Yeun Sang-Ho's The King of Pigs
Child-like at first appearance, Guns and Roses, The Sword Identity and The King of Pigs are three features about learning, loving and losing. The films' protagonists must attempt to balance the private and the public—often while performing comedically choreographed stunts—but, most of all, they must learn when to grow up (or not to).
The most mature of the trio is director Yeun Sang-Ho's The King of Pigs (screening July 7 & 8). Following two old school friends, Kyung-min and Jong-suk Jung, as they reminisce over sake and sushi about the not-so-good-old-days of being bullied as kids. Both men have recently engaged in violent acts and, slowly, a dark and tragic secret begins to unfold. One of the two is not who he says he is. This South Korean film's crushing tale of bullying, suicide and prostitution reveals the desolation of a scarred humanity through a beautiful animated style. The truth is that both the bullied and the bullies are suffering, and revelation is a dangerous, necessary catharsis.
In martial arts novelist Xu Haofeng's directorial debut The Sword Identity (screening July 11), two students of a special sword technique are mistaken for Japanese pirates. Accused of wreaking havoc on the coasts of China, the two must prove their innocence: one by squatting for hours on end, the other by taking on the four masters of four martial arts schools, thus not only proving himself, but also demonstrating that his “sword identity” deserves its own school. Haofeng, who wrote the script for Wong Kar-wai’s latest film The Grandmasters, delivers gratification for martial arts lovers with his beautifully detailed sword fighting scenes and gratification for movie lovers in general with his entertaining and engaging storytelling.
Telling the story of World War II China (specifically Japanese-occupied Mongolia), the New York Asian Film Festival centerpiece film Ning Hao's Guns and Roses (screening July 7 & 10) entertains in Sherlock Holmesian style (the Guy Ritchie version). With quick wit, a little magic and a lot of deception, poverty-ridden Lei Jia-yin's street hustling days come to a halt when he's imprisoned with a revolutionary who, unbeknownst to Lei, gives him a message to pass along to his fellow freedom fighters. Falling in as an accidental revolutionary, Lei stumbles along with the plot to steal Japan's incoming shipment of gold, but accidentally falls in love with the daughter of the man carrying the cargo. Comedic complications lead to dramatic outcomes, but action choreographer Yang Kil-Young (Oldboy) entertains to the very end.
There's nothing like a little bit of schooling in the summer, so come learn a lesson in the art of sword play (The Sword Identity), the art of deception (Guns and Roses) and the art of evil (The King of Pigs) in this year's New York Asian Film Festival, running from June 29 – 12. Buy tickets to all three together (or any three or more films in the festival) and save with our NYAFF Festival Package!