The organisers behind Osaka Asian Film Festival (OAFF) released the full programme of every film that will be screened during its run from March 03rd until March 12th last week and it’s an impressive line-up.
The beginning of the year is always a busy one when it comes to international film festivals since Rotterdam and Berlin showcase their programmes and start screening things that will filter to the rest of the world at some point. Add the Osaka Asian Film Festival to that list because it is establishing itself as a platform for Asian filmmakers. This year demonstrates why it has a growing international reputation since there are many world and international premieres and a lot of filmmakers are going to attend the festival to talk about their work. On top of writing my usual previews for the aforementioned festival, I am working for Osaka as well.
Full disclosure, I am at the festival in the capacity as a writer, helping out with the event and watching some of the films. I will attempt to review as many as possible but for now, I’ll give previews.
I’m very excited to bring these previews to you not least because I wrote the synopses for each of them and I got a chance to watch some of the films already and the amount of talent I have seen is impressive. As a person based in the West, sometimes it’s difficult to see what the rest of the world produces in terms of cinema so this is a real education for me. The titles from the Philippines and Thailand have been really impressive and show local film industries that are producing daring and interesting works.
Here’s what has been programmed for the opening, closing and competition films. There is mention of guests but to get the full information about which screening they are attending, please visit the Event Page, the Guest Page or one of my earlier announcements. To find out more about each of the films, please click on the titles/links to be taken to the festival site. I have also included links to IMDB and the film’s websites where possible.
Here’s what’s going to be screened (the entire list I made into a sticky post on the main page of this site will be updated with some of this information):
Running Time: 96 mins.
Director: Yuhang Ho
Writer: Yuhang Ho, Wai-Keung Chan (Screenplay),
Starring: Kara Wai, Simon Yam, Wu Bai, Li Xuan Siow,
Legendary Hong Kong action star Kara Wai (Rigor Mortis, At the End of Daybreak) and Simon Yam (Fulltime Killer, The Thieves) are foes in this explosive film that seems to reference Tarantino and play on Kara Hui’s action woman back-catalogue, something she developed from the days of The Shaw Brothers to now. The reviews on The Hollywood Reporter and Screen Daily assure me that this will be a crowd-pleasing action film and those who grew up with Hong Kong films of the ‘70s and ‘80s will totally be in love with this.
Kara Wai and director Yuhang Ho will be in Osaka for a talk and to act as a judge for the competition respectively. Kara Wai is also the recipient of the Asia Star Award.
Synopsis: Mrs K (Kara Wai) is a housewife who lives in a quiet suburban neighborhood with her husband, a doctor (Wu Bai), and her teenage daughter (Siow Li Xuan). She seems like a harmless middle class woman until confronted with danger, something that appears in the form of a corrupt cop (Tony Liu) whose arrival at her home is an unwelcome appearance especially since he talks about her past and a possible connection to a legendary casino heist in Macau. She sees him off but this is just the start of a series of violent events linked to Mrs K’s past which is slowly revealed when Mrs K’s daughter is kidnapped by a mysterious figure from her past (Simon Yam). To save her daughter, Mrs K will have to shed her clean-cut housewife image and reveal her deadly self…
Running Time: 118 mins.
Director: Natsuki Seta
Writer: Natsuki Seta (Screenplay),
Starring: Ai Hashimoto, Mei Nagano, Shota Sometani, Shiro Sano, Reiya Masaki, Ryu Morioka, Shizuka Ishibashi,
“Parks” was created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Inokashira Park, a cool area between Kichijoji and Mitaka and it features a zoo, lovely grounds to walk through, and the totally awesome Ghibli Museum.
The film has been written and directed by Natsuki Seta, an Osaka-born female director who made a name for herself with her 2011 debut commercial feature, “A Liar and a Broken Girl.” She was supported by the Osaka Asian Film Festival early in her career when her film “A Letter from Elsewhere” was programmed. This feature stars Ai Hashimoto (The Kirishima Thing, The World of Kanako), Shota Sometani (Himizu, As the Gods Will), and Mei Nagano (Rurouni Kenshin) so it’s sure to have great acting. Shota Sometani was one of the leads in her film “A Liar and a Broken Girl.” Here’s my review of the film.
