Five Flavours Serves Up John Woo, Taiwanese Wuxia Films And More For 9th Edition

Contributor; Seoul, South Korea (@pierceconran)
Five Flavours Serves Up John Woo, Taiwanese Wuxia Films And More For 9th Edition
Poland's top destination for Asian cinema, the Five Flavours Film Festival, is setting the table for its 9th edition, which kicks off on Friday this week (November 12th). Opening with the recently restored version of A Better Tomorrow (1986) and closing with Sono Sion's Love and Peace on the 20th, this year's festivities will feature a retrospective on John Woo, a look at Taiwanese Wuxia Films, a program on Japanese female directors and plenty more.

Among the 11 films playing in the New Asian Cinema Competition will be The Last Reel, detailing the tragic story of Cambodian cinema, the one-take Filipino psychodrama Shadow Behind the Moon and powerful Korean indie A Girl at My Door with Bae Doo-na. Other notable films screening include Johnny To's Office, S.S. Rajamouli's Baahubali: The Beginning and Hou Hsiao-Hsien's The Assassin.

The festival takes place in Warsaw for the duration and also in Wrocław during November 13-19. Read on for the full press release from Five Flavours:

The 9th Five Flavours Film Festival, the only Polish film festival devoted to East and South East Asian cinema, announces full program. The festival will be held in Warsaw between the 12th and the 20th of November, and in Wrocław between the 13th and the 19th of November. 

This year's program focuses on both classic genres as well as some of the best contemporary films from the Far East. Now restored, John Woo's legendary A Better Tomorrow (1986), which re-defined the identity of Hong Kong cinema and steered action movies into previously uncharted territories, will open the festival. Sion Sono's Love and Peace will close the festival, also marking its premiere in Poland. The endlessly imaginative enfant terrible of Japanese cinema this time toys with kaiju eiga, putting his own spin on the popular genre, complete with giant monsters massacring human settlements.  

This year's program is divided into four main sections and supplemented by special screenings and special events. The People's Jury, consisting of eleven cinephiles from all over Poland selected through an open call, will choose the winning film in the New Asian Cinema competition. This series of screenings showcases extraordinary debuts by artists who are only starting their creative journey, yet already exhibit remarkable talent. Their work is fearless, intuitive, innovative and thought-provoking, often shedding light on long-forgotten stories.

Among these eleven films examining pressing issues in contemporary Asia is The Last Reel by Kulikar Sotho, which confronts the tragic history of Cambodian cinema; the shattering Shadow Behind the Moon by Jun Robles Lana, an intricate psychodrama told in a single long take, illustrating the devastating impact that the civil war had on the everyday life in the Philippines; and the Korean A Girl at my Door starring Doona Bae, a subtle yet suspenseful drama, which focuses on the relationship between a policewoman relocated to a rural area, and a teenage girl harbouring a dark secret.

Our FOCUS section this year is Japanese Female Directors, the first of its kind in Poland that centres exclusively on the work of exceptional female auteurs from the Land of the Cherry Blossom. While due to institutionalised power dynamics governing Japan's film production women had little opportunity to direct up until the 1990s, the subsequent cultural and social revolutions were paralleled by cinematic ones. Filling this gender gap, the "Female New Wave" is perhaps the most prominent movement in the contemporary cinema of Japan. In this section we will screen, among others: the internationally awarded O,5mm by Momoko Ando; The Light Shines Only There by Mipo O, selected as the Japanese entry for last year's Academy Awards; and Rent-a-Cat by Naoko Ogigami, a heartwarming fable bursting with warm colours and eccentric characters, the least of them the protagonist, whose way of making a living is quite unusual.  

The next two sections focus on the classics. The influence of these films cannot be overstated, yet catching them on the big screen is a rare treat. Retrospective: John Woo consists of six gangster cinema masterpieces completed between 1986 and 1992, crafted by the maestro himself. These imaginatively shot urban tales of noble heroes abiding by no code but that of honour swept the whole of action cinema off its feet, and significantly altered generic formulas, establishing a new trajectory for the modern action movie. This section includes, among others, the obscenely stylish Samurai, inspired by the films of Jean-Pierre Melville and Bullet in the Head, an epic meditation on the nature of humanity set during the stormy times of the Vietnam war. This section is developed in partnership with the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office.  

