“The Girl and the Gun (Babae at Baril)” and “John Denver Trending” are both screening at the festival which offers more than 50 films from 10 countries including first-timers Bhutan and Kazakhstan.
Set as the Opening Film is the North American Premiere of “The Girl and the Gun (Babae at Baril),” written and directed by Rae Red, led by actress Janine Gutierrez, and produced by Iana Celest Bernardez and Bianca Balbuena.
“So proud to be part of this female-led team,” Gutierrez posted on her Instagram account. In the film, she plays the role of a department store saleslady whose life changes when she finds a gun right on her doorstep one night.
The film, which earned a Best Director award for Red at the QCinema International Film Festival also stars Felix Roco, JC Santos, and Elijah Canlas. Red co-wrote with her cousin Mikhail Red the film Birdshot, which screened at the 2017 NYAFF and was the Philippine entry to the Oscars.
NYAFF continues to highlight women both behind and in front of the camera and this year, they are proud to spotlight an exciting lineup of titles directed and led by women: Heavy Craving from Taiwan, Lucky Chan-sil and Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 from South Korea, My Prince Edward from Hong Kong, and Victim(s) from Malaysia, among others.
“At a time when the work of festivals might seem like a rearguard battle, I’m glad to take a leap into the unknown, and search east, not only for the films, but for new ways of exhibiting those films,” said Samuel Jamier, executive director and president of the New York Asian Film Festival & Foundation.
A generous share of the program is devoted to new filmmakers, including striking directorial debuts and sophomore efforts. Integral to NYAFF’s mission is showcasing the Asian cinema vanguard that emerges largely from new talent and fresh voices.
This edition reflects today’s particularly kinetic innovations, much informed by social media and the hyper information highway. An impressive cross-section of work highlights new ideas in storytelling and tackles social mores and personal demons, including the aforementioned John Denver Trending, Korea’s Beauty Water and Taiwan’s Detention and IWeirDo.
John Denver Trending is about a 14-year-old farm boy whose life is suddenly upended when a video of him brutally attacking a classmate went viral. The film marks the directorial debut of Arden Rod Condez, who previously worked as an ABS-CBN writer for 15 years.
“Millions of Filipinos, including me, live away from our families because of work. For us to quell the longing, we use social media. This is why even if we have one of the slowest internet speed, we are still one of the largest number of social media users worldwide,” Condez said in his director’s statement at the Cinemalaya Film Festival last year. “But in recent years, we begin to witness the danger of social media particularly to the vulnerable Filipino millennials.”
Condez said various real-life stories he has heard and read – a neighbor’s son fled after a video of him bullying another kid surfaced online; a boy in a town committed suicide when he was accused of stealing a gadget and girl in another city killed herself live on Facebook – made him think hard about the inherent and dangerous power of social media.
“These troubling tales of Filipino millennials make me question, how does someone come of age in the time of social media?” he asked.
“John Denver Trending” explores this pressing question and as a backdrop, features the local color of his hometown, Pandan, Antique. The film was shot with almost all non-professional actors, speaking their very own language of Kinaray-a.
The film has received critical acclaim and won Best Film and Best Actor (for newcomer Jansen Magpusao) at the 2019 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival and was an Official Selection at the 2019 Busan International Film Festival.
In regional terms, South Korea is front and center in this year’s selection. Faithful to tradition, the Festival presents a balance of arthouse and genre titles with an emphasis on outstanding storytelling and accessibility: Secret Zoo, Hitman Agent Jun, Moving On.
As the boundaries between what is strictly film and TV blur, NYAFF has found, in its tireless search for exciting, new content, an extraordinary example of the convergence of both formats in SF8, a series of eight stand-alone 52-minute science fiction films that will make their International Premiere at this first virtual edition.
NYAFF has partnered with Smart Cinema USA to showcase the best films from all over Asia even during this global pandemic. Smart Cinema, a technology and data-driven platform, is the virtual cinema destination for movies in Asia as they have created a unique, cutting-edge, virtual “Almighty Cinema” ecosystem to accommodate all the various demands from international festivals, distributors as well as traditional exhibitors.
(The 19th New York Asian Film Festival will run from August 28 to September 12, 2020.)