Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Festival 3 Continents (notes)

Time is short, I will be brief and to the point.
This edition was to me very intense, impassioned and the most enjoyable. I may not have seen as much films (I still managed to attend 20 screenings) as I wanted to but not only I was pleased with the ones I saw in general and also I had a very great time, meeting and discussing with various people during this busy edition.

This year, the selection of the films seemed more accurate and relevant. I was impressed by the quality of the documentary films with a selective but pertinent choice, which highlighted this genre into a singular, personal and artistic piece of work. Among the ones I saw, only one (Innocence) was disappointing, the others, different in their style and their approach, showed more artistic values and original ways of making, some even closer to experimental (A stain in a water, Paradise...). Yellow Box by Huang Ting-fu (Taiwan), beautifully shot is a touching, desperate, melancholy black and white documentary to not miss if the opportunity comes.

In general, the films (fiction and documentary) display a meticulous, inventive research in the framing, filming, composition of the shots, if some seemed to be more like an exercise of style (Glue, I am the One Who Brings Flowers to her Grave), one can not deny their cinematic and visual quality. It seemed that the image processing, the nature of the image itself, is one of the main concern of these new, contemporary filmmakers, more than the narrative or story telling.
In many films, individual characters are still important and hold the film on their shoulders, some stronger than others, most of the time they still belong to a defined social, age group (Falafel, Betelnut, Glue..).
Among the 3 Argentinian films in competition, only Glue showed some originality. A big disappointment for Meanwhile by Diego Lerman (who previously directed Tan de Repente) , very conventional and almost like a kind of a Spanish comedy.

A strong selection of South-eastern films is also noticeable, both in fiction and documentary section, which also proved that these regions are coming out with some rich, innovative, personal productions that seem to be developing more and more. To name just a few : The Stories from the North (Uruphong Raksasad, Thailand, documentary), The last communist (Amir Muhammad, Malaisia, documentary), Opera Jawa (Garin Nugroho, Indonesia, fiction)...
Only one Mainland Chinese film by a charming, young director who was present during the festival was selected this year.
The quasi-absence of one continent (Africa) is also quite alarming (the festival assured a special programme on new films coming from Africa for the next edition).

Despite the quality and the novelty of different films, it seemed that the audience didn't follow and were less present than the precedent years, which is a pity because these films need also the support from the public to continue. It also seemed that the Satyajit Ray retrospective wasn't as successful as expected, which is no so surprising as people who come to this festival want to see new discoveries of today.

Some very brief notes on the films I saw.

- A few kilos of dates for a funeral (Saman Salour, Iran, 2006) Fiction, Competition
synopsis : Sadry and Yadi work at a petrol station now removed from the main traffic routes. It is winter and heavy snow lies on the ground. Sadry takes off from time and seems obsessed with the weather. Yadi is in love with a girl from nearby town and sends her passionate letters via the local postman. Occasionally they receive a visit from the neighbourhood undertaker, their only contact with the exterior.

- Innocence (Areeya Chumsai, Nisa Kongsri, Thailand, 2006) Doc, Our year in films
synoposis : Drrp in the heart of the northern Thailand forest, a school headmaster has been fighting for twenty years to provide destitute children with education. His goal is that they pass their exam. Their goal is to see the ocean.
A naive documentary.

- Betelnut (Yang Heng, China, 2006) Fiction, Competition
see post here

- Falafel (Michel Kammoun, Lebanon, 2006) Fiction, Competition
synopsis : Toufic, a young man living in Beirut, is determined to have the time of his youth during a whole night. He descends into a hellish capital city haunted by the war. Over a few hours, he discovers love, fear, miracles and a sense of responsability.
I manage to see about one Lebanese film per year (not a lot!) last one being A Perfect Day, which I liked very much. Falafel has some common things with A Perfect Day, apart the latter is much more melancholy and the pace smoother. Falafel is more alert, abrupt.

- Yellow Box (Huang Ting-fu, Taiwan, 2006) Doc, Competition
synopsis : Women selling betel nuts spend empty days in a shop as there are so many in Taipei.
To me, one of the best film I saw this year, very subtle, impresive black and white cinematography with some inventive and original shots and nonchalant and poetic tone with a tender look. A pity that this film hasn't been selected in other big festivals, a real great discovery.

