Yes, it’s that time of the year again, as Firecracker Magazine (in association with Tiger Beer and FedEx Express) rolls into town to present the Tiger Eye Firecracker Showcase, London's Asian Film Festival, hosted by Curzon Cinemas (Soho, Mayfair and Renoir) between the 14th and 24th of September.
Now in its third year, the Firecracker Showcase 2006 features 30 films from across Asia - from Beijing to Bangkok, Indonesia to India - many of them showing in the UK for the very first time.
Not only that, but there are also four special showcase strands; Cathy a focus on the “other” classic Hong Kong movie studio where noir meets musical and the 50s retro vibe has a mambo rhythm; Pinoy Indies - the thriving indie scene of The Philippines on screen, and Bollywood blown away by the brilliant and brutal movies from the hand of Ram Gopal Varma.
There is also the return of Nite Movies - late night movies at the Curzon Soho featuring lots of cops, guns, ghosts and zombies. We like zombies…
Why not watch the Showcase Trailer here and then scroll down below for the full line-up, including such soon-to-be genre favourites (maybe) as The Host, Election 2 and El Kapitan.
Firecracker Showcase London’s Asian Film Festival
Thurs 14 - Sun 24 September 2006
Ticket details: Curzon Soho and Curzon Mayfair £9.50 (£6.50 concessions)
Renoir £8.50 (£6.00 concessions)
SHOWCASE PASS: see 5 films for the price of 4 and save up to £13.50 (5 films £34; concessions £24)
Online booking: www.curzoncinemas.com
Curzon Soho box office: 0870 756 4620
Curzon Mayfair box office: 0870 756 4621
Renoir box office: 0870 850 6927
Thursday September 14, 6:45pm, Curzon Mayfair
OPENING NIGHT FILM WITH DIRECTOR Q&A
KEKEXILI: MOUNTAIN PATROL (LU CHUAN, CHINA 2004, 90 MINS)
A genuine masterwork from one of China’s rising stars - director Lu Chuan - Kekexili is an unforgettable genre-straddling drama. Part riveting adventure movie, part Eastern version of a Western, the story follows a volunteer group patrolling the inhospitable wastes of the Tibetan plateau to protect the indigenous antelopes against poachers. Bleak but life-affirming, thrilling and emotionally arresting, Kekexili evokes the power of nature in a way few films before have succeeded in doing.
FREE Tiger Beer for all ticket holders prior to this screening.
Friday September 15, 6:45pm, Curzon Mayfair
THE PLACE PROMISED IN OUR EARLY DAYS (MATOKO SHINKAI, JAPAN 2006, 91 MINS)
Set to be one of the landmark animation movies of recent years. Set in a divided Japan of a not-too-distant future, this startlingly animated film is a dazzling blend of sci-fi imagination and wistful coming-of-age story.
Saturday September 16, 9:15pm, Curzon Mayfair
THE WAYWARD CLOUD (TSAI MING-LIANG, TAIWAN/FRANCE 2005, 114 MINS)
A film that simply has to be seen to be believed, the latest from brilliantly original auteur Tsai Ming-Liang is the story of a lonely porn actor who stumbles across an equally bereft woman he once loved, set against the backdrop of a true-to-life major water shortage in Taiwan. You’ll never think of a watermelon in the same way again...
Monday September 18, 4:00pm, Curzon Soho
Friday September 22, 6:45pm, Renoir
GUNS AND TALKS - UK PREMIERE
(JANG JIN, SOUTH KOREA 2001, 120 MINS)
A gang of three assassins have been steadily building a reputation for ruthless efficiency, aided by an uncle who crafts ingenious homemade gadgets.
Monday September 18, 6:45pm, Curzon Mayfair
BE WITH ME (ERIC KHOO, SINGAPORE 2006, 93 MINS)
A triptych of stories about love and loneliness from one of Singapore’s most respected contemporary directors, Be With Me mixes stories of loss overcome, impossible attraction and adolescent awakening, and ends up as one of the most affecting films of the year.
Tuesday September 19, 4:00pm, Curzon Mayfair
Saturday September 23, 6:30pm, Renoir
PEPPERMINT CANDY (LEE CHANG-DONG, SOUTH KOREA 1999, 130 MINS)
Essentially the story of one man’s slow but inexorable downfall, the film also manages to tell the story of the nation of South Korea over recent decades, gripping and emotionally wrenching throughout.
Wednesday September 20, 6:30pm, Curzon Mayfair
YUGO THE NEGOTIATOR - UK PREMIERE
(SEIJI KISHI, JAPAN 2006, 150 MINS)
Exclusively presented in feature-length format, Yugo the Negotiator demonstrates an eye for every detail in a superbly realised and intelligent, multi-layered thriller.
Wednesday September 20, 9:15pm, Curzon Mayfair
THE BOW (KIM KI-DUK, SOUTH KOREA 2005, 90 MINS)
The Bow is a poignant and harrowing tale of unrequited love presented in Kim Ki-Duk’s distinctive style, which at the same time is among the most accessible of his movies to date.
