Full of sword clashing Wuxia Martial Arts action, incredible acrobatics, empowered female warriors, Kung Fu masters, kicks, spins, jumps, and even puppets, the Old School Kung Fu Fest has returned!


Marking its 10th year, the festival will run the weekends of April 21-23 and April 28-30 at the Metrograph theater, located at 7 Ludlow Street in New York City.

This year is titled “The Sword Fighting Heroes Edition”, marking a festival filled with the Wuxia style (a genre of Martial Arts films where sword wielding warriors in ancient China fight in fantastical manners).

Presented by Metrograph and Subway Cinema, in association with Taipei Cultural Center in New York, Ministry of Culture, Republic of China (Taiwan), this year’s festival holds many classic gems and a few lost treasures.

The festival opens with the U.S. premiere of “The King of Wuxia”, a masterfully epic documentary about the life and career of filmmaker King Hu (“Come Drink With Me”, “Dragon Inn”, “A Touch of Zen”), the grandfather of the Wuxia film and a man who turned it into pure art.

Two 1968 classics move us into Saturday, “Vengeance of the Phoenix Sisters”, an artfully shot black-and-white tale of female-driven revenge with a cast made up of stars from the Peking Opera, and “The Swordsman of All Swordsmen” (another U.S. premiere), Joseph Kuo’s digitally restored masterpiece of revenge and morality infused with a Spaghetti Western flair and a quite moving screenplay.

The weekend also includes one of the most unique and exciting of the wuxia pictures, 1971’s “The Ghost Hill”. Director Shan-Hsi Ting’s film finds Polly Ling-Feng Shang-Kuan returning as Flying Swallow to fight beside Tien Peng’s Tsai Ying-jie (their characters from “The Swordsman of All Swordsmen”) in a bloody revenge tale set in Hell itself.

Sunday the 23rd closes out opening weekend with 1975’s “The Valiant Ones”, King Hu’s nonstop action extravaganza (with intense fight choreography from Master Sammo Kam-Bo Hung) and director Tu Chong-hsun’s “A City Called Dragon” (1970), which finds actress Hsu Feng playing a rebel on a mission to Dragon City, seeking plans that will  help destroy the corrupt Northern Manchus.

Weekend two begins Friday April 28th with Yang Shih-Ching’s “The Grand Passion”, a beautifully designed, tense, and exciting adventure that stands as one of the best examples of Polly Shang-kuan’s talents.

Also showing on Friday, a treat for lovers of unique Martial Arts cinema, 2000’s “The Legend of the Sacred Stone”, told entirely with puppets, using the po-te-hi style of puppetry. This is a film that is rarely seen in the United States (let alone on the big screen). If you are in the NYC area, and/or attending the fest, this is a rare “can’t miss” opportunity.

Saturday begins with 1973’s “The Fate of Lee Khan”, the film where director King Hu met Sammo Hung, whose fight choreography gave Hu’s battles a more brutal edge in this tale of spies and betrayal.

Most likely, many genre lovers are already familiar with Saturday’s second offering, 2015’s “The Assassin”, Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s first wuxia entry is an inventive and exciting tale of a female assassin in Eighth century China who is out to kill a corrupt leader.

Sunday closes the festival with two undeniable Wuxia classics, King Hu’s 1971 “A Touch of Zen” and Chang Peng-Yi’s “The Night Orchid” (also making its U.S. debut).

Perhaps the most visually captivating aspect of all Hu’s works, “A Touch of Zen” was the first to receive large scale acceptance internationally due to his painstaking craft. This tale of a swordsman who becomes linked with a female fugitive is full of action and romance on masterful levels.

“The Night Orchid” is a wild tale of fun and action featuring some of China’s biggest stars of the day. This film roars across the screen like a fireball and gives its audience an exciting rollercoaster ride of thrills.

Subway Cinema (the curators of the fest) is a wonderful organization dedicated to the exhibition and preservation of Asian cinema. The organization was founded in 1999 by Paul Kate, Grady Hendrix, Brian Naas, Nat Olson, and Goran Topalovic, five men dedicated to bringing Asian film culture to U.S. audiences.

In 2017, the group began the New York Asian Film Festival (which I covered in 2021), which became the leading film festival for Asian cinema in the United States.

You can read more about their accomplishments and upcoming (and past) films on their website, https://www.subwaycinema.com/

From April 21 to May 4, those not in the NYC area or unable to attend can find three offerings through Metrograph@Home (via subscription), their Video On Demand platform available on Roku, fireTV and androidTV.

The three films offered are “The Bravest Revenge”, “The Daring Gang of Nineteen from Verdun City”, and “Iron Mistress”, and there isn’t a bad one in the bunch. Each of these three films have a unique spin on the wuxia genre.

For aficionados of Asian cinema and connoisseurs of Martial Arts Wuxia films, this year’s Old School Kung Fu Fest is a treasure chest to be mined.