- A Stain in the water (Pablo Romano, Argentina, 2005) Doc, Our year in films
synopsis : Memory is like a river - it has different currents ; all you have to do is let yourself be taken by one of them. A documentary on the recording of an experience. My experience before the Paeana river at the 33rd parallel. An attempt to record the river as water in movement, a proposal that is, incidentally, utopian.
Closer to experimental, this short documentary is like a visual poem accompanied by a spoken lyrics, very pleasant to listen to and to look at.

- Paradis (Felipe Guerrero, Colombia, 2006) Doc, Our year in films
synopsis : Images of Colombia - raw and fragmented images, verging on the fictional autobiography.
Experimental documentary with a great and interesting work of editing and sound.

- Opera Jawa (Garin Nugroho, Indonesia, 2006) fiction, Competition
synopsis : Inspired by a famous story from Ramayana, Opera Jawa is a musical like no other in cinema. Setio and his wife Siti, run a pottery business in a small village where Ludiro, a powerful and ruthless butcher, controls all the trading activities. When the couple's business collapses, Ludiro, who has always been in love with Siti, seizes his chance, abducts and tries to seduce her.
Amazingly done, almost too perfect in all level (cinematography, songs and music, costumes, sets, acting...), rather symbolic and metaphorical, mixing traditional and modern elements, Opera Jawa is a rich and wonderful film to not miss.

- Meanwhile (Diego Lerman, Argentina, 2006) Fiction, Competition
synopsis : Fragments of life in Buenos Aires labyrinth : two women facing economic and sentimental hardships are looking for a better life, a man finds strength and confidence again through love, a sterile couple try everything possible to have a child, a man thinks migrating to Ibiza might change his life...
After Tan de Repente, the film is surely disappointing. Although some of the actresses play in there too, the film is a bit like a tv soap comedy in which characters are and foremost the core of the topics.

- Time between Dog and Wolf (Jeon Soo-il, Korea, 2005) Fiction, Competition
synopsis : Film director Kim receives a sudden call from his cousin Il-kyu, whose mother and father were separated during the Korean war. His parents plan to meet in China and Il-kyu wants Kim to accompany his mother. On the way to Sok-cho, Kim sees a girl, Young-hwa, and becomes attracted to her. He happens to meet her in a lodging house and follows her to Tae-bak, where she finds her sister.
A masterful mise-en-scene and a beautiful cinematography with a precise sense of composition, the film kept its rhythm and slow pace all way to the end and a certain melancoly mood.

- Talk to her (2006, collective) Fiction, 3 segments, Special Screenings
This Jeonju International Film Festival's project commissioned three Asian directors with the purpose to delve into the possibilities within the digital format and to show the results at theatres and festivals worldwide.
Three inequal segments, the best and most powerful and impressive one being Eric Khoo's short, No Day Off, by using digital format to its best. AboutLove was a bit disappointing, Twelve Twenty, although original, would have been better in film format.
synopsis :
About Love (Darezhan Omirbayev, Kazakhstan) : From a novel by Chekhov. Kairat, a lonely mathematics teacher, accidentally meets his old friend, Askar, who invites him at home. There Kairat falls in love with Askar's wife. Though this love is mutual, they can't overcome the obstacles set up by their own lives.
No Day Off (Eric Khoo, Singapore) : Four years in the life of Siti, a young woman who leaves her husband and baby biy in a remote village in Sulawesi to work as a maid in Singapore, where she works for three different families.
Twelve Twenty (Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, Thailand) : You see her checking in at the opposite check-in counter. You cannot help yourself but falling in love immediately. You get your boarding pass but she is gone. You go through immigration. You buy your wife her favourite perfume. Then you go and relax waiting to board. You shut your eyes. You wake up and realize you are already on the plane. Your heart stops. She is sitting in the seat next to you, by the window.

- I don’t want to sleep alone (Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan, 2006) Fiction, Our year in films
With the presence of Tsai himself, like every year as usual.
synopsis : After being robbed one night in Kuala Lumpur, Hsiao-kang, a homeless Chinese man, is rescued and taken in by some Bangladeshi workers. One of them, Rawang and Chyi, a waitress at a coffee-shop - as well as Chyi's female boss. Meanwhile, a heavy haze descends on the city.
As usual, brilliant and masterfully filmed, performed by fetish actor Lee Kang-sheng, the film is typical Tsai film with his reccurent themes (incapacity of communication, urban isolation...) and elements (water, liquid, urban space and architecture..). A bit more talkative and less static than Goodbye Dragon Inn though, but not as bright as The Wayward Cloud.

