20th Anniversary NYAFF Announces Audience and Uncaged Award Winners After Historic Run
The 20th anniversary edition of the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) closed out an epic 17-day run on Sunday night, after welcoming nearly 100 acclaimed filmmakers, international stars and other notable guests from across Asia and the US, screening over 60 films in-theater at Film at Lincoln Center (FLC) and Asia Society from July 15 – 31, hosting a range of masterclasses and compelling talk sessions, and smashing festival attendance records.
The 20th anniversary lineup included six world premieres, eight international premieres, 20 North American premieres, four US premieres, and 15 East Coast/New York premieres, showcasing the most exciting new action, comedy, drama, thriller, romance, horror, and art-house films from Hong Kong, Japan, China, South Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, Mongolia, Singapore, and the United States.
Prior to the screening of the NYAFF Closing Film, time-travel sci-fi epic Alienoid, from blockbuster Korean director Choi Dong-hoon, the festival announced two Audience Award winners and the recipient of the Uncaged Award for Best Feature Film and a Special Mention.
After a close tally, two Audience Awards were handed out, the first to Cho Eun-ji’s Perhaps Love (South Korea, 2022) an ebullient screwball dramedy about a washed-up novelist who is reinvigorated by a collaboration with his gay student; and the second to Coba Cheng’s Chilli Laugh Story (Hong Kong, 2022), a hilarious, heartwarming comedy about a bickering family who begin bottling and selling their insanely tasty old-school chili sauce.
Several members of the Uncaged Award Jury then took to the stage to announce the winner of the Uncaged Award for Best Feature Film, which shines the spotlight on work that deserves to be internationally heralded, celebrating the directors for their passion, their imagination, and their willingness to take risks.
The Uncaged Competition jury was composed of prominent figures from the film business bridging Asia and America: Jason Gray (creative producer, Loaded Films), Anderson Le (co-founder of East Films and artistic director of the Hawaii International Film Festival), Leon Le (performer and film director), Madeleine Molyneaux (independent producer and founder, Picture Palace Pictures), and Mayu Nakamura (filmmaker and principal, Omphalos Pictures). This year’s competition included eight wildly diverse films from directors in China, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Taiwan.
Anderson Le unveiled the Uncaged Award for Best Feature Film, which went to The Sales Girl from Janchivdorj Sengedorj (Mongolia, 2021).
Commented Le: “Director Janchivdorj Sengedorj expertly crafts a quirky and candid coming-of-age film that defies conventions, fueled by a great indie rock soundtrack and an intergenerational friendship, masterfully depicted by Bayartsetseg Bayarjargal and Enkhtuul Oidovjamts. The Sales Girl is both a familiar and original endearing story of self-discovery.”
Sengedorj, who several days earlier sat for one of the longest and most popular Q&A sessions at the festival, commented, “Wow. This is to all the Mongolians who live in the center of Asia. Thank you so much. And also thank you so much to the New York Asian Film Festival for everything. I really appreciate the two actors, with whom I will share the award.”
Juror Mayu Nakamura additionally announced a Special Mention for Technical Achievement to Jigme Tringley’s One and Four (China, 2021), an ultra-tense comedy-thriller about double-crosses, mistaken identities, and poaching, set in a remote, snow-covered Tibetan forest. Said Nakamura: “It takes a village to make a film. Therefore, the Jury would like to recognize director Jigme Trinley, in his first feature, and his amazing team for turning in a taut thriller — from stunning cinematography, to the gloriously dissonant soundscape, the mise en scène in One and Four is expertly and efficiently staged in this Tibetan wintry western.”
Leon Le also announced another Special Mention for Acting to yao for Ken Kwek’s #LookAtMe (Singapore, 2022), a brilliantly energetic romp about social media celebrity, cancel culture, and the erosion of human rights. Said Le: “Unabashedly queer-themed and queer advocating, #LookAtMe is supercharged by a tour-de-force performance by yao, doing double duty as twin brothers. From Gen-Z frivolity to all manner of abuse in Singapore’s unjust system against the LGBTQ community, yao’s stellar performances strengthen the film as an agent of political and cultural change in Singapore.”
Yao commented, “Thank you so much — I didn’t know this existed, but I’m so glad it does. I’d like to share a few words on behalf of the entire team and the director: ‘We are really happy that #LookAtMe premiered at NYAFF and we’re honored to play alongside all the other great competition films. We’re so glad that the jury liked the film, even more so than the audience did. We love you, New York City! Thank you and we’ll be back.’”
NYAFF’s veritable blizzard of guests brought filmmakers to nearly every screening, including Hong Kong cultural icon Josie Ho, who presented her inspiring musical documentary Finding Bliss: Fire and Ice—The Director’s Cut, along with two of her earlier key films; legendary J-Horror maestro Takashi Shimizu, who received NYAFF’s 2022 Screen International Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award and presented his spine-tingling new opus Ox-Head Village; Screen International Star Asia Award winner Hiroshi Abe, who appeared with director Eiji Uchida for the world premiere of midlife redemption dramedy Offbeat Cops; inaugural Best from the East honoree Ryu Seung-Ryong, star of Cho Eun-ji’s poignant screwball comedy Perhaps Love; NYAFF Daniel A. Craft Award for Excellence in Action Cinema awardee Jang Hyuk, star of two films by Choi Jae-hun, The Killer and The Swordsman; Screen International Rising Star Asia Award winner Urassaya “Yaya” Sperbund, who headlined director Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s NYAFF 2022 Opening Film Fast & Feel Love with star Nat Kitcharit; Screen International Rising Star Asia Award winner Kim Hye-yoon, the lead in Park Ri-woong’s The Girl on a Bulldozer; Shin Ultraman director Shinji Higuchi and producer Tomoya Nishino; I Am More director Lee Il-ha and glamorous drag queen-ballerina More; Big Night!director Jun Robles Lana and star Christian Bables; #LookAtMe director Ken Kwek, producer Pam Oei and star yao (formerly Thomas Pang); Confession director Yoon Jong-seok; Fire on the Plain director Zhang Ji; Next Door director Yeom Ji-ho; rapper-actor Kyle Chin (“Son of Paper”); Dealing with Dad director Tom Huang; Dennis Liu creator of Raising Dion; and Doris Yeung, director, producer and founder of CinemAsia Film Festival.
Closing out the festival, NYAFF Executive Director and President of the New York Asian Film Foundation Samuel Jamier noted, “As the festival enters its third decade of NYAFF celebrating and circulating the most vibrant and provocative cinema out of Asia today, it’s clear that we’ve reached a critical turning point this year. Our attendance surpassed pre-pandemic levels substantially, and we hosted star-studded red carpet events with the largest number of overseas visitors in the festival’s history, as well as featuring local VIPs like the new Deputy Film Commissioner for New York City Kwame Amoaku, and high-level executives from New York-based organizations like Susan Li from Fox Business News, Wendy Diamond from DO/LDP Ventures, and actress/model Giselle Piña. Their presence helps underscore the importance of the festival as a major local and international event. While there’s still much to be done and improve upon, the NYAFF team can be proud of these major achievements this year, and I thank all our staff and volunteers for their hard work.”
The New York Asian Film Festival was co-presented by the New York Asian Film Foundation and Film at Lincoln Center in association with Asia Society and took place from July 15–28, 2022 at FLC’s Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street), and on July 23 and July 28–31 at Asia Society (725 Park Avenue). It was curated by executive director Samuel Jamier, associate director Claire Marty, and programmers David Wilentz, Karen Severns, Koichi Mori, and Jenny Lin.