-9 May 2010

Prince Charles Cinema, London

Terracotta website

Following the first Terracotta last year, festival director Joey Leung has once again been scouring the Far East for his second mixtape of Asian blockbusters and mysterious oddities. As before, his MO is to provide a short, yet eclectic program that demonstrates the wonders of Eastern cinema, one accessible to both film geeks and casual viewers.

Terracotta will open with Asia’s biggest name – Jackie Chan. Little Big Soldier (2010) is his latest action movie, and although it’s another buddy movie of sorts, this time set in ancient China, it’s an assured return to form for the veteran martial artist. The festival will close with another spectacular period piece, Bodyguards and Assassins (2009), a lavish crowd-pleaser that follows an assassination attempt in 1905 Hong Kong. For those tired of headache-inducing 3-D cartoons, the Far East proves there’s nothing wrong with the old-fashioned way of delivering thrills.

While Chan is a household name, Leung is keen to highlight emerging talents such as Huang Bo, star of Cow (2009), a Chinese black comedy about a peasant tasked with saving a cow’s life during World War II. ‘This little-known film has won some major awards and is set to take off internationally – we were glad we got to it early!’ explains Leung. He also uncovered Japan’s Fish Story (2009), a sci-fi comedy set in several different time frames about punk rock and meteorites: ‘These two films are must-sees for people out to discover something different.’

Leung has also acted on feedback from last year’s festival and added late-night horror screenings and documentaries to the Terracotta programme. The Thai film Meat Grinder (2009) is an Asian take on Sweeney Todd, retelling the gruesome fable with a noodle-seller who starts harvesting human meat for her legendary soup stock, while Phobia (2008), also from Thailand, is a collection of four supernatural tales. But Terracotta is also set to educate, not just entertain, with a double bill of documentaries profiling In the Mood for Love cinematographer Christopher Doyle and exploring the impact of the yakuza on Asian cinema. Director Yves Montmayeur will be on hand to talk about these films as Leung is hoping to get behind the scenes of Asian cinema: ‘The awareness of who’s who helps those new to the genre navigate the vast offering of films. What’s important to us is that we bring in the next generation of film fans and students.’

Those who have fond memories of Johnnie To’s Sparrow from last year’s festival will be pleased to hear that the director returns with another French-inflected crime tale. In Vengeance (2009), a French chef (played by musician/actor Johnny Hallyday) jumps between Macau and Hong Kong in a tough, near-wordless quest for revenge. It’s To back to his hard-boiled best, revisiting the starkness of Exiled and Election while mixing in shades of Memento.

Manga fans will be able to catch the spectacular conclusion of the 20th-Century Boys trilogy based on the award-winning series by Naoki Urasawa as well as the entertaining family adventure K-20: Legend of the Mask (2008). There’s also animé in the form of Summer Wars (2009) and the usual strangeness from South Korea with the light-hearted musical Antique (2008), so somewhere within the 15 handpicked films is a movie guaranteed to pull you into the weird and wonderful world of the Far East.

Richard Badley