- The Stories from the North (Uruphong Raksasad, Thailand, 2006) Doc, Competition
synopsis : A cinematic collage of life in the village in northern Thailand where the director grew up. The film details everyday situations from the most fundamental and commonplace - the annual harvest, the absence of the younger generation who have left the village to work or study in the city - to more intriguing ones like the bicycle club formed by the village elders.
Amazingly mature as a film (and also considering the quite young age of the filmmaker) which brought out a certain atmosphere, feeling and kept a contant pace all way to the end. A portrayal of the everyday life in the countryside with poetic research and sincere look. Recommended.

- I am the one who brings flowers to your Grave (Hala Alabdalla, Ammar Albeik, Syria, 2006) Doc, Competition
synopsis : A film like a puzzle in black and white, made up of interviews, of trips on the roads of Syria, of journeys and returns, that speaks of prison and exile, the past and the present, love and death. A film that speaks of the importance of poetry.
As a cinematic point of view, the film is undoubtedly rigorously well executed, each shot is beautifully thought and done... to the extend that to me it can be too much as an exercice of style without counting the too many dialogue. Prolix and self-centered talks became difficult too digest. Interesting imagery though.

- Rain Dogs (Ho Yuhang, Malaisia, 2006) Fiction, Competition
synopsis : The story chronicles a young man's search for his brother in the city and how he comes to term with the brother’s eventual accidental death and as hard as he attempts to hold on to his family, whose only member left is the mother, he fails, and runs away to a fishing village to be with his uncle, an act that reminisces his dead brother's break from the family before. From the quiet encounters in his peaceful home village, to the chaos and excitement of urban centers, to him finally seeking exile in a border town north of Malaysia, this is a film about the music of chance and love and loss and sadness of those living on the fringe.
Close to a HK film, I found the film rather flavorless and flat, the actors don't bring enough presence, however very good, smooth cinematography.

- Glue (Alexis Dos Santos, Argentina, 2006) Fiction, Competition
synopsis : In a small town in Patagonia, fifteen-year-old Lucas is having a tough time at home : his parents keep splitting up because his father can't be faithful. Still, Lucas seems more concerned about bodily changes - he's constantly inspecting himself for improvements - and getting laid. He spends most of his time with his best friend, Nacho, playing in a band, riding their bikes and obsessing about sex. When they meet Andrea, the three soon become fast friends.
To me, it's like a Larry Clarke in an Argentinian version, and made into a more "young attitude" (image, pace and music). Taking from the internal point of view of the adolescents, the film is a portrayal of teeangers, showing their sexual and drug experiences, their vision of the family life. Visually, the film adopts warm colours and many effects of style on the image (sometimes mixing with super8). The actors play very naturally.

- The Last Communist (Amir Muhammad, Malaysia, 2006) Doc, Our year in films
synopsis : A semi-musical documentary inspired by the early life and legacy of Chin Peng, exiled leader of the banned Communist Party of Malaya. Interviews with the people in the towns he lived in from birth to national independence are interspersed with specially composed songs in the mould of old-fashioned propaganda films. website official website
With many political and historical references, the documentary is divided into different chronological eras since the sino-japanese wars and inserts singing scenes, perhaps a bit hard to follow, especially in the frame of a festival, but very well structured, informative and rather originally done and also sometimes funny.

- Rabia (Oscar Cardenas, Chili, 2006) Fiction, Focus Chili
synopsis : Camille Sepulveda has been unemployed for over a year. Through six chapters and brief interviews we will find out what this long period of unemployment has meant to her. Every time she goes for a job interview, she hears the points of view and experiences of other unemployed women.
Like a documentary (the film is part fiction, part documentary, using real elements) and very convincing, the film shows everything of what is going when one is unemployed and looking for a job, the relationships between the employees and the employers, also the competition, jealousy, ambition but also solidarity of these women looking for jobs. A very good social portrayal.

- To get to heaven first you have to Die (Djamshed Usmonov, Tadjikistan, 2006) Fiction, Our year in films
synopsis : Kamal, 20 years old, can't have sexual intercourse with women although he is married. He goes to the big city and notices beautiful Vera, whom he follows round town. Will his partnership with her husband, a mafia thug, help him become a man ?
Well done, well acted, sometimes reminded me of very early Scorsese films.

- Shadows of Silence (Abdullah Al-Moheissen, Saoudi Arabia, 2006) Fiction, Focus Saudi Arabia
- How is it going? (Izidor Mussamlam, Saoudi Arabia, 2006) Fiction, Focus Saudi Arabia
- Shorts from Chili.



Post a Comment

<< Home