Upcoming UK Film Festivals

September seems to be shaping up as the month for film festivals, with the annual Independent Festival ‘Raindance’ and the Tiger Eye Firecracker Showcase 2006, London’s Asian Film Festival. Hot on the heels of this in October is the London Times Film Festival, so all that remains is to check your bank balance and decide what to see.

Up first for preview is the Raindance Film Festival (Sept 27 – Oct 8, 2006), whose official site can be found HERE . From previous experience I’ve always found it to be a great source of Korean and Asian films, but this year’s focus seems to be more on Japanese films, omitting entirely any contributions from Korea, Hong Kong and other parts of Southeast Asia.  One film that might be of interest, though, is the Japanese production ‘Dear Pyongyang’. This debut feature is directed by Yong-hi Yang, a Japanese-born Korean, and is a documentary of her life and the relationships within her family and her attempt to understand her father’s political loyalty to North Korea. Premiering in North America at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize and won the Special Jury Prize. It screens on Sept 28, 3pm at Cineworld Trocadero.

The better option this year is the London Asian Film Festival (Thursday Sept 14 – Sunday Sept 24, 2006), which is showcasing 30 films and many of them for the first time in the UK . The four films from South Korea are ‘Guns and Talks’ (directed by Jang Jin), ‘Peppermint Candy’ (dir. Lee Chang Dong), ‘The Bow’ (dir. Kim Ki-Duk), and ‘The Host’ (dir. Bong Joon-Ho). Full details of the festival line-up and the times of the films can be found HERE. For my own personal choice, ‘The Bow’ and ‘The Host’ are ones I’d very much like to see, the former because I enjoy Kim Ki-duk’s films very much, and the latter because his other work, ‘Memories of Murder’, is a favourite of mine and has me interested in what else he can do with a different genre.

‘Guns and Talks’ – Monday Sept 18, 4pm, Curzon Soho, Friday Sept 22, 6:45pm, Renoir
The Bow’ –  Wednesday Sept 20, 9:15pm, Curzon Mayfair
‘Peppermint Candy’ – Tuesday Sept 19, 4pm, Curzon Mayfair, Saturday Sept 23, 6:30pm, Renoir
‘The Host’ – Friday Sept 22, 9pm, Renoir

Whilst I’m happy with the film festivals, I do often wonder why they decide to show films at 4pm on a weekday afternoon. It seems a little absurd to spend money promoting the films, flying them in from abroad and hiring cinema time, only to screen them when fewer people can see them, something that I think reflects in the price of tickets which are  £9.50 (approx. US$18). The price doesn’t seem so bad for the centre of London, considering it is a special event, but when you compare it to the price of a DVD on Yesasia or one in the stores, you can see the dilemma it causes. It is however my opinion that by going to these events, you support the showing of Asian cinema in the UK, and maybe help encourage more films to be shown on general release rather than just relegated to one-off specials.

That the price puts me off a little might be down to the fact that I have been spoilt by the Korean Film Festival in May, where the films were shown for free. I also have a Cineworld pass whose small monthly fee allows me unlimited viewing, even at Raindance. The London Asian Film festival does, however, offer a "5 films for the price of 4" deal at £34, the option I am more likely to take seeing as their selection is good and I really would hate to miss out!