Pang Ho-cheung's Vulgaria

Film festivals are often the height of artistic cinema. They show the independent and foreign films that sometimes don't even make it into the finest of the art house theaters. This post is not about those movies.

The New York Asian Film Festival, which starts its two-week run at Film Society today, offers audiences a great sampling the cinema of Asia. Many of these movies will never see wide release in the United States, but most are far from the typical foreign language dramas you only hear about at Oscar time. NYAFF's bread and butter is some of the most popular films in recent Asian cinema. There are blockbuster action films, gross-out comedies, and movies that could be described as plain absurd.

Going to the movies should be about having fun, especially during the summer, and this festival offers audiences a ton of chances to sit back, eat some popcorn, and enjoy themselves for a couple of hours. On top of a great selection of epics, dramas, love stories, tragedies, and more, this year’s lineup includes some of the best, stupid laughs you’ll have at the movies all year.

Opening the festival tonight is Vulgaria. Though it shares the name of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s fictional setting, this movie is not for children. This Hong Kong import is a witty yet delightfully juvenile satire of the film industry. Some have compared it to Borat in terms of raunchiness, but Vulgaria’s brilliance comes in the fact that the dirty jokes are in the dialogue. It doesn’t rely on gratuitous nudity and shocking images to win over the crowd. This is a thinking man’s immature movie. Director Pang Ho-cheung will be at the Film Society to share in the laughter for the standby-only screening tonight at 8:30pm.

Gancore Gud's Dead Bite

Jokes about naughty bits not your thing? How about a hip-hop crew taking out hordes of zombies? Dead Bite answers the age old question: “why not?” If you were a famous rapper, wouldn’t you make a movie where you get to hang around lots of beautiful girls in bikinis while acting like a badass? Well, the Gancore Crew did, and the result is pretty amazing. It may not win Best Picture, but this Thai film is pure entertainment from start to finish. You can see it in NYAFF either July 6 or 11, and if you keep hush about the plot you can still act cultured and impress people by telling them you saw a foreign film.

Have you ever eaten? Then you’ll love Nasi Lemak 2.0! This ode to food comes from another rapper. This time it’s Malaysia’s Namewee, who both directed and stars in this oddball comedy about saving a family’s Chinese restaurant. It caused quite a stir in its homeland for featuring a less-than-traditional, hip-hop rendition of the Malaysian national anthem. Namewee just wants people to have fun, though, and how can you not with a movie like this? The musical numbers are catchy, the humor is stupid but fun, and the characters are all fantastic. Namewee will be at both the July 9 and 12 screenings. Be there to see if he drops some rhymes for the crowd.

Instead of seeing Adam Sandler phone it in on the big screen, see some films that will really make you laugh. Beyond the films profiled above, there’s also the tale of the unlikely hero in Zero Man vs. the Half Virgin and the fast-paced East Meets West 2011, among a slate of many other great flicks. Take a break from the typical Hollywood fare and give these Asian treats a try!

The New York Asian Film Festival runs from June 29 – July 12. Buy tickets to anywhere from three to 12 films together and save with our NYAFF Festival Package!