East Asia Film Festival Ireland (EAFFI) is returning to the IFI for its fourth edition from March 26 – 29. Although only founded recently, the event has grown to become one of the country’s most anticipated film festivals, coinciding with a rise of Irish and Western interest in cinema from the region. In fact, EAFFI will be celebrating the success of the South Korean and Oscar best picture winner Parasite, with a 35mm screening of its director Bong Joon-ho’s earlier masterpiece, the monster film The Host.
On top of that, the festival will be showcasing some of the best new cinema from East Asia. To help make it easier for film fans to decide what to see, and to coincide with the event’s terrific multi-pass deal (5 films for €50) available from the IFI box office, HeadStuff have selected five gems amongst the stellar line-up.
A Girl Missing (Thursday, Mar 26)
We here at HeadStuff had the pleasure of seeing A Girl Missing ahead of EAFFI and can confirm it’s a perfect festival opener. Japanese writer-director Koji Fukada’s follow-up to his 2016 universally loved drama Harmonium, his latest stars his regular collaborator Mariko Tsutsui as Ichiko, a caregiver who has grown close to the family she works for. However, when their youngest daughter goes missing and the person responsible is revealed to be Ichiko’s nephew, it throws her life into disarray.
By framing a crime thriller through a new lens and telling a suspensful story in two timelines – one in the past detailing the central disappearance and its immediate aftermath, and another in the future where Ichiko is out for revenge – A Girl Missing is completely unpredictable. Fukada’s icy direction and dark screenplay finds great menace in the mundane, with intense multi-layered performances from Tsutsui and Mikako Ichikawa (The Third Murder) only adding to the thick atmosphere. A blend of slow-burn mystery and character drama, fans of movies like Burning or Secret Sunshine should adore this.
The Wild Goose Lake, (Friday, Mar 27)
Another of the EAFFI line-up we’ve seen before it screens at the IFI, this last year Palme d’Or competitor and neo-noir centres on a gangster and motorbike thief (Hu Ge) who goes on the lam when he mistakenly kills a policeman. Already wanted by the cops (led by Ash is Purest White’s Liao Fan), a massive bounty on his head leads to various criminals and a prostitute (Gwei Lun Mei) seeking to collect.
Like A Girl Missing, The Wild Goose Lake makes narrative choices which feel unique. This isn’t a Bonnie and Clyde style story about a young glamorous gangster on the run. Instead, our anti-hero is a washed up failure attempting to turn his massive mistake into a positive, by handing himself over to police in a way where he can collect his own bounty to give to his estranged wife.
To be honest though, the central tale feels secondary to the way Chinese writer-director Diao Yinan (Black Coal, Thin Ice) tells it. One of the most artful neo-noirs in recent memory, The Wild Goose Lake is almost all nocturnal landscapes lit by the fuzzy neon lights of store fronts and street vendor stalls. Meanwhile, long dreamy passages and observational social realist scenes depicting bad cops and sexism are broken by sudden moments of darkly comic and extreme Tarantino-esque violence. Let’s just say you’ll never look at an umbrella the same way.
The House of Us (Saturday, Mar 28)
Now to the movies we haven’t had the chance to see yet – first is The House of Us from writer-director Yoon Ga-eun (The World of Us). Her latest centres on the relationship between three childhood friends and how it’s impacted by the adults in their lives.
One of South Korea’s most acclaimed female filmmakers, Yoon has garnered much praise for her skill in immersing audiences into the often adventurous and imaginative perspective of children. If you won’t take our word for it, check out Parasite helmer Bong Joon-ho’s recent Sight and Sound article where he named Yoon as one of the world’s 20 most promising directors.
Monsoon (Saturday, Mar 28)
Following his 2014 critical darling Lilting which starred Ben Whishaw, Cambodian filmmaker Hong Khaou returns with the partly autobiographical Monsoon. Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, Last Christmas) stars as Kit, a man in his thirties, who returns to Saigon for the first time since he was six, his family having fled to England in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. There to seek out a place to scatter his parents’ ashes, he meets Lewis (Parker Sawyers, Barack Obama in Southside with You), a handsome African American clothes designer whose father fought in the war. Romance sparks as Lewis introduces Kit to the more vibrant parts of the city.
Featuring two incredibly charismatic leading men and based loosely on the experiences of Khaou who lived in Vietnam as a boy, EAFFI describe Monsoon as ‘an intimate meditation on cultural dislocation and the search for belonging.’
Jinpa (Sunday, Mar 29)
On a solitary road in Tibet, truck driver Jinpa accidentally runs over a sheep. Later picking up a mysterious hitchhiker, he notices his passenger has a dagger strapped to his leg. The hitchhiker reveals his mission, to kill someone who wronged him. Jinpa, already worried about bad karma from killing a sheep, realises this encounter has deeper meaning.
Winner of best screenplay in the Horizons section of the 2018 Venice Film Festival, Jinpa is produced by the legendary Wong Kar-wai (In the Mood for Love). EAFFI call it ‘mesmerising cinema told through stylised photography and the barren plains of Tibet.’
Also screening at EAFFI 2020 and worth seeking out: Heavy Craving, Chinese Portrait, The Host (on 35mm), Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains and Wisdom Tooth.
Tickets for East Asia Film Festival Ireland are available now at www.ifi.ie/eaffi-2020 or by calling the IFI Box Office on 01-6793477.
A multi-film pass, 5 films for €50, can also be purchased directly from the IFI Box Office. More information can be found at www.eaffi.ie.