Friday September 22, 9:00pm, Renoir
THE HOST (BONG JOON-HO, SOUTH KOREA 2006, 119 MINS)
Already a monster hit in its native Korea, where it has been treading all over box office records with Godzilla-like impunity, The Host must be the most eagerly awaited creature feature in recent years.
Saturday September 23, 4:00pm, Renoir
I'LL CALL YOU - UK PREMIERE
(LAM TZE-CHUNG, HONG KONG 2006, 85 MINS)
Stephen Chow’s sidekick from Kung Fu Hustle, actor Lam Tze-chung now steps into the role of director, with a bittersweet comedy debut brimming with wit and invention, takng the singles scene in Hong Kong as his springboard.
Sunday September 24, 2:00pm, Renoir
THE SHOE FAIRY - UK PREMIERE
(ROBIN LEE, TAIWAN 2005, 94 MINS)
Think Amelie... with shoes. Robin Lee’s technicolour modern-day fairy tale follows a young woman who allows an obsession with beautiful footwear to consume her life, until one day disaster strikes...
Sunday September 24, 4:00pm, Renoir
JONI'S PROMISE (JOKO ANWAR, INDONESIA 2005, 83 MINS)
The freshest and most promising film to come out of Indonesia in recent years, Joni’s Promise is also an irresistible movie-for-movie-lovers.
Sunday September 24, 7:00pm, Renoir
ELECTION 2 - UK PREMIERE
(JOHNNIE TO, HONG KONG 2006, 92 MINS)
Hong Kong’s master of the triad flick follows up his most acclaimed gangster movie yet with a superb sequel. Delving deeper into the triad underworld, Election 2 is set to establish To’s saga as one of the great gangster cycles.
WELCOME TO THE COMPANY: THE MOVIES OF RAM GOPAL VARMA
Firecracker dips its toe into India for the very first time - prepare to have lazy pre-conceptions of Indian cinema blown away. The popular image of spectacular musical and dance numbers padding out bottom-ache-inducing four hour films couldn’t be further from the films of Ram Gopal Varma.
Saturday September 16, 9pm, Curzon Mayfair
COMPANY (RAM GOPAL VARMA, INDIA 2002, 155 MINS)
Ram Gopal Varma takes the directorial reins for the epic Company, a gangster saga to place among the very highest examples of the genre.
Friday September 15, 8:45pm, Curzon Mayfair
AB TAK CHHAPPAN (SRIRAM RAGHAVAN, INDIA 2004, 129 MINS)
The police squad in Ab Tak Chhappan collectively make Dirty Harry look like a pipsqueak in a bureaucratic straightjacket. Taut, relentless, brutal, and heavy on sweaty, edgy realism, with a truly stunning standout performance from Nana Patekar in the lead.
Sunday September 17, 4pm, Curzon Soho
EK HASINA THI (SHIMIT AMIN, INDIA 2004, 145 MINS)
Both this film and Keka (also screening in the showcase) show that the female revenge flick has style and substance to spare well beyond Kill Bill or Park Chan-wook’s Lady Vengeance.
Saturday September 16, 4pm, Curzon Soho, followed by Q&A with director Ram Gopal Varma and lead actor Mohit Elawat.
SHIVA - UK PREMIERE
(RAM GOPAL VARMA, INDIA 2006, 120 MINS)
Ram Gopal Varma’s latest revisits older territory in a supercharged remake of his 1990 directorial debut, a huge hit at the time for audiences blown away by an unexpectedly hard-hitting tale of a college boy who gets caught up in street fighting.
THE PINOY INDIE SCENE
The Philippines is embracing digital filmmaking with a fevour almost unmatched elsewhere, simultaneously reinvigorating Filipino cinema for a new generation. This is testament to the vitality of the independent scene in a country whose cinema has been seen as in decline in recent years. Most of the movies presented here show that this couldn’t be further from the truth, demonstrating a stunning range of originality, invention and style, all accomplished on budgets that wouldn’t pay for a fraction of the standard Hollywood fare.
Monday September 18, 8:45pm, Curzon Mayfair
BENEATH THE COGON - UK PREMIERE
(RICO MARIA ILARDE, PHILIPPINES 2005, 80 MINS)
The latest film from Ilarde (whose El Kapitan screens in the showcase Nite Movies section) Beneath the Cogon is a memorably uncategorisable work from a director who made his name in the horror genre.
Saturday September 16, 6:30pm, Curzon Mayfair
Wednesday September 20, 4pm, Curzon Soho
KEKA - UK PREMIERE
(QUARK HENARES, PHILIPPINES 2004, 115 MINS)
Lady Vengeance’s sassy younger sister, Keka follows a girl thirsting for revenge on the rich college jocks who beat her boyfriend to death. Retribution is systematic, swift, and witty, but there is still a chance for Keka to find new romance along the way.
