As the sixth edition of the diverse festival returns to the capital, we rundown our picks for the most essential features...
Here WeLoveCinema, we're counting down the days until this year's London East Asia Film Festival kicks off – a celebration of the some of the best and brightest films hailing from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines and more. Now in it sixth edition, this year's festival will play host to 33 movies, and includes everything from delicate dramas to explosive actioners to wacky comedies.
In anticipation of the festival's opening night, we've combed through and picked our must-see titles from 2021's fabulous line-up. It's not an exhaustive list, by any means, and there are plenty more films worth checking out than the ones highlighted here (for a full list of titles and showtimes, visit our dedicated festival page).
When it's on: October 21, 19:00, Odeon Luxe Leicester Square
Talk about starting with a bang. The final film from Hong Kong filmmaking legend Benny Chan will be the first film at this year's LEAFF. Chan, who sadly died in 2020, was renowned for his explosive, convoluted actioners. Raging Fire, already a critical and commercial hit in China, promises more of his trademarks stunts and narrative twists, and stars the great Donnie Yen as an inspector entangled in a bitter war with his own protégé (get tickets).
When it's on: Saturday October 23, 18:15, Odeon Luxe West End
Korean master of minimalism Hong Sang-soo is renowned for his lo-fi movies in which not very much happens at all, as characters – in the spirit of French auteur Eric Rohmer – talk around their feelings and drink too much. His latest film, Introduction, looks to be an attempt to push his trademark minimalism to the very brink, a mediative monochrome relationship drama set in both Berlin and Seoul (get tickets).
When it's on: October 23, 19:30, Odeon Luxe West End
This Taiwanese drama is another in a long line of COVID-era films set during lockdown, but one that uses the pandemic as mere window dressing for a moving mother-daughter movie. Starring Alyssa Chia and Gingle Wang, The Falls is also helmed by the great filmmaker Chung Mong-Hong, whose brilliant 2019 drama A Sun was nominated for 11 Golden Horse Awards, and who has already proven himself a dab hand with explorations of family (get tickets).
When it's on: October 23, 21:15, Odeon Luxe West End
This noir-ish blend of drama and thriller from up-and-coming Chinese filmmaker LV Huizhou finds a young man caught in the throes of obsession after his girlfriend mysteriously vanishes one night. His search leads him into contact with a local gang, plunging him into a dangerous scenario he could never have imagined. Shot in crisp black-and-white, it's a minimalist pot-boiler that looks as narratively intriguing as its visuals do beautiful (get tickets).
When it's on: Saturday October 23, 21:45, Odeon Luxe West End
Beautifully choreographed action and impressive camera work come together in this Hong Kong actioner set in a dystopian vision where the rain never ceases, and where Cham Lau (Ka Tung Lam) finds himself paired with rookie Will Ren (Mason Lee) as they set out to track down a brutal killer of women. The visuals alone, from acclaimed cinematographer Siu-Keung Cheng, are enough to recommend this unique riff on the mismatched cop formula (get tickets).
When it's on: October 24, 21:20, Odeon Luxe West End
This documentary about the great director Ann Hui is a must for fans of Hong Kong cinema and cinema history in general. Over the last four decades, the singular Hui has proven an essential part of the Hong Kong movie landscape, working across multiple genres, from thrillers to quiet dramas, and earning great acclaim in the process. At 74-years-old, though, she's had to slow down due to concerns about her health. That said, this isn't a sentimental portrait, but a funny, uplifting look at a seminal filmmaking talent (get tickets).
When it's on: October 24, 21:45, Odeon Luxe West End
There's already been a lot of buzz for this Vietnamese drama from director Tran Thanh Huy, which has earned comparisons with Danny Boyle's Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire. The story concerns a young boy living on the streets of Ho Chi Minh, who gets by – just – by selling lottery tickets to strangers. A societal drama that's not afraid to inject some levity into the proceedings, the film has also been praised for its refusal to pander to audiences with a sanitised view of poverty (get tickets).
When it's on: October 25, 18:15, The Chiswick Cinema
Already earning major points for its pun-tastic title, this wacky Thai comedy from director Mex Tharatorn looks like the perfect antidote to some of the more downbeat dramas and violent action movies playing at this year's festival. The premise is irresistible enough, telling the story of a con-man who's hired by the very woman he failed to dupe in order to get back at her ex. Expect the inevitable American remake at some point soon (get tickets).
When it's on: October 26, 18:30, The Cinema at Selfridges
If you're not familiar with Taiwanese filmmaking legend Edward Yang, here's your chance to finally get acquainted (and from the comfort of the world's first department store cinema, at that). Yang carved out a indomitable place in the canon with his mediative societal dramas and 1985's Taipei Story was his breakthrough. Starring Tsai Chin and Hou Hsiao-hsien, it tells the story of a young couple trying to make it in the big city and serves as a perfect introduction to a phenomenal filmmaker (get tickets).
When it's on: October 31, 18:30, The Cinema at Selfridges
The closing film at this year's festival looks to be a doozy – an innovative blend of action movie and body swap drama, in which a man finds himself randomly switching into the bodies of other people at a rate of twice a day, following a car accident. Soon, he begins to suspect the bodies are all connected through some larger conspiracy. The second feature by writer-director Yoon Jae-keun, it's already earned positive notices for its spectacular action sequences (get tickets).
The London East Asia Film Festival will run from the 21 to 31 October, 2021. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit leaff.org.uk.