Why is that, you may ask? Well, I will cite the following:
1) Reduced Cost. I have become a Level Two member at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, AND I am seeing 10 films for just about the cost of an average movie ticket in NYC. Other film festivals charge ridiculous amounts of money for tickets, and different levels of "premium" membership, and often offer nothing more than a different line to wait in. In addition to the reduced cost of tickets (only $6 each with the 10 ticket pass) I get all the annual benefits of Level Two membership:
• Two Free Weekday Matinee Tickets to a screening at the Walter Reade Theater with complimentary small popcorn and small soda*
• Two Free Evening or Weekend Tickets to a screening at the Walter Reade Theater with complimentary small popcorn and small soda*
• Film Society Calendar and/ or ENewsletter
• Notification of Special Member Ticket Offers
• Discounts on Film Society merchandise and special publications
• Membership Card
• Discounted Member Tickets to additional Walter Reade Theater screenings throughout the year—Limit two per screening
• Advance Notification and Discounted Member Tickets to New Directors/New Films at the Walter Reade Theater and MoMA —Limit two per screening*
• Advance Ticket Buying Opportunities to the New York Film Festival —Limit four per film*
• One-Year Complimentary Subscription to Film Comment Magazine
This is the best deal EVER from a film festival - 10 tickets for this festival, and 4 more during the year with refreshments, plus a magazine and other discounts. I can't tell you how much I've spent in the past at Tribeca and Nantucket, and how little I got for it.
2) No crowding. Admittedly, the audience for Asian cinema is on the small side (for now). But that just means I don't have to wait in long lines, and I can get tickets to all the movies I want to see. The bigger festivals where one has to tromp all over the city to all different theaters are just a total hassle; and you're lucky if you get to see the films you really want to see (or you're rich and you pay through the nose for advance tickets or special passes).
3) Unique Programming. No other film festival is going to show the stuff NYAFF does. You're not very likely to see these films getting U.S. distribution in a month; a major movie studio posing as an indie one isn't using the film festival as a "premiere" for their "Little Miss Sunshine" wannabe movie that's hitting all theaters in two weeks. NYAFF scours Asia for the most amazing, highest grossing, artistic, crazy / bizarre, and truly individual films from Korea, China / Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand... stuff you'll never see anywhere else, ever.
4) Unique Programmers. The people who run the festival LOVE doing it. They are truly passionate about Asian cinema, they give great speeches before the show giving the audience background information about the actors, the history, the production. The program guides are a hoot to read, and they give the whole thing a hip flavor you'll never get from the other more stodgy festivals. They make the whole thing monstrously fun.
5) Special Guests. Sure, every film festival has directors, writers, and actors... but NYAFF is literally importing these people all the way from the other side of the world! With translators! Some of the greatest artists in Asian cinema fly here, sometimes even for the international premiere of their film!
6) Giveaway Prizes. You read me right! Not only is it a great bargain to see these amazing movies, you also have a chance to win books, DVDs, t-shirts, posters - all kinds of amazing stuff! What other film festival gives away prizes to their audience?
I'm seeing 14 films this year, way more than I've seen at other film festivals in the past. Here's my schedule:
Fri, June 25
3:00pm YATTERMAN (119 min.)
12:15am DEATH KAPPA (79 min.)
Sat, June 26
12:00pm IP MAN (106 min.) - Simon Yam intro
12:15am L.A. STREETFIGHTERS (85 min.)
Sun, June 27
12:00pm THE STORM WARRIORS (110 min.) - Simon Yam intro
8:45pm IP MAN 2 (108 min.) - Sammo Hung intro
Mon, June 28
6:15pm BOYS ON THE RUN (114 min.)
Tue, June 29
1:00pm BODYGUARDS & ASSASSINS (139 min.)
Fri, July 2
12:00am PINK POWER STRIKES BACK (120 min.) - intro and Q&A with actress Asami
Sat, July 3
12:00am POWER KIDS (90 min.)
Wed, July 7
3:40pm SYMBOL (93 min.)
5:45pm DOMAN SEMAN (124 min.) - intro and Q&A by Go Shibata + actor
8:45pm CASTAWAY ON THE MOON (116 min.) - intro and Q&A by Lee Hey-Jun
Thu, July 8
8:45pm BLADES OF BLOOD (110 min.)
If you're in NYC, and you're not seeing at least a couple of these films - why the heck do you even live here??