Line-up includes 9 films to explore and a masterclass with special guest renowned Japanese writer-director Kōji Fukada
The festival screens at IFI Dublin from March 30th – April 2nd, plus a special programme will tour venues in Galway, Limerick and Cork from April 1st
An exciting programme was announced today for the seventh East Asia Film Festival Ireland 2023 (EAFFI) which will take place from March 30th to April 2nd, bringing works from prominent and emerging writers and directors from diverse cultural and social backgrounds across East Asian cinema to audiences in Ireland.
These films reflect on individual and communal experiences and dynamics in insightful and human ways. Inspiring fiction, documentary, classic and self-reflexive film essays explore and expose the world around them in vivid ways, asking questions about society, culture, politics, personal and collective history in our ever more challenging times.
The festival screens at IFI Dublin and a special programme will tour venues in Galway, Limerick and Cork.
EAFFI is delighted and privileged to welcome at IFI this year’s guest of honour, the great Japanese writer-director Kōji Fukada. His masterful Love Life (Official Competition, Venice
Film Festival 2022) opens the festival on Thursday, March 30th followed by Harmonium (winner, Un Certain Regard Jury Prize, Cannes Film Festival 2016), and he will participate in a masterclass on Saturday, April 1st. This is an opportunity not to be missed.
EAFFI today also announced a new partnership with Asia Market (www.asiamarket.ie) who will support the programme.
Speaking about this year’s EAFFI programme, Festival Programmer and Artistic Director, Marie-Pierre Richard said, ‘We are delighted to present new and classic works from prominent and emerging writers and directors, from diverse cultural and social backgrounds across East Asian cinema. These films reflect on individual and communal experiences and dynamics, in insightful and human ways, and explore and expose the world around them in vivid ways, asking questions about society, culture, politics, personal and collective history in our ever more challenging times. One of our main focuses is to bring key film talents to Irish audiences whether this is through our cinema screenings, commissioned online interviews or hosting in-person visits. This year, we are thrilled to welcome acclaimed Japanese writer-director Kōji Fukada as our festival guest of honour.’
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The 2023 East Asia Film Festival Ireland programme in detail:
Thursday 30th March (20.00)
Taeko (the wonderful Fumino Kimura) lives in a small Japanese city with her husband Jiro (Kento Nagayama) and her eight-year-old son Keita, from a previous marriage to deaf Korean-Japanese Park Shinji (Atom Sunada). After a tragic accident, homeless and jobless, Park reappears in Taeko’s life. Taeko is the only person who can communicate with Park, using Japanese sign language, and this disrupts Taeko and Jirō’s already unbalanced relationship.
Through acute observation and brilliant, naturalistic performances, acclaimed Japanese director Kōji Fukada’s (Harmonium; A Girl Missing; The Real Thing) mundane domesticity and suburban settings become ambiguous and unsettling. Fukada explores and upsets the flawed emotional relationships of tidy traditional middle class family life and everyday social order. Observed with harrowing coldness through static camera set ups, abrupt pacing and narrative shifts subvert the illusionary unity and surface to reveal the underlying tension. Sign language is brilliantly used in Love Life as a link and division between the characters, and this is beautifully reflected through visual details of gestures.
Followed by Q&A with director Kōji Fukada, hosted by critic Tara Brady (The Irish Times).
123 mins, Japan-France, 2022, Digital, Subtitled
Friday 31st March (18.00)
Chinese writer-director Wu Lang’s striking debut feature tells the story of Han Jiangyu (Lee Kang-Sheng) who returns to his hometown on Hainan Island after ten years in jail. Han Jiangyu wants to reconnect with Su Hong (Li Meng) and her child, Yao, but who exactly are they to him? His former lover? His child? The town has radically changed meanwhile, with lots of skyscrapers being built, and Su Hong is planning to buy an apartment in one of them. Han Jiangyu gets a job through developer friend Kai, whose dad it seems was the reason Han Jiangyu went to jail.
Absence has a haunting, slow rhythm, and the camera, drifting through the landscape, seems almost like another actor. Echoing Antonioni, each character is caught by a sense of alienation, struggling to communicate in their old world which has become a new one.
Absence had its world premiere at the Berlinale International Film Festival 2023, Official Selection, Encounters Section.
The screening will be introduced by Tianxiang WANG.