Synopsis from the festival site: University student Jun (Ai Hashimoto), lives near Inokashira Park. Her days are quiet until she has a visit from a high school girl named Haru (Mei Nagano) who has a request: they search for Haru’s late father’s ex-girlfriend, who sent a letter to the father. However, they find the ex-girlfriend’s grandson Tokio (Shota Sometani) and he says the woman has passed away. Tokio finds a roll of reel-to-reel tape in his grandmother’s belongings, a recording of a love song that Haru’s father made. Due to the tape being damaged, they can’t listen to the full song, so the three try to recreate the missing parts to complete the song.
This section will present 16 films chosen from works completed on or after 1st October 2015 and unreleased in Japan. The international jurors will choose the winners of the Grand Prix and Most Promising Talent Award.
I have seen some of the titles here and I have been impressed by the range of stories and the level of filmmaking skill on offer. After having researched and written the director biographies for the physical catalgue, it’s exciting to see and report that many directors are still fresh to the game and yet display such confidence and skill.
10,000 MILES [一萬公里的約定]
Running Time: 103 mins.
Director: Simon Hung
Writer: Ruby Chen, Simon Hung (Screenplay),
Starring: Sean Huang, Megan Lai, Darren Wang, Jack Noseworthy
Director Simon Hung will be in Osaka for the film.
Synopsis: Kevin is a driven and dedicated high school student from a rough neighborhood in Taipei. Marathon running is his dream. He wants to join the school track team in which his older brother is the star but when he fails during a tryout all seems lost. Enter the team’s assistant coach, Ellie, who sees his potential and trains him on the side. The training is harsh but through it the two discover love. However, as they get closer shock incidents, illnesses and injuries affect Kevin and his family and separate him from Ellie. Only conquering the famous 10,000 Mile Silk Road Ultramarathon can save the day but can his dream of running rescue his relatives and rekindle his romance with Ellie?
“10,000 Miles” is loosely based on the life of the famous Taiwanese ultra marathon runner, Kevin Lin, who ran along the Silk Road in 2007. He joined the film as co-producer and reportedly subjected the actors to tough training.
Running Time: 105 mins.
Director: Kearen Pang
Writer: Kearen Pang (Screenplay/Original Stage Play),
Starring: Chrissie Chau, Elaine Jin, Eric Kot, Joyce Cheng, Jan Lamb, Ben Yeung, Babyjohn Choi,
Director Kearen Pang has a formidable career as an award-winning stage and screen actress and she adapted her hit one-woman stage play “29+1” into a feature film. It’s a solid drama and she will be in Osaka to talk about it.
Synopsis: Christy is a typical city girl born and raised in Hong Kong. She is a month away from turning 30 and has to cope with some of the same struggles shared by women her age: the stress of work, ageing and annoying parents, and a seemingly stable yet stagnant romance. The prospect of this pressure being her future is depressing but fate (and losing her apartment) makes her connect with Joyce, a woman who has never been in love and works in a dead-end job. Despite this, Joyce is relentlessly optimistic and has made the bold decision to pack up her bags and follow her childhood dreams of travelling. Christy moves temporarily into Joyce’s home and through exploring Joyce’s diary, learns more about Joyce’s life and finally makes big decisions about her own.
“29+1” is a glossy story that should appeal to a wide audience due to its universal themes about growing older and facing different responsibilities.
77 HEARTBREAKS [原諒他77次]
Running Time: 97 mins.
Director: Herman Yau
Writer: Erica Li (screenplay), Li Min (Original Novel),
Starring: Charlene Choi, Pakho Chau, Michelle Wai, Candy Lo, Kara Hui, Anthony Wong, Yumiko Cheng,
Herman Yau will be attending some screenings of this film.
Synopsis: When Adam and Eva, sweethearts since law school, break up after ten years, Adam thinks their split was caused by one trivial incident. What he doesn’t realise is that Eva has forgiven him for 77 mistakes!
