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VIFF announces the line-up for the Festival's showcase of East Asian Cinema

Tony Rayns and Shelly Kraicer, programmers of the Vancouver International Film Festival's big Dragons & Tigers: The Cinemas of East Asia section, today announced that the program will showcase a total of 35 features, four mid-length films and 22 shorts (programmed to date). Dragons & Tigers, one of the pre-eminent showcases of East Asian films in the world, is presented with the generous support of Brad Birarda and Robert Sali. The series will feature five World Premieres, eight International Premieres, 12 North American Premieres and two Canadian Premieres from 70 countries. For the 16th straight year, the Festival is pleased to offer the Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema to a new director from the Asia-Pacific region. It will be presented on the evening of Thursday, October 8 before the gala screening of TOAD'S OIL.

Dragons & Tigers is a major programming pillar at VIFF, which takes place October 1 to 16 on 10 screens in Vancouver. VIFF, which will announce its complete line-up on September 9, expects to exceed last year's total of 640 screenings of 360 films from 80 countries.

"Year after year we are delighted to see the new face of Vancouver represented in our enthusiastic audiences for killer films from across the Pacific. We fully expect that among the first films to sell out at the Festival will be brand new sensations like ninja-manga Kamui and Bare Essence of Life (both of which star the hottest actor in Japan, Matsuyama Kenichi). Challenging Japan for domination will be South Korea's Breathless -which is already becoming a global sensation-and Indonesia's Forbidden Door , the very powerful psycho thriller from Joko Anwar, the director of Dead Time. From China we are especially pleased to be presenting the North American premieres of Oxhide II and both of humanist master Ann Hui's new films from Hong Kong The Way We Are and Night and Fog. Of course, the heart of Dragons and Tigers remains the discovery and introduction of new talent to the West, and it's a very rich program on that account this year." - Alan Franey, Festival Director


For the 16th year running, a distinguished international jury will single out an exceptional new talent from East Asia for the Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema. This year that prize is again $10,000.

Mr. Franey underlines that "For many years a generous donation by festival supporter and board member Brad Birarda has enabled the Festival to offer both this award and its significant cash prize. We can't overstate how grateful we are for this support and for what it has enabled. In saying this I speak on behalf of not just our Festival but of every past winner and nominee. It's a particularly important year to emphasize Mr. Birarda's contribution, and to welcome new donor Robert Sali to the Festival. Mr. Sali now joins Mr. Birarda in support of the entire Dragons & Tigers series and this award."

The nominees are:

  • BAKAL BOYS (Ralston G. Jover) Philippines International Premiere
  • CATS (Kim Ji-Hyun) South Korea Canadian Premiere
  • EIGHTEEN (Jang Kun-Jae) South Korea World Premiere
  • KARAOKE (Chris Chong Chan Fui) Malaysia
  • KUN 1: ACTION (Wu Haohao) China World Premiere
  • LEFT OUT (Sasaki Omoi) Japan International Premiere
  • ADRIFT (Bui Thac Chuyen) Vietnam
  • YELLOW KID (Tetsuya Mariko) Japan International Premiere

This year's Dragons & Tigers series features include:


1428 (Du Haibin) North American Premiere
The Great Sichuan Earthquake of 2008 and its aftermath traumatized and inspired China in equal measure. Du Haibin's documentary captures everyday heroism as victims rebuild their lives among the rubble. An astonishingly insightful film, whose palpable humanity comes seasoned with compassionate skepticism.

THE COW (Guan Hu) North American Premiere
The sole survivor of a Japanese attack in WWII, shock-haired Chinese farmer Nie Er becomes an unlikely resistance hero, along with his companion, an indomitably loyal milk cow. Guan Hu's picaresque black comedy packs a delightfully absurd punch, with stunning images illustrating a touching magic-realist fable.

KUN 1: ACTION (Wu Haohao) World Premiere
Young and endearingly headstrong, Wu Haohao could be China's answer to Vincent Gallo. His film is a Godardian assault on the political and social apathy of his generation, attacking false values and promoting renewed commitment--and free love. Dragons & Tigers Award nominee. With shorts.

OXHIDE II (Liu Jiayin) North American Premiere
One of Chinese cinema's boldest experiments in narrative fiction is also the funniest Chinese film of the year. Liu Jiayin's story of making dumplings with her parents structures this formally daring, wryly amusing look at family dynamics, economic burdens and the ethics and aesthetics of cooking from scratch.