102 mins, China, 2023, Digital, Subtitled
Friday 31st March (20.10)
Harmonium is divided in two halves: in the first we meet Toshio (Kanji Fu-rutachi), who runs a workshop under his home where he lives with his wife Akié (Mariko Tsutsui) and their lovely daughter Hotaru (Momone Shinokawa). When Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano) a friend from Toshio’s past, newly released from prison, arrives in their life, Toshio offers him a job. Slowly the close-knit family grows into a foursome, sharing meals and vacations, but this seemingly idyllic arrangement can’t last. The second half jumps some eight years after. As with Kōji Fukada’s most recent film Love Life, underlying tension and flaws in social and domestic harmony spiral out of control with the unexpected arrival of an outsider with a shared past. Significant narrative jumps, naturalistic performances, and elegant visual compositions reveal another brilliant, deeply harrowing, slow burn psychodrama.
Followed by a Q&A with director Kōji Fukada, hosted by critic John Maguire (Business Post).
119 mins, Japan-France, 2016, Digital, Subtitled.
MASTERCLASS: KŌJI FUKADA IN CONVERSATION
Saturday April 1st (13.00)
Japanese writer-director Kōji Fukada will be in conversation with film critic, Tara Brady (The Irish Times) and Irish writer-director, Michael Kinirons.
This event is presented in partnership with the Japanese Film Festival Ireland (https://www.jff.ie/).
Kōji Fukada is highly regarded internationally as a young Japanese auteur. This is his first visit to Ireland and a rare opportunity for an Irish audience to have first-hand insights into the creative process at play in the making of his films.
Kōji Fukada (b. 1980, Japan) studied literature at Taisho University, and filmmaking at the Film School of Tokyo, where he began making independent films. Fukada’s credits include: Hospitalité, 2010; Harmonium, Jury Prize Award, Un Certain Regard Cannes 2016; A Girl Missing, 2019; his film version of his original 2019 TV Series for the Japanese television, The Real Thing, 2020; and Love Life in 2022. Fukada is an active advocate for Japanese Independent Cinema. As one of the founders of the Japanese Independent Film Guild (Eiga Nabe) with directors Hirokazu Kore-eda and Hamaguchi Ryusuke, he ran a crowdfunding campaign to help independent film theatres survive the Covid pandemic.
Saturday 1st April (14.50)
The latest film by Japanese documentary filmmaker Kazuhiro Sôda, Zero is a brilliant and beautiful portrait of psychiatrist Dr. Yamamoto, who retires from his clinic in Okayama after more than 50 years of practice to embark on a new path in life. Leaving his patients after all these years, and devoted to caring for himself and his frail wife Yoshiko and her slow decline from dementia, brings new challenges.
His second film on Dr. Yamamoto (a follow-on to Mental, 2008) Soda frames this as an ‘observational documentary’ based on principles including ‘no research’, ‘no script’, and ‘roll the camera yourself’, some of his ‘10 commandments of observational filmmaking’. Moving, raw, and emotional, Zero is an intimate film of deep affection. A portrait of inspiring human experience and a unique insight into an older generation dealing with health and ageing.
128 mins, Japan-USA, 2020, Digital, Subtitled.
EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN
(YIN SHI NAN NU)
Saturday 1st April (17.30)
With the support of the Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute and the Taipei Representative Office in Ireland, audiences can experience this restored version of Ang Lee’s classic and exquisite multi-generational Eat Drink Man Woman. The last film in Lee’s family trilogy known as the ‘father knows best’ series, Eat Drink Man Woman was the first of them to be shot in his native contemporary Taipei. Served by a fabulous cast (and fascinating food!), the film tells the story of widowed master chef Chu (Sihung Lung) who lives with his three adult daughters – Jia-Jen (Yang Kuei-Mei); Jia-Chien (Wu Chien-Lien); and Jia-Ning (Wang Yu-Wen). The weekly family gathering revolves around elaborate Sunday dinners prepared affectionately by Chu for his daughters, and occasionally a friend and neighbour. There they share the changes in their lives, each of them using this central moment to make important announcements and revelations, all to tender and wonderful effect.
124 mins, Taiwan-USA, 1994, Digital, Subtitled
Followed by a panel discussion with Mei Chin & Elizabeth Lin in partnership with Asia Market.
RETURN TO SEOUL
Saturday 1st April (20.40)
25-year-old French-Korean Frédérique Benoît, aka Freddie, has lived in France all her life having been adopted at an early age. Now she finds herself journeying in Seoul, her first time in her native land, in a culture and a language she doesn’t know. She befriends Tena and Dongwan, and on their advice seeks help from the international adoption centre, precipitating a chaotic eight-year life-changing journey of self-discovery, and reconciliation with her birth parents.
