From Wednesday 4th to Sunday 15th October, cinemas across the capital (and others around the country) will be hosting electrifying movies at this year’s BFI London Film Festival. 2023’s event brings over 250 films, shorts, series, and XR works to the UK. To find out what we’re looking forward to, check out our LFF Preview Movie Robcast episode.
As always, with the LFF showcasing must-see movies from South Korea, Japan, China, Mongolia, and more, fans of East Asian cinema are not left wanting. There’s plenty to choose from, and for your consideration we offer here the 5 East Asian movies most exciting us.
What’s the story: The Good, the Bad, the Weird director Kim Jee-woon captures the turbulence of South Korea’s film industry in the 1970s.
Why’s it exciting us: Simply, Kim Jee-woon. A new film from the director of A Tale of Two Sisters, The Age of Shadows, and I Saw the Devil is always cause for celebration. Kim may not be as feted as his Parasite director Bong Joon-ho or The Handmaiden helmer Park Chan-wook, but his work is always memorable and kinetic. This one sees Kim going meta, for a tricksy, twisty film-within-a-film story about South Korea’s turbulent film industry in the 1970s. Oh, and showing up in the cast is Song Kang-ho, star of Parasite, The Host, and Memories of Murder. ‘Nuff said.
EVIL DOES NOT EXIST
What’s the story: Takumi and his young daughter Hana live in a rural community near Tokyo. They find themselves in a fight to preserve the integrity of their natural world when Takumi discovers plans for a glamping site near his house.
Why it’s exciting us: Hamaguchi Ryusuke’s previous film, 2021’s Drive My Car, picked up the Best International Feature Film Oscar. And its BAFTA equivalent. And the Japanese Academy’s Best Film Award. And three prizes at Cannes, including Best Screenplay. Making his next outing compulsory viewing. But, Hamaguchi’s movies are always beautiful studies of everyday life, finding the profound in the ordinary. And while his films typically give your average Marvel blockbuster a run for its money duration wise (Drive My Car is 3 hours long, 2015’s Happy Hour a stonking 5 hours 17 minutes), Evil Does Not Exist runs a swift 1 hour 46 minutes. Meaning you can squeeze in another festival film.
What’s the story: Told from three different viewpoints, the reasons for a schoolboy’s strange behaviour are uncovered.
Why it’s exciting us: Okay, by now it’s clear we’re primarily attracted to movies from directors we love. But although Palme D’or winning filmmaker Kore-eda Hirokazu is prolific (8 films, 1 TV movie, and 2 TV series in the last decade alone) we’ll always keep up to date with what he’s doing. A social issues filmmaker, in Monster Kore-eda looks to be tackling bullying and teen mental health. The Rashomon-like structure of conflicting narratives he’s using in the film of course harkens back to that other great Japanese director, Kurosawa Akira…
ONLY THE RIVER FLOWS
What’s the story: In 1990s rural China, a man is arrested on suspicion of being a serial killer. But, the investigating detective begins to question the strange behaviour of the locals.
Why it’s exciting us: We’ve not seen Wei Shujun’s previous movies, and the enigmatic trailer reveals little of the plot. Instead, it delivers plenty of intrigue and, although Wei is Chinese, vibes reminiscent of Japanese director Miike Takashi’s golden era. Add in an Un Certain Regard Award nomination from this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and this police procedural is setting our pulse racing.
IF ONLY I COULD HIBERNATE
What’s the story: Poor but bright Mongolian teenager Ulzii is determined to win a national Physics competition. When his mother returns to the countryside for work, Ulzii must balance school with providing for his younger siblings during one harsh winter.
Why it’s exciting us: Social drama seems to be the watchword this year, but East Asian filmmakers have a talent for bringing an unusual touch to heavy subject matter. In her first feature, Zoljargal Purevdash looks to have injected energy, compassion, and sprightly humour into a story that on paper sounds a tad grim. Like Only the River Flows, this was also Un Certain Regard Award nominated at Cannes 2023, not bad going for a directorial debut.