FANTASIA 2012: ASIAN CINEMA IS BACK IN FORCE!

Press release
For immediate release

FANTASIA 2012: ASIAN CINEMA IS BACK IN FORCE!

Montreal, July 11, 2012 – Fantasia 2012 promises to be a dream year for fans of cinema hailing from all corners of Asia. Japan, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, continental China, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and India will make you dream, cry, laugh, shudder and dance with this eclectic selection which we believe reflects the liveliness, quality and diversity of Asian cinema, not to mention its artisans’ immense talent.

Fantasia equals its 2009 record with 34 medium and feature length films from Japan, titles as diverse in genre as they are in emotional range. Our selection includes a nice mixture of internationally renowned auteurs and young emerging filmmakers who have only begun to astonish, all while representing Japanese cinema’s rich history (including a 100 year celebration of Nikkatsu studio presented in collaboration with Cinémathèque québécoise and Festival du nouveau cinéma) and constant vitality. Giving honor where honor is due, let’s begin with the opening film of Fantasia 2012. Fresh from Cannes, the musical comedy FOR LOVE’S SAKE (North American Premiere), from prolific director Takashi Miike, submerges the viewer in a tragi-comic love story filled with extremely catchy songs and epic rumbles. Miike also offers us the visual feast ACE ATTORNEY (Canadian Premiere) which, after leaving its mark at Rotterdam, will transport Fantasia’s audience into a future where surrealist duels have replaced the justice system as we know it.

Noboru Iguchi, another Fantasia favorite, returns with two features that he will introduce himself to the Montreal public. With ZOMBIE ASS (Canadian Premiere), Iguchi gives us nothing less than the perfect midnight feature bursting with very… sketchy humor, while DEAD SUSHI (World Premiere) offers him the opportunity to transform yet another Japanese symbol into a killing machine in this hilarious comedy starring Rina Takeda (HIGH KICK GIRL), who will also be on site.

Filmmaker Shunichiro Miki immerses the viewer in an imaginary world where giants and silly creatures evolve alongside normal people in THE WARPED FOREST (Canadian Premiere), a fantasy comedy that recalls FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT, the Fantasia 2006 hit that he co-directed. Another one of FUNKY FOREST’s three directors, the illustrious Katsuhito Ishii (THE TASTE OF TEA), made a rampage on the festival circuit with SMUGGLER (Quebec Premiere), which is now set to electrify Montreal. Yuya Ishii, Fantasia 2010’s big winner with SAWAKO DECIDES (Best Film and Best Actress), strikes again with MITSUKO DELIVERS (Quebec Premiere), another irresistible feel-good movie lead by an instantly sympathetic female protagonist. The 2010 vintage also brought the discovery of director Yoshihiro Nakamura with GOLDEN SLUMBER and FISH STORY. He is back this year with A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI (Quebec Premiere), an adorable family comedy that took the public’s prize at the last Fantastic Fest. The entire team is also thrilled to find at the heart of the line-up another picture by director Toshiaki Toyoda, who previously brought us 9 SOULS and BLUE SPRING. With the poetic MONSTERS CLUB (Quebec Premiere), reminiscent of Koji Wakamatsu’s themes, he leads us inside the ravings of a young recluse terrorist. Speaking of the figurehead revolutionary Japanese cinema, we are very excited for the screening of Koji Wakamatsu’s latest film: 11/25 THE DAY MISHIMA CHOSE HIS OWN FATE (North American Premiere), presented at Cannes 2012.

Internationally renowned filmmaker Shinobu Yaguchi (SWING GIRLS) makes his first Fantasia appearance with ROBO-G (North American Premiere), a comedy for the whole family about a group of engineers that dress an old man up as a robot in order to enter a robotics expo. Fantasia is finally lucky enough to count a feature film by underground director Gakuryu Ishii (formerly Sogo Ishii) in its programme: ISN’T ANYONE ALIVE? (Canadian Premiere), part of the Camera Lucida section of the festival.

The future of independent Japanese cinema is extremely well represented at Fantasia 2012. John Cairns will himself be introducing the strange re-reading of the zombie genre SCHOOLGIRL APOCALYPSE (North American Premiere), also within the scope of Camera Lucida. A double-screening introduces the debut features of two extremely promising directors that raise different yet equally troubling portraits of youth: Hidenobu Abera‘s NAKEDNESS WHICH WANTS TO DIE TOO MUCH (International Premiere) and Eisuke Naito’s LET’S-MAKE-THE-TEACHER-HAVE-A-MISCARRIAGE-CLUB (Canadian Premiere). One half of another double-screening with the Canadian film MANBORG, Hajime Ohata’s fabulous HENGE (Canadian Premiere) deals with a mutation of surprising scope that evokes both Cronenberg and Tsukamoto.