PETITION (Zhao Liang) North American Premiere
Zhao Liang's staggering epic account captures 12 years in the lives of a community of petitioners in Beijing who struggle to survive in the capital while attempting to lodge official complaints with contemptuous officials. This documentary combines compassionate intimacy with an absolutely courageous, sweeping vision of resistance to injustice.

QUEER CHINA, 'COMRADE CHINA (Cui Zi'en) International Premiere
Chinese gay activist and radical filmmaker Cui Zi'en has made an authoritative documentary - both history and celebration - on queer culture in China. Testimony from theorists, activists and artists outlines the modern origins of Chinese homosexuality through its attempted suppression to its breakthroughs in the last decade.

ROUGH POETRY (Zhao Dayong) World Premiere
This stunning medium length film brings together political theatre and faces in closeup. Chinese documentary-maker Zhao Dayong puts eight characters in a cage, playing themselves, including a cop, a prostitute, a poet. Afterwards, facing the camera, there is only silence, faces, confrontation, tears.

THE SEARCH (Pema Tseden)
An extraordinary Tibetan road movie, Pema Tseden's film is only the second feature made by Tibetans inside China. As a director seeks to cast his film of a traditional musical drama, he unearths an ex-monk's broken heart, and a veiled singer's quest for her own lost love.

SUN SPOTS (Yang Heng) World Premiere
A tale of love, betrayal and revenge, shot with maximum restraint in a verdant mountain paradise in central China. Yang Heng captures the anguish and passion of a youthful lost generation with a camera whose eloquence turns each of his exquisitely long takes into a veritable poem.


McDULL KUNG FU KINDERGARTEN (Brian Tse) International Premiere
Little cartoon piglet McDull, a none-too-smart HK kindergarten student, has become supremely popular as the incarnation of HK's indomitable, absurd and independent spirit. This animated adventure in mainland China by Brian Tse combines spectacular visuals with a madcap humour that's both kid-silly and grown-up sophisticated.

NIGHT AND FOG (Ann Hui) North American Premiere
Based on a true incident, Ann Hui's harrowing drama captures domestic violence in all its dramatic complexity. When a pregnant mainland woman marries a violently jealous unemployed Hong Konger, economic and cultural differences prove explosive.

THE WAY WE ARE (Ann Hui) North American Premiere
Ann Hui's prize-winning family drama is a deceptively simple, exquisitely beautiful snapshot of the lives of a mother and her son in a Hong Kong public housing estate. Quiet, tender and humorous, with miniature epiphanies that unlock moments of compassion and consolation.

WRITTEN BY (Wai Ka-fai) Canadian Premiere
In Wai Ka-fai's brilliant puzzle, a dead father is haunted by his bereaved daughter. Characters write stories within stories, spawning alternative, criss-crossing levels of fiction and reality. Both a spoof of fantasy films and a meditation on mourning and rebirth, this meta-fictional fantasy provokes and delights.


Joko Anwar confirms his growing rep as a world-class talent with this stunning psycho-thriller in which an impotent artist (Fachri Albar) tries to find and rescue an abused child while bloodily settling some bitter personal scores with his wife, mother and friends. The retro-hip visual style is dazzling and the plot keeps you guessing right up to the double-twist ending.

JERMAL (Ravi L. Bharwani, Rayya Makarim) English-Canadian Premiere
Émigré Dutch filmmaker Orlow Seunke (working under his Indonesian name Utawa Tresno) teamed up with his students Ravi Bharwani and Rayya Makarim to make this unusual father/son story. After the sudden death of his mother, 12-year-old Jaya is sent to the jermal (a fishing platform out at sea) run by Johar, the father who has never acknowledged his existence...


BARE ESSENCE OF LIFE (Yokohama Satoko)
Yokohama Satoko (director of German + Rain) turns her hyper-charged attention to the male body. Differently wired Yojin (hot new star Matsuyama Kenichi) is a trainee farmer in Aoyama who falls for the new primary-school teacher - and starts dosing himself with insecticide to enhance his appeal. The year's wildest, craziest love story.