French-Cambodian writer-director Davy Chou’s haunting and nuanced Return to Seoul is loosely based on a friend’s personal story, and his direction echoes Hou Hsiao-hsien in its raw energy and focus on impulses and deep emotions. Park Ji-min (a visual artist without any previous acting experience) is magnetic as Freddie – her intuitive, dazzling presence delivers a raw and emotional portrait of a restless, impulsive young woman.
116 mins, France-Germany-Belgium-Cambodia-Qatar, 2022, Digital, Subtitled.
FAR AWAY EYES
Sunday 2nd April (15.45)
Writer-director Wang Chun-Hong, a photographer born in Taiwan, plays the young male protagonist in his debut feature set in Taipei at a crucial period of history: the Taiwan presidential election in January 2020. Nearly thirty, he reflects on his past, present, and possible future. Inspired to imagine his film – about a young man trapped by the unknown – on seeing a photograph of a group of people watching two planes in the sky, and merging documentary and auto-fiction, he forges his own cinematic visual style, a blended language of image overlays, mirror-images, panning, and long takes.
Preceded by short film A Moment Twice Lived (Martin Healy, Ireland, 12 mins) selected in partnership with aemi, a Dublin-based initiative that supports and regularly exhibits moving image works by artists and experimental filmmakers. This film explores our perception of the passage of time through the subjective experience of memory, ageing and dreaming. The screening will be introduced by director Martin Healy.
79 mins, Taiwan-China, 2022, Digital, Subtitled, Black & White
Sunday 2nd April (18.00)
The original Chinese title of Blue Island specifies its blueness as melancholy reflection. Indeed, Chan Tze-woon’s beautiful film extends the run of excellent recent documentaries on the 2019 protest movement, such as Inside the Red Brick Wall (2020), beyond in-the-thick-of-it documentary.
Instead, Blue Island contemplates recent events as part of Hong Kong’s long struggle against external hegemony, including during British rule. The comparison of today’s protestors with the young leftist demonstrators of the late 1960s has been controversial. But Chan’s film has two strokes of brilliance. First, he casts today’s young protestors in re-enactments of the events of the 1960s and asks them what they feel. Second, he brings them together with the now middle-aged men and women they are impersonating. The results are thoughtful, tender, resolute, and heartbreaking.
This screening is curated by Prof. Chris Berry, and will be introduced by emerging filmmaker Diana Cheung.
97 mins, Hong Kong-Japan, 2022, Digital, Subtitled
THE NOVELIST’S FILM
Sunday 2nd April (20.10)
Film writer-curator Dennis Lim remarks that in Hong’s films from the past decade, ‘women are the true heroes’, and this was never more true than here. Veteran novelist Junhee (Lee Hye-yeong, In Front of Your Face), has lost her inspiration. She makes a daytrip to a small town where she visits a former colleague and bookstore owner, and this leads to chance encounters – first, a filmmaker who has failed to adapt one of her books, and then actress Kilsoo (luminous Kim Min-hee) who is also questioning her role as an artist. Feeling inspired, Junhee wants to make a short film with Kilsoo.
Prolific festival favourite South Korean writer-director Hong Sang-soo returns with his regular troupe of actors in another sparkling conversation-driven comedy-drama shot (almost entirely) in sumptuous black and white. Delight in Hong’s exploration of artistic inspiration and creativity, filmmaking, writing, and social relationships in the company of old and new friends!
Preceded by short film All Tomorrow’s Parties (Zhang Dalei, China, 24 mins, 2023). China after the 1990 Asian Games. Xiao Zhou works in the state-owned film studios as a receptionist and distributes tickets for the in-house cinema screening.
All Tomorrow’s Parties had its world premiere at the Berlinale International Film Festival 2023, Official Selection, Short Film Competition.
92 mins, South Korea, 2022, Digital, Subtitled
The IFI thanks the Arts Council for the wonderful support.
The East Asia Film Festival Ireland (EAFFI) would like to thank the Arts Council, the IFI and all its sponsors and partners for their invaluable support, including Asia Market, Taipei Representative Office in Ireland, Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute, Brooks Hotel, aemi, Young Critics Programme by Young Irish Filmmakers, the Japanese Film Festival Ireland, Belltable Arts Centre, Pálás Cinema and Triskel Arts Centre.
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