It began when Adam changed professions to start a Thai boxing gym and gradually became indifferent to Eva. Seemingly petty matters, like forgetting she hates raisin cookies, became the catalyst for her to move out and leave him. Despondent, Adam has a drunken tryst with his student, Mandy, but after discovering Eva’s private journal entitled “77 Heartbreaks”, he learns of his many errors. The title refers to the philosophy that “forgiving someone 7 times isn’t enough; 70 x 7 times is too much; so go ahead and forgive 77 times!” Reading it revives Adam’s love for Eva, but what can he do to win her back and what secret is contained in the journal’s torn-out last page?
Running Time: 100 mins.
Director: Jerrold Tarog
Starring: Iza Calzado, Ian Veneracion, Tj Trinidad, Adrienne Vergara, Michael De Mesa
Jerrold Tarog has a multi-hyphenate career as director, writer, composer, and more and he has gone on to win awards in all of those field as his films have toured the international festival circuit. He will be in Osaka to discuss his career more when this film screens.
Synopsis: Jane Ciego started acting in showbiz at a young age. Now in her 30’s, she decides to produce her own film to win some respect in the industry. But things do not go as planned and an accident on location cripples her. Jane wakes up unable to walk and trapped in her own home, a large house filled with strange sounds and people who may want to harm her. She is looked over by her cold husband Carlo and a sadistic nurse named Lilibeth, and then there is Rose, a nurse wanted by authorities for sexually molesting a patient. She mysteriously enters Jane’s life and soon begins affecting her dreams as much as her waking life. Jane’s sanity begins to crumble as the horrors pile up in a symphony of blood, tears and madness. What was supposed to be a simple dream for Jane soon becomes an endless nightmare.
BY THE TIME IT GETS DARK [DAO KHANONG]
Thailand, Netherlands, France, Qatar
Running Time: 100 mins.
Director: Anocha Suwichakornpong
Writer: Anocha Suwichakornpong (Screenplay)
Starring: Arak Amornsupasiri, Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Achtara Suwan, Visra Vichit-Vadakan
The director will be attending a screening.
Synopsis: A film director and her muse who was a student activist in the 1970’s, a waitress who keeps changing jobs, an actor and an actress, all live loosely connected to each other by almost invisible threads. The narrative sheds its skin several times to reveal layer upon layer of the complexities that make up the characters’ lives.
“By the Time it Gets Dark” examines whether artists can relate to grim events from the past through a film-within-a-film premise. The military-led massacre of student demonstrators at a university in Bangkok in 1976 serves as the subject for a film the characters are involved in. As the filming takes place, audiences are asked to question whether people can truly understand the historical trauma of what happened through viewing philosophical passages of action made up of increasingly surreal and beautiful images juxtaposing a peaceful and prosperous present with those brutal events of the past and the ghosts that remain.
Running Time: 122 mins.
Director: Shin Dong-il
Writer: Han Ji-soo, Shin Dong-il (Screenplay)
Starring: Im Hyeong-gook, Lee Hye-eun, Chae Bin, Kim Je-rok, Han Kyung-hyun,
Synopsis: A family struggling to succeed in Korea’s culture of fierce competition finds that the pressure to win may corrupt them as the morals of the three are tested. Beom-gu, a middle-aged engineer, somehow loses his sense of smell and then suddenly loses his job and, as a result, his sense of self. Left with nothing to do but stay at home all day, he visits a troublesome neighbour to complain about the noise and finds a strange character who drags him into a strange situation. His wife Mi-young sells credit cards in a dog-eat-dog environment. Driven to win a trip to Thailand, Mi-young risks doing illegal sales to beat her rivals but her situation only gets worse. Their daughter Han-na has applied for Korea’s top university but has been rejected and stuck on a waiting list. It is two days before the deadline and there is only one person ahead of her on the list. Anxious, she contacts and meets a girl who is already accepted to the department that Han-na applied for…
Running Time: 102 mins.