ISLAND OF DREAMS (Tsuta Tetsuichiro) International Premiere
Working on an artificial garbage island, Alan becomes an eco-terrorist, planting bombs to attack a noxious chemical factory--but a cop named Terayama is closing in on him. Tsuta Tetsuichiro's proudly home-made film would be impressive in any context, but the fact that it's a brilliant pastiche of Nikkatsu thrillers of the 1960s makes it phenomenal.

KAMUI (Sai Yoichi)
Probably the best ninja movie ever made, Sai Yoichi's adaptation of a story from the epic manga is an exhilarating parable of the struggle for personal freedoms. Featuring shark hunters, a woman ninja in deep cover and terrifically snazzy action choreography--including the lethal Izuna Drop. Matsuyama Kenichi heads the all-star cast.

LEFT OUT (Sasaki Omoi) International Premiere
The main characters in Sasaki Omoi's excellent indie feature work in a scrapyard: young Tanaka develops a crush on his woman colleague Yoshiko, but she seems trapped in a violent relationship with a small-time gangster. Filled with empathy for the marginalized and eccentric humour. Dragons & Tigers Award nominee. Plus shorts.

TOAD'S OIL (Yakusho Koji)
Renowned for his roles in films by Imamura, Ichikawa and many others, Yakusho Koji now directs himself in a sprawling and magical fantasia about immature fathers, old-fashioned sons and truth/lies in relationships. "Toad's oil" was a universal panacea sold by travelling salesmen in days gone by; here it greases the rusty wheels of a family that's in danger of cracking. Featuring popular new star Eita. Dragons & Tigers Award Gala.

USB (Oku Shutaro) International Premiere
Yuichiro (played by Visitor Q himself, Watanabe Kazushi) wants to be an artist but his widowed mother wants him to become a doctor. As radiation leaks permeate the city, he tries to clear his debts by signing up for a dangerous medical experiment... Oku Shutaro's bracing sci-fi drama is all about loving the alien.

WHERE ARE YOU (Kobayashi Masahiro) North American Premiere
Dedicated to Truffaut's Antoine Doinel, Kobayashi Masahiro's wrenching movie centres on Ryo, a kid with no money and a mother dying in hospital who survives by stealing from convenience stores. Desperation finally forces him to run away to Tokyo to live rough while searching for his long-absent father.

YELLOW KID (Tetsuya Mariko) International Premiere
Rookie boxer Tamura finds that reality starts to blur when he's invited by a famous (but volatile) artist to become the model for a new manga hero. Mariko Tetsuya's debut feature is a smart, sometimes violent reflection on life's hopes, ambitions and U-turns. Dragons & Tigers Award nominee.


An elegant, tough, unconventional film noir from Malaysia. Probing beneath unquiet surfaces, Ho Yuhang's luminous images and stunning montages catch quiet passions erupting into unpredictable, shocking action: between two young lovers, between husband and wife and between mother and son.

KARAOKE (Chris Chong Chan Fui)
Returning to his home village in Sarawak to find it transformed (destroyed?) by massive new plantations of palm trees, Betik edges into a relationship and a new job working on slushy karaoke videos and imagines that he's going to take over his mother's bar. But Chris Chong's energizingly original debut feature centres on Betik's discovery that he's wrong about everything.

MY DAUGHTER (Charlotte Lim) World Premiere
Melaka, Malaysia, is the setting for Charlotte Lim's powerful drama about a teenage daughter who struggles to care for her abused mother. A brilliant debut film that uses striking images to render palpable emotionally charged memories of time and place.


BAKAL BOYS (Ralston G. Jover) International Premiere
So realistic that it's a virtual docu-drama, Ralston Jover's debut feature tells the stories of the young kids from the Baseco squatter area near Manila Bay who earn pin-money diving in the sea for scrap metal. Across Utoy's search for his slightly older friend and protector Bungal, gone missing, the film explores the plight of kids forced to think and behave like adults before their time.

Exquisitely stylized, Raya Martin's studio-shot film allegorizes Filipino history of the early 20th century. As the Americans "liberate" the islands from Spanish colonial oppression, a mother flees into the jungle with her son; he later meets a wounded woman and has a child with her. But more storm clouds are gathering... With Jo Seong-Hee's Don't Step Out of the House (South Korea, 43 min.), the most original KAFA graduation film this year.