Hou Hsiao-hsien made us wait almost two decades, but he has finally unveiled The Assassin, for which he was Awarded Best Director at Cannes this year. A sublime tribute, The Assassin is part of the Taiwanese wuxia section, where we will screen four milestones of the genre. These heroic narratives rest on the foundation of classical Chinese literature. The timeless Dragon Inn and A Touch of Zen by the legendary King Hu continue to inspire new generations of filmmakers to this day. Hidden Tiger, Crouching Dragon by Ang Lee is an exciting, lush reinterpretation of wuxia, which brought the whole genre back into prominence at the beginning of the 21st century. Contemporary wuxia filmmakers are celebrated for their visually sumptuous style, especially when it comes to capturing the movement of bodies in combat. Truly a sensory feast. This section is developed in the partnership with the Taiwan Ministry of Culture. 

The Special Screenings section is no less exciting. Johnnie To, whose retrospective we presented at the 7th Five Flavours Film Festival is back with The Office. Shot on a single location meticulously constructed for the purpose of the film, this musical depicts the Everyman as merely a cog in the corporate machine. A film of prodigious scale and emotion, the Southern Indian Bahubali: The Beginning by S.S. Rajamouli is a monumental blockbuster and an epic tearjerker, while Jade Miners by Midi Z, one of our regulars, is an unusual work documenting the lives of miners quarrying for jade in Northern Burma.  

For the third time, the Five Flavours Festival will host Fresh Wave, exhibiting the best short films by up-and-coming directors from Hong Kong. The selected shorts were created by the awardees of the Fresh Wave project, chaired by Johnnie To and the Hong Kong Arts Development Council since 2005. Hong Kong films have contributed a great lot to the cinema, but is the next generation following in the footsteps of the greats? This section might have the answers, especially since the young filmmakers will be available for a Q&A after the screenings. 

The Five Flavours Festival would never be complete without the Special Events. Discussions devoted to exploring the part that women play in the development of cultural and media industries in Asia will run parallel to the screenings of Japanese female-directed films. The 'Asian Academy' invites experts to reflect on the main theme, 'Feminism and Women in Asia,' through touching upon various subjects, from local feminist movements to female presence in the film industry. We will also take a closer look at the monster movie phenomenon, and at the work of John Woo, the subject of this year's retrospective. The Academy is also to host a debate, 'Relative Xenophobia,' in order to reflect on the refugee crisis and the ways in which it altered the perception of the Vietnamese community in Poland.  

For more information, detailed screening schedule and ticket purchase please go to

The list of all the festival films:

New Asian Cinema:
0.5 mm, dir. Momoko Ando (Japan 2014)
A Girl at My Door, dir. July Jung (South Korea 2014)
Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories, dir. Dang Di Phan (Vietnam, France, Holand, Germany 2015)
Crocodile, dir. Francis Xavier Pasion (Philippines 2014)
Lazy Crazy Hazy, dir. Luk Yee-sum Jody (Hong Kong 2015)
Shadow Behind the Moon, dir. Jun Robles Lana (Philippines 2015)
Siti, dir. Eddie Cahyono (Indonesia 2014)
Thanatos, Drunk, dir. Chang Tso-chi (Taiwan 2015)
The Last Reel, dir. Kulikar Sotho (Cambodia, 2014)
The Light Shines Only There, dir. Mipo O (Japan 2014)
The Wicked, dir. Yoo Young-sun (South Korea 2014)

FOCUS: Japanese Female Directors
Dear Doctor, dir. Miwa Nishikawa (2009)
Dreams for Sale, dir. Miwa Nishikawa (2012)
Glasses, dir. Naoko Ogigami (2007)
One Million Yen Girl, dir. Yuki Tanada (2008)
Rent-a-Cat, dir. Naoko Ogigami (2012)
What Are You Afraid of?, dir. Hisako Matsui (2015)

Retrospective: John Woo
A Better Tomorrow (1986)
A Better Tomorrow II (1987)
The Killer (1989)
Bullet in the Head (1990)
Once a Thief (1991)
Hard Boiled (1992)

Taiwanese Wuxia Films:
A Touch of Zen, dir. King Hu (1971)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, dir. Ang Lee (2000)
Dragon Inn, dir. King Hu (1967)
The Swordsman of All Swordsmen, dir. Joseph Kuo (1968)
The Assassin, dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien (2015)

Special Screenings:
Baahubali: The Beginning, dir. S.S. Rajamouli (India 2015)
Jade Miners, dir. Midi Z (Myanmar, Taiwan 2015)
Love & Peace, dir. Sion Sono (Japan 2015)
Office 3D, dir. Johnnie To (Hong Kong, China 2015)
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