Director: Dain Iskandar Said
Writer: Redza Minhat, Dain Said, Nandita Solomon, June Tan, (Screenplay)
Starring: Nicholas Saputra, Iedil Putra, Shaheizy Sam, Prisia Nasution, Alvin Wong,
Dain Iskandar Said will be at the festival to talk about the film.
Synopsis: A series of bizarre and gruesome murders rocks a Malaysian city as corpses drained of blood and left dangling about in a net of their own veins start showing up along with mysterious old photographs. Police detective Man is baffled and needs help and so he turns to a reclusive friend named Adam, a former a forensics photographer who burned out and quit his job. Adam spends his days taking pictures of his neighbours but his seemingly innocuous pastime turns into a dark vision. Through his photographic lenses, he spies Iva, an attractive young woman from Borneo, a new tenant in the opposite apartment. Adam finds himself falling in love with her as he becomes entangled in mystery, murder and mayhem. As Adam is drawn further into Iva’s tribal world and Man digs deeper into his investigation, they discover the city’s mystical underbelly of shamans and supernatural beings and a century-old superstition come to life.
Running Time: 93 mins.
Director: Sigrid Andrea P. Bernardo
Writer: N/A (Screenplay)
Starring: Alessandra de Rossi, Empoy Marquez,
Sigrid Andrea P. Bernardo finished filming this around the time I arrived in Japan. She had an eventful time in Hokkaido so it will be interesting attending her talks for the different screenings.
Synopsis: Lea and Tonyo are two Filipinos living in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. Lea is a Velo taxi tour guide. She suffers an accident which leads to her being affected by temporary blindness. Her blindness, if not cured in a few weeks, could become permanent. Tonyo is also a Filipino who lives right across from Lea. Lea tries her best to ignore him at first because she is scared of not seeing him. But Tonyo is persistent and is determined to be her friend, using humour and kindness to make a connection. With every effort that he makes the two gradually become closer. In an ironic way, becoming blind allows Lea to see the true character of Tonyo.
This story is about perception and about how sometimes we can’t see the real story behind a person. As Lea’s story ends, we will see Tonyo’s story begin.
MAD WORLD [一念無明]
Running Time: 102 mins.
Director: Wong Chun
Writer: Florence Chan (Chor Hang Chan) (Screenplay)
Starring: Eric Tsang, Shawn Yue, Elaine Jin, Charmaine Fong,
Director Wong Chun and writer Florence Chan will be at the screening.
Synopsis: he film begins with an old man picking up his son from a mental hospital. The father is a trucker who regularly drives to China. He has long been absent as a father but now he has custody of his son, a former financial analyst suffering from severe bipolar disorder. The father must take his son home and help his child manage his problems. Both men are in deep remorse for the accident that caused the death of the mother. Their history fuels the tension and anxiety that boils as they stay with each other in a tiny subdivided flat. As time passes, they realise the pain between one another is not the only confrontation that awaits them; they must face the cruel and unjust world that they are living in.
Hong Kong stars Eric Tsang and Shawn Yue take the lead in a daring indie drama that looks at the pressures of life in the city’s poorest and bleakest environment and asks how strong people need to be in order to change.
Running Time: 135 mins.
Director: Banjong Pisanthanakun
Writer: Chantavit Dhanasevi, Nontra Kumwong, Banjong Pisanthanakun (Screenplay)
Starring: Chantavit Dhanasevi, Nittha Jirayungyurn, Theerapat Sajakul, Prim Bulakul, Kaz Sawamura, Yuta Takimoto, Kureha Sakaguchi, Haruka Takase,
Director Banjong Pisanthanakun and cast members Chantavit Dhanasevi, Nittha Jirayungyurn will attend a screening
Synopsis: Denchai is a geeky 30-year-old IT officer whose existence is only acknowledged when his colleagues, who often forget his name, need tech support. His world is flipped upside down when he goes to fix a printer for a new girl in the marketing department named Nui. She gets his name correct, making him feel valued once again and from that moment, Denchai falls head over heels for Nui, but only admires her secretly from afar, since he knows that Nui is out of his league.
