The White Storm (dir. Benny Chan, Hong Kong)
The festival kicks off tonight with the world premiere of Benny Chan’s hotly anticipated drug trade thriller. Lau Ching Wan, Louis Koo and Nick Cheng head-up an all-star cast in what promises to be an action-packed globe-trotting extravaganza as Hong Kong's best Interpol agents square off against a big-league drug cartel. It might get loud.
Stray Dogs (dir. Tsai Ming Liang, Taiwan)
In what may or may not be the last film from the eccentric Taiwanese auteur, the harsh weather seems as much a central figure as the wretched individuals struggling to survive on the fringes of society. Always more cencerned with imagery than narrative, any new project of Tsai's is worthy of your attention.
The Fake (dir. Yeun Sang-ho, South Korea)
A couple of years ago you may remember the incredibly brutal, yet impressive animated drama The King of Pigs. Well, director Yuen is back and things are about to get even more devastating. Yuen's sophomore effort is a bleak and nihilistic tale of a corrupt church attempting to defraud its small congregation out of their payoff money, now that the community is facing resettlement due to the construction of a new dam. Joy to the World, indeed!
Like Father, Like Son (dir. Koreeda Hirokazu, Japan)
The latest family drama from the director of Still Walking and Nobody Knows is the harrowing story of a family who discover that their six-year-old son is in fact not theirs, but was accidentally switched with another baby at birth. Presented with the choice of keeping the boy he has raised or swapping him for a blood-related stranger, the film asks big questions about nature vs nurture, blood vs love with Koreeda's trademark nuance, astuteness and lightness of touch.
Moebius (dir. Kim Ki-duk, South Korea)
The latest from ScreenAnarchy favourite Kim Ki-duk is a typically challenging and darkly comic affair, with incest, castration and sex all jostling for position, while the film plays out without a single line of dialogue. Coming hot on the heels of last year's Golden Lion winning Pieta, it comes as some reassurance to see Kim back to his devilishly confrontational best.
Rigor Mortis (dir. Juno Mak, Hong Kong)
Already shaping up to be one of the best Hong Kong films of the year, the directorial debut of former popstar Juno Mak is an unashamedly nostalgic homage to the classic hopping vampire films of the 1980s. Resurrecting a cast of genre staples, including Chin Siu Ho, Chan Yau and Cheung Fat, alongside veterans like Lo Hoi Pang, Paw Hee Ching and Wai Ying Hung, Rigor Mortis is a visually arresting delight for horror fans everywhere.
May We Chat (dir. Phillip Yuen, Hong Kong)
Three decades after Lonely Fifteen, the creative talents behind The Way We Are and Glamorous Youth turn return to the subject of troubled youths falling into prostitution as a way to escape their impoverished home lives. In a city rife with disenchanted youngsters and a flourishing sex industry, May We Chat is poised to perfectly tap into a too-often ignored segment of the Hong Kong zeitgeist.
Boundless (dir. Ferris Lin, Hong Kong)
It's a documentary about Johnnie To, need we say more? Filmed over the course of two years, grad student Ferris Lin convinced Hong Kong's most prominent working director to let him be his shadow, and the result is a surprisingly candid portrait of the man and his work.
The Missing Picture (dir. Rithy Panh, Cambodia)
Heading up HKAFF's Director In Focus retrospective of the work of Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh is his latest award-winning documentary. A harrowing reconstruction of life under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, Panh uses models and claymation to recreate his formative years and family history during one of the most ferocious periods of mass genocide the planet has ever seen.
Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy (dir. Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, Thailand)
The bizarre creative concept behind this story of teenage love and angst instantly caught my attention. The director took 400-odd consecutive tweets from the timeline of an unknown teenage girl and then set out to fashion a narrative, albeit an incredibly surreal one, from that information. The result promises to be one of the most enlightening glimpses into the world of Thailand's youth culture ever committed to film. The trailer also has an Only God Forgives gag in it, so that helped too.
The entire Midnight Craze programme
This late-night series showcases some of the best genre films to emerge from Asia in the last six months, and frankly they are all worthy of your attention. We have everything from Sono Sion's deliriously riotous yakuza comedy, Why Don't You Play In Hell, Sabu's quasi-expressionist critique of servitude and affluence, Miss Zombie, and Eiji Uchida's brilliantly screwed up tale of loneliness and companionship, Greatful Dead, all the way to Chanthaly, the first horror film ever to be released from the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Throw in Noh Young-seok's Intruders and Hashimoto Hajime's Princess Sakura: Forbidden Pleasures for good measure, and all your late-night cinematic desires are well and truly catered for.
Snowpiercer (dir. Bong Joon-ho, South Korea)
What is there still to say about Bong Joon-ho's brilliant vision of a dystopian future, in which the Earth has been crippled by a new Ice Age and humanity's last remaining survivors live aboard a single train? Chris Evans has never been better as the leader of a revolt from the rear of the train towards the Engine - and control, power and perhaps even freedom. Co-starring a host of exceptional performers, including Song Kang-ho, Ed Harris, Tilda Swinton and John Hurt, Snowpiercer is almost certainly the year's best science fiction film, and about as dark, despairing and dynamic a vision of the future as mainstream Cinema is ever likely to stomach.