Preview: The New York Asian Film Festival Celebrates Sixteen Sweet Years

Featured Critic; New York City, New York

Lucky New Yorkers, it's that time again when the good folks at Subway Cinema bring us the New York Asian Film Festival, a superior alternative to bombastic multiplex fare, and a one-stop shop for the latest and greatest of the innovative works from all across Asia. As usual, an almost overwhelming variety is on offer, running the gamut from distinctive takes on familiar genres to the truly bizarre and unclassifiable.

The festival runs from June 30 through July 16 at the Walter Reade Theater and the SVA Theatre. Dustin Chang and I have selected 10 films that you should especially look out for. Click through the gallery below for our takes on these.

Dustin Chang contributed to this story.

Japanese Girls Never Die

With its intentionally jumbled chronology, Japanese Girls Never Die goes on to tell the story of Haruko (Aoi Yu), an aimless 27 year old who works at an office and still lives at home. Then there are accidental graffiti artists and an anarchic High School girl gang on a crime spree, beating up unsuspecting men subplots. In series of flash forwards, we learn Haruko that hooks up with a grocery store clerk/childhood playmate, Soga (Ishizaki Huey). She has to deal with daily sexism at the work place - hearing male superiors shit talking a 35-year old, unmarried female co-worker and constantly being asked whether she has a boyfriend, then told she won't have problems getting married because of how she looks. They even say to her point blank that they'd rather hire a 18 yr old girl with no experience rather than a male applicant with experience because they have to dole out more money for a male worker.

Then she goes missing. Yukio and Manabu, two 20 yr olds working dead end jobs and Aina (Takahata Mitsuki), a slightly pumped up version of a cutesy Japanese girl - blinged out cell phone and a gaggle of flush toys on her car dashboard -- start stenciling Haruko's face from the police missing sign all over the neighborhood. The image goes viral and gets tied into the violent crimes perpetrated by the girl gang. In her absence, Haruko becomes a unwitting heroine of a movement.

Japanese Girls Never Die is a strong indictment of the society where girls are subjugated and sexualized at an early age. It's a structurally daring, thought provoking work. Aoi Yu, the baby faced star of millennial classics like All About Lily Chou-Chou and Hana and Alice does a great job, carrying the burden of being a twenty something female in society where self-worth is hard to come by. It's crazy to think that Aoi is old and therefore can easily be discarded. What kind of world is this? Even though it's more than a decade apart from each other, it would make a great double feature with Kurosawa Kiyoshi's Bright Future. -- Dustin Chang

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