Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wai Ka-fai @ the NYAFF '09

Ahhhhhh........summer! As the Fresh Prince once rhymed, "the weather is hot and girls are dressing less, and checking out the fellas to tell 'em who's best." Well, it kinda rhymed? Summertime in NYC means the return of an institution. The New York Asian Film Festival. I had known about the fest for years but had never shlubbed my lazy ass into the city to go to it. My HK cinema world was relegated to flea market bootlegs, graduating to thousands upon thousands of dollars spent on Ebay. All the while the NYAFF was unspooling 65 miles west of where I was crazing over the same flicks. For shame, Kingwho? For shame, you lazy piece of..... And don't get me started on missing out on the last remaining movie theaters in C-town before they went gone with the wind. I am still bitter, very bitter, with myself about that.

In '08, Wei humored me and accompanied me to my first NYAFF experience as we went to see Johnnie To Ke-fung's SPARROW. The HK cinema pickings were lean that year and I think the only other film was Soi Cheang Pou-soi's SHAMO. Oy vey. So, suffice to say, SPARROW was the only film we went to. At the end of the screening, one of the festival curators, Marc Walkow, was able to speak to a production assistant (or someone close to the film) over speakerphone so we, the audience, could ask questions. It was super cheesy and super charming all the same. I was in love with the fest and the extent that they went to to satisfy the audience. It was a fun experience for us. And when the fest rumbled around in '09 with a few more HK films on the dance card, I hit up the online ticket ordering hard time. And holy shit! Wa Ka-fai AND Lau Ching-wan were going to be there in person with their new film, WRITTEN BY!? Are you freakin' kidding me?! From production assistant on speaker phone to Ka-fai and Ching-wan in the flesh?! STFU?! Tickets were bought and undies were moistened.

Look deep inside.....of Wai Ka-fai's nostril
Bad news a few days before the event. Ching-wan pussed out for he was scared of the awful epidemic that overspread NYC. Ching-wan must have envisioned NY'ers sprawled out on the sidewalk among the trash and rats looking like characters from Herman Yau Lai-to's EBOLA SYNDROME. Or he just didn't feel like making the trip? That gosh awful Swine Flu was evil in the form of mucous and a force to be reckoned with! So.....yeah. Anyway, Ka-fai braved this piglet named entity and absolutely graced the fest for multiple days. Above, Ka-fai is introduced and passes by my seat as I snap and up-nostril pic. Surely there are up-nostril fetishists out there? I think Japan is making a 4 hour film about them as I type this?

Wai Ka-fai was a lovely presence. Soft spoken, charming, and kind. Over the course of a few days, Ka-fai and his interpreter rendezvoused with the audience over a few Q&A sessions. He was wonderful to watch and listen to.

A rainy weekend in the Manhattan. I shipped myself into the the city and hoofed it from Penn Station down to the West Village and the IFC Waverly, where the fest was headquartered. It has since relocated uptown baby, uptown baby! This was my second day at the fest after the previous nights premiere of WRITTEN BY. I made it in early to watch Nelson Yu Lik-wai's PLASTIC CITY. And interesting, if curious, visual feast starring the great Anthony Wong Chau-sang and Joe Odagiri. I really wasn't feeling the flick that day but have since bought the film and am willing to give it another go. Someday.
After Yu's semi-turgid affair, Ka-fai was scheduled to present one of Milkyway's best, THE LONGEST NITE, with an original print. Wei had to work earlier in the day and, once again, humored my silly butt by meeting me for the show. I should mention that though Chinese, Wei couldn't give a rats ass about HK cinema. Or any Chinese cinema for that matter. So, gussying herself up and trekking in scored her big bonus points.
THE LONGEST NITE was one of my all-time best cinema experiences. Though nothing will ever beat catching Tarantino's revival of THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN on the big screen and the audience howling and literally falling into the aisles, seeing THE LONGEST NITE on 35 mm print, with all of the grime and darkness attached to the copy, was just fantastic. It was like someone wiped their ass with the celluloid and ran it through the projector. Another of the festival curators, Grady Hendrix (check out his blog right HERE) told us that this would probably be the last time anyone would ever see an original print of the film for exhibition. This just made the day more special.