BREATHLESS (Yang Ik-June) English-Canadian Premiere
In the year's most spectacular (and prize-laden) debut, actor Yang Ik-June writes and directs a movie in which he stars as one of the meanest and most foul-mouthed scumbags in film history: a strong-arm man for loan-sharks who finally meets his match in a high-school girl.

In Lee Hey-Jun's delightfully out-of-whack comedy-drama, a casualty of the recession fails in his suicide attempt and finds himself washed up on a deserted island in the middle of the Han River in Seoul. Part Robinson Crusoe, part JG Ballard hero, he eventually comes to realize that he has a distant admirer with a very good telescope...

CATS (Kim Ji-Hyun) Canadian Premiere
The most refreshingly frank and uncomplicated account of the complications of lesbian lives since Go Fish, Kim Ji-Hyun's breezy movie is another left-field delight from the indie sector of Korean film culture. Dragons & Tigers Award nominee. With a full supporting program of shorts.

EIGHTEEN (Jang Kun-Jae) World Premiere
When Tae-Hoon takes an illicit winter vacation with his high-school girlfriend Mi-Jeong, her father goes through the roof and forbids them to meet again. But Tae-Hoon is rebellious by nature ... Jang Kun-Jae's (autobiographical?) debut feature is fresh, emotionally true, superbly acted and startlingly beautiful. Dragons & Tigers Award nominee With short.

Hong Sang-Soo's latest wry tragi-comedy about the gaps between men and women walks another garden of forking paths. The unmarried "hero" tangles with two married women, one a stranger, the other an old flame, but can he make sense of two polar-opposite experiences?

MOTHER (Bong Joon-Ho)
A whole new take on the (sometimes scary) intensity of maternal love in Bong Joon-Ho's triumphant new film. A quack herbalist (Kim Hye-Ja) defies the lazy cops and a corrupt lawyer to solve a murder mystery--and thereby exonerate her imprisoned son (Won Bin). Darkly comic and strangely moving.


FACE (Tsai Ming-liang)
Tsai Ming-liang's hallucinatory, spectacular, intriguing, sexy, musical masterpiece is set almost entirely inside (and underneath) the Louvre Museum in Paris. A Taiwanese director comes to Paris to film a surreal version of Salome with supermodel Laetitia Casta, but becomes enmeshed in a web of spectacularly photographed fantasy.

YANG YANG (Cheng Yu-chieh) North American Premiere
This vibrantly alive coming-of-age story of a young Eurasian woman in Taipei follows glamorous Yang Yang from high-school athlete to aspiring actress. Director Cheng Yu-chieh's intimate camera captures the precise articulation, via sex, scandal and heartbreak, between adolescence and adulthood.


AGRARIAN UTOPIA (Uruphong Raksasad) North American Premiere
The director of Stories from the North, Uruphong Raksasad, returns with a documentary-style drama about tenant farmers in a northern Thai village grappling with the stresses of changing times and mores. Fantastically beautiful visuals, clear-sighted politics and a deeply humane vision.


ADRIFT (Bui Thac Chuyen)
Bui Thac Chuyen's remarkable movie is like a Vietnamese take on Les liaisons dangereuses: baffled by her husband's low libido, newlywed bride Duyen is pushed by a cruel woman friend into an affair with a macho heartbreaker. Elegantly poised between social realism and moral chaos. Dragons & Tigers Award nominee.

MOON AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WELL (Nguyen VInh Son) North American Premiere
A young high-school teacher, played by glorious Vietnamese actress Hong Anh, learns to rebel against the exquisitely refined prison of her traditional marriage. Magic, bigamy, ghostly mediums and madness intertwine in Nguyen Vinh Son's elegant poem of female empowerment in present day Vietnam.


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About Vancouver International Film Festival

Both in terms of admissions and number of films screened, VIFF is among the five largest film festivals in North America. The international line-up includes the pick of the world’s top film fests and many undiscovered gems. Three main programming platforms make our festival unique: we screen the largest selection of East Asian films outside of that region, we are one of the biggest showcases of Canadian film in the world and we have a large and important nonfiction program.

Attracting a large, attentive and enthusiastic audience of film lovers, the festival remains accessible, friendly and culturally diverse. As the critics say, VIFF is very much a festival “designed for the benefit of people who love films and people who make them.”



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