Between the Lower East Side Film Festival, the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, the DV8 Film Festival, and now even the Porn Film Festival, there’s no shortage of summer film fests in NYC. For the past 15 years, the New York Asian Film Festival has been a part of this cadre, presenting lineups of movies from all across the continent. This year, with 51 picks in its final lineup, the organizer Samuel Jamier is certain that there will be enough varieties of genres to satisfy anyone’s tastes.
“The novelty this year is Southeast Asia,” Jamier explained. “We have really great movies from the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and more. When the programming team got to watch these films, we were really shocked at how great they were. There are some very different kinds of storytelling involved.”
Jamier’s top pick from this year’s selection was Hamog (Haze), from the Philippines. Director Ralston Jover’s noir-like film about a group of street kids from a neighborhood in Manila was a particularly compelling watch, Jamier argued. “From the Philippines, people usually expect poverty porn or else something really art house-y, and here is a great movie that’s very accessible. Why isn’t Cannes or whoever showing it? But that’s our role, I guess, that’s what we do.”
Another film he was excited about is the Thai film Heart Attack, about a graphic designer going for four days and counting without sleep. Jamier joked that the festival organizers could particularly relate to this one.
For Jamier, this festival is an opportunity for people to experience films from a region that they wouldn’t necessarily come into contact with otherwise. “Some of these films are a massive success in their homeland,” he explained, “but many people aren’t always interested in watching films from China or other Asian regions.” The festival, with its wide selection of stories and styles, gives audiences a chance to discover the incredible variety that nestles under the umbrella term Asian cinema. “You’re talking about Asia, that’s a really wide region,” he said.
While the festival, which is produced by Subway Cinema, originally started off at Anthology Film Archives in the East Village, it’s since moved uptown to The Film Society at Lincoln Center. Nonetheless, Jamier explained that the festival’s roots and that of its founders (Grady Hendrix, Paul Kazee, Brian Naas, Nat Olson, and Goran Topalovic) are inextricably tied to that original location and the neighborhood.
“When the last Chinatown theater shut down, you had this group of friends who were at a little bit at a loss,” he recounted, explaining how the founders conceived of the idea. “So they decided, ‘How about we create a festival, and if we create a festival we can see the stuff that we want?'”
The festival starts on June 22, and screenings will be held at the Film Society and at the SVA Theatre on 333 West 23rd Street. Buy your tickets here.