While I enjoyed THE LONGEST NITE, Wei wasn't on board. She is more of a Disney person. She watches Hannah Montana and laughs her ass off for cripes sake!? So, during a certain ketchup bottle scene, Wei exited the theater, stomach churning. I sat and gazed with glee! THE LONGEST NITE is not on Wei's 'favorites' list. Opposites attract I guess? Mr. CAT III man and Ms. Disney girl.
Wai Ka-fai

If you know, or know of Grady Hendrix, you also know that he has the energy of a 5 year old who has skipped a Ritalin dosage or two. He's exciting which translates well to his interviews. And this was the case with Wai Ka-fai. Right off the bat he asked what ever happened to supposed THE LONGEST NITE director, Patrick Yau Tat-chi, and what did he and To do with his body? Excellent question! Ka-fai kindly explained that Yau was banished....I mean.... directing TV, in what is known as the former Hong Kong director Siberia, AKA the Mainland. Ka-fai also went on to tell what is widely known amongst the Milkyway fanboys, that Yau only directed 5 scenes from THE LONGEST NITE, and that he (Ka-fai) and To, directed the well as most other Yau directing credits.

Walked into the theater lobby and Ka-fai was just standing there!? Click!!!

Above, Ka-fai signs my dvd of THE LONGEST NITE, after the screening of THE LONGEST NITE. Bliss. As for the next few pics below, I have a much sadder/damn funny tale to tell. For the previous nights premiere of WRITTEN BY, we brought along Wei's younger cousin, R. I have mentioned R before, as she is a cliche Asian nerd who attends NYU and usually meets up with us in C-town for din din after I finish my HK movie shopping. So, after the screening of WRITTEN BY, I was hoping to get Ka-fai to sign a dvd or two. In true, loser, HK cinema fanboy assholiness fashion. I asked Wei if she could snap a few pics and also asked R if she would get Ka-fai to sign a dvd while I had him sign another. The greedy little bastard, I am. I had Ka-fai sign my dvd of the rare TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NO. 1. Upon seeing the dvd, Ka-fai exclaimed, "Waaahhh!? Where did you get this?" I told him that it was an old Ebay purchase. "This is rare!", he said. Then, Ka-fai turned away from me and comically tucked the dvd into his jacket, as if to steal it. It got a wonderful response by onlookers. Big laughs. I had given R my dvd of PEACE HOTEL and, as you can see below, R scored Ka-fai's autograph for me. Take a look at the second pic with R and Ka-fai. Note the dvd exchanging hands. Tragedy was about to strike.

Ka-fai and R

Ka-fai, R, and the fickle finger of fate...or R?

R accidently put her finger over the area where Ka-fai signed during the exchange and smudged his autograph. I didn't immediately notice until Wei pointed it out. You might think that I would be furious at this, the now infamously dubbed "Wai Ka-fai Incident"? But, actually, we all just busted out laughing. Above, is the rest of Ka-fai's signature on R's finger. hahaha
PEACE HOTEL(1995) Smudge-o-graphed



Wei, Ka-fai, yours truly
I also met director Nicholas Chin at a screening of his film, MAGAZINE GAP ROAD. I posted about it HERE. The following year at the fest, which was last year, was just the tops. If you missed them, you can trek back and revisit those posts by clicking HERE.
This years incarnation of the NYAFF has been announced to run July 1st through July 14th at Lincoln Centers Walter Reade Theater. It's second year on site. Big time I tells ya. Big time! I'm hoping against hope I can get the days off from work. Will I see you there?


  1. Awesome. =D Give me those autographed DVDs.

  2. Your story: That's crazy that it's even rare to the guy who made the film. He probably doesn't even have his own copy. lol

  3. Thanks, MPM. It was a crazy weekend. Last year's fest was even more nuts as I got to film an interview with Simon Yam. The guys at the fest do a wonderful job. I hope this 'fame' doesn't change them.

    And, get your own damn autographs!

  4. Great stuff Kingwho? Still haven't seen Written by yet, I just never seem to be in a Written by mood.

    I have that Too many ways dvd too, I've been offered pretty big money for it but will never part with it, mine isn't autographed though, I do have LCW's auto though!

  5. Thanks, AHND. Written By is entirely different from anything you are likely to see in HK cinema. But, you will have to be in the mood for a different kind of drama to enjoy it.

    I was able to buy another copy of Too Many Ways To be No.1 this past year for only $40! I have also been offered big money for it but I just can't part with it.

    How did youy get LCW's autograph?! That is awesome! Jealous!


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