Things take a strange turn while they are on a company outing in Hokkaido. Denchai makes a wish at the resort’s landmark Lucky ‘N Love Bell for Nui to be his girl for just one day. He may get his chance after she suffers an accident and is diagnosed with TGA, a rare temporary memory loss disorder which lasts for just one day. Denchai decides to tell Nui a lie: he is her boyfriend and they had plans to travel around Hokkaido together. Ethics aside, will Denchai get his dream girl, if only for just one day?
Running Time: 118 mins.
Director: Vijay Jayapal
Writer: Vijay Jayapal (Screenplay)
Starring: Chetan Kadambi, Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli, Anantharaman Karthik, Arpita Banerjee,
Vijay Jayapal will be attending the festival to talk about this, his debut feature-film. After a career making shorts, PSAs and ads, he has made an impressive entrance into the world of full-length filmmaking (it’s expertly shot and the script unfolds well) so it will be interesting hearing what he has to say.
Synopsis: A young Tamil woman living in Calcutta named Shobha grapples with unknown tensions in her four-year-long marriage with her often absent journalist husband Sekhar. She develops a complex relationship with her new neighbours, a sick mother and her middle-aged son, a Tamil man named Manohar. After offering to take care of his mother, Shobha and Manohar become closer but she discovers he has a mysterious past preventing their romance. As this takes place, Sekhar is reporting on the local rock scene with a rookie journalist named Divya. She is an uninhibited and sophisticated Bengali girl who knows how seductive she can be and Sekhar finds himself lost in her charms. As the tensions mount, the four find their relationships soon begin to unravel.
Set in the fascinating city of Kolkata, a place rich with culture and nature, the film explores themes such as guilt and redemption, desires and sexuality in the context of an Indian marriage.
Macao, Hong Kong
Running Time: 97 mins.
Director: Tracy Choi
Writer: Au Kin-yee (Screenplay)
Starring: Gigi Leung, Fish Liew, Jennifer Yu, Lee Lee-jen,
Director Tracy Choi and the actresses Jennifer Yu and Fish Liew will be attending a screening.
Synopsis: In a small town somewhere in Taiwan lives Sei, a woman in her late-thirties. She moved from Macau to Taiwan 15 years ago with her husband but finds herself drawn back when she discovers her best friend in Macau, Ling, has just passed away. Sei recalls her younger days with Ling in the 1990’s. It was Ling who got Sei her first job at a massage parlour and invited Sei to live at her home. Their friendship deepened when Ling discovered she was pregnant and with the arrival of Ling’s baby boy, Lok Lok, the three became a family. But as the date of Macau’s handover to China neared, Ling fell in love with a restaurant owner and on the eve of the handover, the two women fought and then parted ways. Things have changed in Macau, including people, as Sei discovers when she re-unites with Lok Lok, who has grown up and reveals that Ling has kept a promise to Sei she never knew…
SOMETHING IN BLUE [呼吸正常]
Running Time: 107 mins.
Director: Li Yunbo
Writer: Li Yunbo (Screenplay)
Starring: Zhang Xingchao, Ye Ruihong, Zhou Jiaheng, Li Hui,
“Something in Blue” is a niche film. When I watched it, I was immediately reminded of the films of Korean director Hong Sang-Soo, as it looks at the vagaries of human relationships in a series of sketches of everyday life, uses repetition a little, and has a naturalistic air to its setting and acting. There is no definite plot, this is just a slice-of-life and it is also a breath of fresh air in Chinese cinema. This is the first Chinese film that I have seen which is anywhere close to Mumblecore or anything that isn’t flashy and over-theatrical. It takes place in Guangzhou and I must admit that it was a great advertisement for the city because lots of areas looked fascinating. Producers Li Yang, Zeng Yiqing, and director Li Yunbo will be in Osaka to give a talk at the festival.
Synopsis: Four twenty-something guys in Guangzhou live with their love and dreams, ease and bewilderment as they go about their everyday lives. Watching them on screen is like seeing them enter the movie from their own lives, dragging their friends, family and compatriots with them, before they go back to their lives at the end of proceedings. The film allows them to act as themselves on screen and so we see them in their natural environment, opening up a new perspective on living in a Chinese city.
