Oh, Reel-y: Asian American International Film Festival Shorts

While I’ve been attending the New York Asian Film Festival and Japan Cuts for the past few years, this is the first year that I’ve been aware of the Asian American International Film Festival. Last Saturday, I made my way to Chelsea to view some of the selections. I’ll talk here about some of the shorts I saw and cover some feature length films in a later post.
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Oh, Reel-y: Japan Cuts

I’m burning out a little on movies this summer. I’ve been attending screenings at Japan Cuts, an annual festival in NYC showcasing contemporary Japanese cinema. Japan Cuts typically follows the NYAFF, overlapping for one weekend where they share billings.

Some people love the bizarro craziness of Japanese films, but sometimes the most they impress on me is an overwhelming sense of WTF-ness. Still, I’ve watched some rad, bewildering films at the festival, and here’s my take on what I’ve seen in the past few weeks. As with the NYAFF films, I’ll roll out my thoughts in installments.
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Oh, Reel-y: NYAFF movies from Tuesday

Nameless Gangster
Korea, 2012

Nameless Gangster is Korea’s latest entry into the cinematic mobster world, and it’s a darned good one. Set in the criminal world of Busan, South Korea’s second largest metropolis after Seoul, the film portrays the rise to power of a bumbling customs official played by Choi Min-Sik, in fine form as always. Choi Min-Sik’s character is an unlikely gangster–nonthreatening, long-winded, and self-deluded–but you’re never quite sure whether he’s a criminal genius or a well-connected fool. If anything, he’s a traditionalist, who masterfully (or fortuitously) manipulates Korea’s well-documented rigid social hierarchy and his familial connections during his rise to the top, and it’s strange seeing the juxtaposition of this unlikely crime lord with the “real” gangsters.
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Oh, Reel-y: Taiwanese and Korean cinemas

On Monday, of the four movies I watched at NYAFF, two were Taiwanese films by new directors, and two were Korean films starring the venerable Choi Min-Sik, of Oldboy fame. Of course, Taiwan and South Korea are two very different countries, and while their movies differ vastly in style and substance, they share a unique economic and political bond: interests of the American film industry have historically impacted domestic filmmaking in both countries, and typically in not so positive ways.
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Oh, Reel-y: New York Asian Film Festival

One of the ways that I beat the heat–and set fire to my meager nonprofit paychecks–during the brutal New York City summers is seeing movies at the New York Asian Film Festival. This weekend, between finally reading the great The Great Gatsby and keeping close tabs on the absurd $1 million buy-in poker tournament at the WSOP out in Las Vegas, I made my way up to Lincoln Center to catch some of the latest crazed offerings from cinemas across the Pacific. Today and for the rest of the week, I’ll share some brief thoughts and reactions to what I see at this year’s festival.
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