Lovingly curated by artistic director Sonali Joshi, there’s a noticeable absence of slick, commercial Hong Kong or Bollywood blockbusters. There’s no shortage of prestige or talent — films from award-winning directors rub shoulders with fresh, groundbreaking new movies in a festival lineup that includes feature-length films and documentaries from 13 countries. The breadth, diversity and quality of cinema emerging from Asia is apparent.
Naturalistic, beautifully shot character-driven narratives dominate the lineup, whether it’s Aung San Suu Kyi’s heart-wrenching, deeply political biopic or Yang Yonghi’s moving examination of North Korean society in Sona, the Other Myself. Those looking for somethinglight-hearted might enjoy Taipei Exchanges, a stylish tale of love, friendship and following one’s dreams over coffee and cake, or rom-com-crime-caper Au Revoir Taipei, a love story entangled in gangster affairs. We also recommend Rainy Seasons, a modern teenage drama banned in its home country, Iran; and The Rice Paddy, the first film ever to be shot in the Dong language indigenous to Southern China.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Norwegian Wood, the English premiere of which kickstarts the festival. Adaptations of books are always divisive, but the preview looked promising, the characters’ gentle, yearning loneliness painted onscreen in sumptuous colours against a backdrop of 60s pop (soundtrack courtesy of Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead fame). In any case, Murakami fans will be pleased to hear that screenwriter-director Tran Anh Hung and Oscar-nominated actress Rinko Kikuchi will be at Asia House on Tuesday 2 March to discuss just that — the art of adaptation.
Arresting tales of youth, loneliness and cultural identity, gorgeous cinematography, gritty realism, beautiful soundtracks — these films offer a deep insight into contemporary life across Asia, and there’s sure to be something for everyone. Tony Rayns, film critic and London Film Festival Programmer, claims some of this work ‘leaves much Western film-making looking old-fashioned’. You can be the judge of that.
Runs 1–13 March 2011. For complete schedule and individual ticket prices, see Asia House
for more details.
By Yin Leow. Image from Norwegian Wood.