Tuesday September 19, 9pm, Curzon Mayfair
Thursday September 21, 4pm, Curzon Soho
CAVITE (IAN GAMAZON & NEILL DELA LLANA, USA/PHILIPPINES 2005, 78 MINS)
Politically sweaty thriller with digital aesthetics that only intensify the claustrophobia, Cavite is a eye-catching debut for the US-Filipino directorial team of Ian Gamazon and Neill Dela Llana.
Thursday September 21, 8:45pm, Curzon Mayfair
PA-SIYAM - UK PREMIERE
(ERIK MATTI, PHILIPPINES 2004, 112 MINS)
Pa-Siyam is among the finest recent examples of the horror genre in The Philippines, filmed in HD and shot through with realism, from one of the Philippines’ most versatile and respected directors.
FIRECRACKER CLASSICS FROM THE VAULTS OF CATHAY
While the name of the Shaw Brothers remains synonymous with Hong Kong cinema of a certain era, largely through the numerous martial arts movies it churned out, the late 50s and 60s in Hong Kong were in fact dominated by two studios. That the second studio focused on musicals, dramas and comedies probably explains why it is relatively little known in the West, where kung fu has always found its niche, but Cathay (or the Motion Picture & General Investment Co. Ltd. as it was also, less snappily, known) is no less deserving of attention, and with a library of several hundred movies stuffed with an embarassment of buried treasure riches, here we are delighted to present three of the finest movies to come out of the studio’s Golden Age,
Friday September 15, 4pm, Curzon Soho
Sunday September 17, 6:45pm, Curzon Mayfair
THE WILD WILD ROSE (WANG TIAN-LIN, HONG KONG 1960, 128 MINS)
Musical meets noir in this sumptuous rediscovered gem, which feels like an early glimpse at the roots of Wong Kar-Wai.
Thursday September 21, 6:45pm, Curzon Mayfair
MAMBO GIRL (YI WEN, HONG KONG 1957, 91 MINS)
An effervescent musical that oozes 1950s period charm, Regarded by many as the definitive Mandarin musical, Mambo Girl is a joy from start to finish.
Tuesday September 19, 6:45pm, Curzon Mayfair
AIR HOSTESS (YI WEN, HONG KONG 1958, 102 MINS)
A true piece of retro cinematic buried treasure from the jet-set age as we follow the glamorous lives of a group of would be air hostesses as they work their way through training school and take to the skies.
NITE MOVIES AT THE CURZON SOHO
For the second year running, the Tiger Eye Firecracker Showcase is proud to present Firecracker Nite Movies, taking place this year at the Curzon Soho. Perfectly timed to seamlessly follow pub closing, the Nite Movies will screen on Friday and Saturday nights of both weekends of the showcase. This, year P-horror meets T-horror meets PTU, as we explore haunted houses, unleash avenging ghosts with big swords, dig up Thai folk ghost stories and take the cops’ night shift in downtown Kowloon...
Friday September 15, 11:15pm, Curzon Soho
PTU - UK PREMIERE
(JOHNNIE TO, HONG KONG 2003, 87 MINS)
Is this the ultimate night movie? Wholly set in the twilight hours in downtown Hong Kong, when the usually bustling streets become an almost unrecognisable urban landscape, this superb police thriller follows the travails of the Police Tactical Unit as they run up against the gangs, and the story of a policeman (Lam Suet) desperate to recover his missing gun, in a typically stylish work from director Johnnie To that cooks with tense, nocturnal atmosphere.
Saturday September 16, 11:15pm, Curzon Soho
THE HEIRLOOM - UK PREMIERE
(LESTE CHEN, TAIWAN 2005, 97 MINS)
There’s nothing like a haunted house movie, and this cracking example suggests that Taiwan can produce polished and atmospheric horrors to match the best that Japan or Korea have to offer.
Friday September 22, 11:15pm, Curzon Soho
THE GHOST OF MAE NAK (MARK DUFFIELD, THAILAND 2005, 102 MINS)
Englishman Mark Duffield tackles the legend of Mae Nak, a woman who refuses to let go, and determined to protect herself and her family... at terrible cost.
Saturday September 23, 11:15pm, Curzon Soho
EL KAPITAN (DUGO NG BIRHEN) - UK PREMIERE
(RICO MARIA ILARDE, PHILIPPINES 1999, 90 MINS)
The terrorizing “captain” of the title gives Freddy and Jason a run for their tired slasher money - all shadow and exhumed Spanish colonial menace - and for fans of the undead there are plenty of zombies in tow...
Also, look out for issue number 2 of Firecracker in print for our Tiger Eye Firecracker Showcase special, available at participating venues or via subscription from the official site.
Featured in this issue: the completion of our countdown to decide the greatest martial arts film ever made, the movies of Takeshi Kitano and Wang Xiaoshuai in focus, and maverick director Takashi Miike interviewed...