Also starring in the aforementioned SMUGGLER, Japanese cinema’s rising star Shota Matsuda plays two diametrically opposed parts that showcase all of his talent. In Gu Su-Yeon’s furiously visceral suspense HARD ROMANTICKER (Canadian Premiere) he appears menacing and uncontrollable, whereas in AFRO TANAKA (North American Premiere), a delirious comedy directed by Daigo Matsui, we find him embodying a sympathetic hoodlum unable to lose his virginity. Another young man in search of love, who suddenly finds himself endowed with a magnetism that appears out of the blue, is at the heart of the marvelous LOVE STRIKES! (Canadian Premiere), the debut feature from director Hitoshi One, an inventive musical comedy filled with video clips perfectly integrated within the narrative.

Finally, two franchises that have marked Fantasia history are back. SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO (Quebec Premiere) from Takashi Yamazaki, the long-awaited, real-life adaptation of the animated series of the same name, will greatly astound with its spectacular special effects, while Ultraman returns in MEGA MONSTER BATTLE: ULTRA GALAXY LEGEND – THE MOVIE. Japanese animation is also back in force at Fantasia 2012, as you will notice by perusing the ‘Axis’ section of the programme, which is dedicated to international animated film.

As for the selection from the Republic of Korea, it demonstrates how the peninsula’s cinematic industry continues to amaze with its capacity to produce an extremely entertaining cinema endowed with incredible production values while still offering an auteur’s vision and a sharp critical sense. The collective DOOMSDAY BOOK (Canadian Premiere) perfectly embodies this reality. Directed by Kim Jee-woon (A TALE OF TWO SISTERS) and Yim Pil-sung (HANSEL & GRETEL), this sometimes funny, sometimes poetic picture is divided in three apocalyptic segments in which humanity is always responsible for its own annihilation. Director Juhn Jai-hong, for his part, throws us in the middle of the tension between both Koreas without ever being biased in POONGSAN (North American Premiere), a furious suspense written by Kim Ki-duk. Yun Jong-bin’s NAMELESS GANGSTER: RULES OF THE TIME (Quebec Premiere) is contextually set at the end of the 1980s dictatorial regime, where Choi Min-sik (OLDBOY) plays a gangster on the rise. Abuse can also be aimed at the most vulnerable of victims: children. This cruel fact is demonstrated in Hwang Dong-hyuk’s SILENCED (Quebec Premiere), a film inspired by true events that sent shockwaves through Korea. On a lighter note, rebel filmmakers Kim Gok and Kim Sun ferociously denounce the K-Pop industry with their horror film WHITE: THE MELODY OF THE CURSE (Quebec Premiere). Byeon Seung-wook sensitizes the viewer to animal cruelty through a terrifying tale told with frightening efficiency. In its exposure of social inequalities amongst teenagers, Yeun Sang-ho’s animated feature THE KING OF PIGS (Canadian Premiere), selected as part of the Director’s Fortnight, constitutes a true masterpiece.

Korean cinema is also capable of being lighter and stands as a prime destination for fans of romance and comedy. Selected at the latest Berlin festival, Lee Han’s dramatic comedy PUNCH (Quebec Premiere) delivers delicious dialogue in a narrative that is as funny as it is smart, in which THE CHASER’s Kim Yun-seok delivers a colossal performance. Korean star Ha Jung-woo, also from THE CHASER and NAMELESS GANGSTER, goes Woody Allen style in Jeon Kye-soo’s romantic comedy LOVE FICTION. For its part, Jo Beom-gu’s QUICK (Quebec Premiere), a stunt-filled action laugh fest, could be seen as the Korean answer to the French franchise TAXI. Kang Hyeong-cheol’s dramatic comedy SUNNY is surprising in its capacity to create both genuine laughs and deep emotion. Finally, after having opened the eyes of many with last year’s surprising INVASION OF ALIEN BIKINI, Oh Young-doo returns with YOUNG GUN IN THE TIME (North American Premiere), another blend of sci-fi, action and comedy of incredible creativity.

The Hong Kong selection once again satisfies our hungry martial arts and action tummies with the celebration of 40 years since the first Hong Kong film achieved mainstream financial success in the west. John Woo’s frequent collaborator David Wu, whose editing style forever changed the style of action cinema, will be joining the festival to host the Canadian premiere of COLD STEEL (Canadian Premiere), which features some of the most tense sniper action since Peter Bogdanovich’s TARGETS.

Current king of kung fu cinema Donnie Yen explodes with breathtaking action fury in Peter Chan’s Cannes selection DRAGON (Canadian Premiere). From co-producer John Woo and director Su Chao-Bin and featuring the queen of kung fu cinema Michelle Yeoh, REIGN OF ASSASSINS (Quebec Premiere) will rejuvenate the swordplay genre with new levels of powerful excitement.  Action auteur Dante Lam ignites barrels of gunfire nirvana in the shoot-em-up adventure THE VIRAL FACTOR (Quebec Premiere). Ching Siu-Tung (CHINESE GHOST STORY), one of the pioneers of modern martial arts cinema reunites with Jet Li in the retelling of the famous green and white snake legend in the period action film SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE (Quebec Premiere). The rarely seen Shaw Brothers classic FISTS OF THE WHITE LOTUS starring Gordon Liu (KILL BILL) returns to Montreal after 30 years and splatters our screens with dynamic martial arts with craziness and kinky undertones.

