Miss Baek (South Korea, 2018) [NYAFF Winter Showcase 2019]

Director Lee Ji-won’s first feature, Miss Baek, follows a child abuse survivor who comes out of the shadows to help an abused little girl. Women are at the center of this story about power, motherhood, and trauma. Working a variety of low wage, low visibility jobs (washing cars, serving as a masseuse) Sang-ah Baek (Han Ji-min) lets her past define her, keeping her in the shadows and in a state of misery. But when she meets Ji-eun (Kim Si-ah), a 9-year-old girl whose stepmother Mi-kyung (Kwon So

How NYC Books Through Bars is bringing books to people in prison

I recently slipped through a sidewalk cellar door to enter the basement of Freebird Books, a large space crammed with books organized into different sections, where I spent the evening reading letters from prison inmates and selecting and packaging books for them. At least twice a week, volunteers go through the 700-800 letters NYC Books Through Bars, a collective based in New York City, New York, receives from inmates every month and fulfill their requests.

How Brooklyn ceramics collectives are sculpting a new generation of potters

Pottery is "such a visible, shareable art form," says Jennifer Waverek, founder and director of BKLYN CLAY, a studio that since 2016 has served as a coworking community for ceramics artists. Tactile, less technological, slower paced — this world couldn't be further from the fast-paced startup world that brought us a host of coworking spaces. Potters cannot succumb to digital distractions — they must sink their hands into terra cotta or other types of clay and sculpt with laser focus. Pottery collectives, many of which are based in Brooklyn, New York, are bringing artists into a vibrant, empowering community. They're allowing burgeoning and established ceramists to share resources — from kilns to ideas — and sculpt their futures together.

High Flash (Taiwan, 2018) [Reel Asian 2018]

Traditional drums thunder as local fishermen in a small Taiwanese fishing village protest against the encroachment of a petrochemical plant on their livelihood and community. Suddenly, a boat—engulfed in flames—races towards the chaotic scene. A fisherman is found dead of an apparent self-immolation, and his compatriots declare him a martyr for their cause. But once it becomes clear that he did not intend to set himself on fire, questions begin to swirl about what really happened. “Wounds don’t

Dear Ex (Taiwan, 2018) [Reel Asian 2018]

In May 2017, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court voted to legalize same-sex marriage, paving the way for Taiwan to become the first country in Asia to do so. Images from Taipei’s gay pride parade showed the world the jubilation that came with such a decision. However, despite Taiwan’s reputation as one of the most progressive countries in Asia, this ruling could be in jeopardy as conservative groups fight back against it. Amidst such political rhetoric, it can be easy to forget how such debates affect real families and real people, many of them marginalized. Dear Ex takes this often contentious issue and frames it against a very human backdrop.

“The Noblest Gift”: The Fight to Preserve American Sign Language Poetry Takes Center Stage at CUNY Graduate Center

For too many years, the minority language of American Sign Language—and the Deaf community that cherishes it—has been relegated to the sidelines, oppressed by the dominance of English and the hearing world. Meet the scholars and artists fighting colonialist and paternalistic attitudes by embracing—and preserving—signed poetry.

Tremble All You Want (Japan, 2017) [JAPAN CUTS 2018]

Adapted from Risa Wataya’s novel, director Akiko Ohku’s feature Tremble All You Want is an offbeat film that subverts traditional romantic comedy conventions, featuring a protagonist who is as frustrating as she is endearing. Yoshika (Mayu Matsuoka) has had a crush on Ichimiya (Takumi Kitamura), whom she calls “Ichi” (One), since she was in eighth grade. Now a 24-year-old office worker, she cannot move on, But things begin to shift when a work colleague, whom she calls “Ni” (Two) (Daichi Watanabe) expresses an interest in her.

After My Death (South Korea, 2017) [NYAFF 2018]

Directed by Kim Ui-seok, After My Death is a tense examination of a student tried in the court of public opinion at school and made a pariah by her own classmates and teachers. When high school student Kyung-min goes missing and it seems like she has committed suicide, her classmate Young-hee, who was the last to see her, is thrown into a world of swirling accusations and rumors when her friend Han-sol, who was also with the girls that night, declares that Young-hee “egged on” Kyung-min

End of Summer (China, 2017) [NYAFF 2018]

Zhou Quan’s meditative coming-of-age feature begins with the sounds of soccer and a young boy’s face as he stares into the camera. This is our introduction to the subject of the film, a soccer-loving fifth grade boy named Gu Xiaoyang (Rong Zishan). The film captures childhood innocence, curiosity, and desire. Kids peek into a classroom where a staff meeting is going on. Xiaoyang takes his action figures out from under his bed and imitates the soccer players – especially his idol, Alessandro Del Piero – he has just seen on TV during the 1998 World Cup in France.

Counters (South Korea, 2017) [NYAFF 2018]

“Destroy Koreatown! Let’s bring [Koreans] to the gas chambers!” shouts Makoto Sakurai, leader of Zaitoku, a self-proclaimed “civic group against the privileges of Korean-Japanese people.” Far-right Japanese nationalists spew vitriol at a protest, and two camps of people come up against them: the peaceful counter-protestors, known as “Counters,” and the Otoko, a group fighting against bigotry using violence. Otoko member Kimoto puts it bluntly: “‘If we destroy them physically,’ I thought, ‘They can’t protest.’”
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