SOUL MATE [七月與安生]
Hong Kong, China
Running Time: 110 mins.
Director: Derek Tsang
Writer: Wing-Sum Lam, Yuan Li, Nan Wu, Yimeng Xu (Screenplay)
Starring: Dongyu Zhou, Sichun Ma, Toby Lee, Gang Cai, Ping Li,
Synopsis: July and Ansheng are both 13 when they meet in high school and become best friends fast despite having differing personalities. July is calm like water while Ansheng is a fiery ball of passion. They become inseparable. As fate would have it, at the age of 18, they fall in love with the same man, Jia-ming. Because of their different values and lifestyles, they are destined to arrive at two completely different endings but they will never completely lose their bond…
Based on a short story by the writer Qing Shan, this tale of two BFFs falling for the same guy has drawn comparisons to the Shunji Iwai’s masterpiece “Hana and Alice” (2004) but its sensitively told story does enough to make it different. It features two award-winning performances from lead actresses Zhou Dongyu and Ma Sichun who make this coming of age drama a touching journey to behold.
Running Time: 103 mins.
Director: Borgy Torre
Writer: N/A (Screenplay)
Starring: JC de Vera, Nathalie Hart, Joel Torre, Angelina Mailes, Kanapi, Isabel Granada,
Director Borgy Torre and producer Katrina Veloso will be attending the festival.
Synopsis: Tisay is a beautiful woman who works as a middle woman for a gambling kingpin. He fixes games of semi-pro basketball and she collects bets from blue collar workers, sometimes using sex to get things done. She finds it impossible to be so cold to her next mark, Simon, a talented basketball player who can make it into the professional leagues if he keeps playing. Simon, a good-natured and idealistic person, falls in love with Tisay but has to deal with a world filled with shams, crime and violence if he wants to stay with her but it is Tisay who has to make the choice to escape her background.
大和（カリフォルニア) 「Yamato (Karifuorunia」
Running Time: 119 mins.
Director: Daisuke Miyazaki
Writer: Daisuke Miyazaki (Screenplay),
Starring: Nina Endo, Hanae Kan, Reiko Kataoka, Mayumi Kato, Shuya Nishiji, Mizuki Sashide, Masayki Shionoya, Haruka Uchimura,
Back on firm ground with Japanese films and this time it is one from Daisuke Miyazaki who I have written about once before. He’s an indie film director and he’s at OAFF with his sophomore film. He has experience with shorts and working as an assistant director on “Tokyo Sonata” (2008). He released his debut feature-film “End of the Night” in 2012 and it featured in one of my trailer posts. I actually remember writing that particular one…
Daisuke Miyazaki and various cast-members will attend the different screenings at the festival.
Anyway, trailer and synopsis for his latest, a political film:
Synopsis: Sakura is a moody teenage girl living close to the US military base in the city of Yamato, a town north of Tokyo. She wants to become a musician like the American rappers she admires, but is held back by stage-fright when faced with performing in front of a live audience. Then she meets Rei, the half-Japanese half-American daughter of her mother’ s American soldier boyfriend. Rei has flown from California to visit for the summer. Sakura dislikes her immediately, but Rei’ s familiarity with American Hip Hop becomes a bridge between the two girls as they spend an unforgettable time together exploring, arguing over and bonding through the mix of Japanese and American culture in the unique landscape of Yamato. Though their adventures and quarrels may lead Sakura into danger, they may also let her face her fears and participate in the city’s music competition.
Umeda Burg 7 (March 3-12),
ABC Hall (March 8-12),
Cine Libre Umeda (March 4-12),
Hankyu Umeda Hall (March 6-10), and others.
This is just the first part of the line-up that will be presented at the festival. I will add this information to the pinned post at the top of my site and will do the same for each subsequent post. I hope you keep returning to see what’s available for you to watch and what will be released and screened around the world over the coming year. The full programme is available here.
My next post will feature the Special Screenings: Looking at Asia through the Prism of Employment, New Action! Southeast Asia, Special Focus on Hong Kong 2017 and Thai Films