Pang Ho-Cheung returns with two films to assault the audience’s funny bones.  Think of him as crazier version of Kevin Smith. NYAFF opening film VULGARIA (Canadian premiere) is an outrageous tale about the lengths a producer will go to get his comeback film off the ground, even if it means casting an aging actress in an erotic film, using his girlfriend as the body double or possibly having sex with a mule! Filmed in only 12 days, the film is too vulgar to describe further. LOVE IN THE BUFF (Quebec premiere), the eagerly awaited sequel to 2010 Fantasia selection LOVE IN A PUFF, has cemented its pop culture status earlier this year in HK. The two lovebirds from the original have broken up, but months later they reunite to cheat on their new better halves. Rounding out the Hong Kong lineup will be Wong Ching Po’s brilliantly bleak REVENGE: A LOVE STORY (Canadian Premiere), from the producing team of Pang Ho-Cheung’s DREAM HOME.

From China, first-time director Xu Haofeng (also co-writer of Wong Kar-wai’s GRANDMASTERS) brings us SWORD IDENTITY (Quebec Premiere), a highly unique and satirical swordplay film. Kevin Spacey makes his Chinese film debut in Dayyan Eng’s INSEPARABLE (Quebec Premiere). Fresh from the screens of China and Hong Kong, Wuershan’s visually stunning supernatural martial arts flick PAINTED SKIN: THE RESURRECTION (International Premiere) will be presented during one of Fantasia’s closing night events.

The Taiwan film industry has been dormant for years but a new generation of filmmakers have exploded onto the screen and traveled to numerous festivals, winning many prizes in the process. This nation arrives with youthful vigour with a wide range of genres, from historical epics to coming-of-age stories to zombie movies. From executive producer John Woo comes Taiwan’s most expensive action juggernaut, WARRIORS OF THE RAINBOW: SEEDIQ BALE, the gripping tale of the demise and uprising of an aboriginal tribe, which will be shown in the fully uncut Roadshow Version for the first time in Canada. Giddens Ko’s autobiographical YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE (Canadian Premiere) created a pop culture sensation in its home territory and Hong Kong, with its unapologetically frank yet crudely humorous depiction of teenage life. Xing Kong’s award-winning STARRY STARRY NIGHT (Quebec Premiere) is a beautifully sublime film about a 13-year-old played perfectly by Xu Jiao (Stephen Chow’s CJ7) and how she handles herself when her world falls apart. Chen Hung-I’s HONEY PUPU (Canadian Premiere) is a deeply immersive experience about a girl’s search for her missing boyfriend, which involves interacting with the social ecosystem of cyberspace to find him. As for ZOMBIE 108 (North American Premiere), it’s reportedly the first ever Chinese zombie film!

Thailand is not left behind this year with its three titles. HEADSHOT (North American Premiere) by director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE), plunges the viewer in a very dark film noir where an assassin starts seeing things upside down after receiving a bullet through the head.  For something completely different, DEAD BITE (Canadian Premiere), the debut feature by rapper-director Joey Boy, will cause hysteria as its bloody mix of horror-comedy is tailor-made for midnight screenings. Finally, let’s move towards the family comedy with the spectacular action comedy THE KICK (Canadian Premiere) from Prachya Pinkaew (ONG BAK), starring Jija Yanin (CHOCOLATE) who features amazing choreographies and stunts.

The Philippines are increasingly becoming a fertile land for talented auteurs and Fantasia is proud to highlight the emergence of this national cinema with its own dedicated spotlight. Selected at the last Rotterdam festival, Khavn De La Cruz’s MONDOMANILA, which opens our Camera Lucida section, will raise many eyebrows for its singular treatment of a delicate subject that is devoid of any political correctness. Lawrence Fajardo’s choral film AMOK plunges us into the chaos of one of Manila’s most crowded areas where a group of characters will be united by tragedy. Receiving its share of selections on the festival circuit while mocking the festival culture, Marlon Rivera’s THE WOMAN IN THE SEPTIC TANK follows a filmmaker and his crew on a mission to create a film about life in the slums in the simple hope of being selected at Cannes. Finally, Ron Morales’ halting suspense GRACELAND takes us through a narrative of corruption and sexual scandal in which a chauffeur is being manipulated following his daughter’s abduction.

Vietnam introduces us to the country’s indigenous kiep hiep (meaning swordplay) genre with Victor Vu’s BLOOD LETTER (Canadian Premiere), which beautifully showcases the splendour of Vietnam and packs exciting action scenes directed and designed by Johnny Nguyen (THE REBEL, CLASH).

Finally, India makes a Fantasia return in 2012 with SINGHAM, a disjointed action-comedy directed by Rohit Shetty and starring Ajay Devgn. This selection, which should be one of the most promising titles in our ACTION! section, will please both Bollywood fans and those who have yet to discover its charm.

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