We continue with the list of Asian films will be screened during the 66th Sydney Film Festival which will take place from June 5th – 16th, in Sydney, Australia.
Present. Perfect. By Selma Vilhunen, Shengze Zhu
USA, Hong Kong | 2019 – 124 minutes
More than 400 million Chinese regularly livestream footage of themselves, both their everyday lives and extreme activities: especially popular are videos of the bizarre, like a boy who eats live worms or paint-covered wrestlers. It’s an industry worth billions of dollars, dwarfing the Western trend of vlogging and YouTubers. Zhu chose not to follow the big stars but the marginal characters – a disfigured man, a paralysed girl, a bored crane driver, a dancer with a lousy sense of rhythm. Streaming online, they find the human contact that eludes them in real life – a world where the online and offline are inextricably merged.
June 11th | Tuesday | Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 1 | 8:35 pm
June 16th | Sunday | Event Cinemas George St 9 | 4:00 pm
Reason by Anand Patwardhan – India | 2018 – 236 minutes
Patwardhan is renowned for his films chronicling injustice in his homeland, with documentaries such as Jai Bhim Comrade (SFF 2012), Father, Son and Holy War (SFF 1995) and In the Name of God (SFF 1993). In Reason, he addresses India’s slide from a secular democracy to a more divisive society, fractured by power, caste and religious belief. He charts the rise of right-wing Hindu extremists driven by media-fuelled popularism, who habitually accuse minority groups of ‘treason against Mother India’ or ‘eating cow meat’ – violence frequently ensues. In eight chapters – using interviews, captured footage and archive sequences – Patwardhan depicts and deplores this frightening shift in the world’s largest democracy.
June 9th | Sunday | Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 1 | 1:45 pm
June 12th | Wednesday | Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 1 | 6:15 pm
Saturday Afternoon by Mostofa Sarwar Farooki
Bangladesh, Germany | 2019 – 86 minutes
A pioneer of the Bangladeshi New Wave, director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki (Television, SFF 2013) has, through his films, looked unflinchingly at his country and its people. Here he revisits the Holey Artisan Bakery attack of 2016 in which more than twenty hostages, from several countries, were killed by Islamist extremists. With virtuosic cinematography by Berlinale Silver Bear winner Aziz Zhambakiev, Saturday Afternoon takes us graphically into the attack on a Dhaka restaurant, with one impressive continuous shot. But Farooki is more interested here in the solidarity of the hostages: people of different backgrounds and religions who, in the face of abuse and violence, find a way to remain true to their fundamental beliefs, and try to save as many lives as they can.
June 10th | Monday | Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 1 | 2:15 pm
June 13th | Thursday | Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 1 | 8:15 pm
So Long, My Son by Wang Xioashuai – China | 2019 – 180 minutes
Yaojun (Wang Jingchun) and Liyun (Yong Mei) were once happy, but when their young son dies in a tragic accident, the couple never truly recovers. They adopt a son who struggles to adapt to his new circumstances and rebels against his anxious parents, culminating in him running away from home. A mainstay of Chinese independent filmmaking, Xiaoshuai (Beijing Bicycle, Shanghai Dreams) uses this story as the basis for a thorough examination of the effect of the political on the personal in China. The Cultural Revolution, China’s One-Child Policy and eventual burgeoning wealth all play out as the backdrop to this immensely emotional story of loss, love and redemption and human upheaval in China.
June 13th | Thursday | State Theatre | 8:35 pm
June 14th | Friday | Event Cinemas George St 5 | 8:15 pm
The Sweet Requiem by Ritu Sarin, Tenzing Sonam
India, USA | 2018 – 91 minutes
The guiding Buddhist notion of impermanence plays a central role in the story of Dolkar, a young woman who embarked on a perilous trek to India with her father when she was a girl. Now firmly part of Delhi’s large Tibetan community, Dolkar is helping Gompo, a recent arrival fleeing Chinese security forces in Lhasa. Slowly, Dolkar recognises Gompo as the guide who abandoned her group on a treacherous Himalayan path all those years ago. But is this really him? Dolkar’s consuming memories of childhood trauma are artfully threaded into the suspenseful depiction of her desire for revenge. Sarin and Sonam have documented the Tibetan experience for more than 20 years. This is one of their finest films yet.
June 14th | Friday | Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 3 | 6:30 pm
June 16th | Sunday | Hayden Orpheum Cremorne | 1:45 pm
The Third Wife by Ash Mayfair – Vietnam | 2018 – 112 minutes
Mayfair’s dreamlike feminist tale of repressed desire is filled with passion, beauty and melancholy. May (Nguyễn Phương Trà My) is a teenager who, through an arranged marriage, becomes the third wife of prosperous rural landowner Hung. She quickly comes of age, learning what she can about sex, and also about the strict patriarchal hierarchy of her society: a world in which women are scarcely more than property and fulfilment of any kind is fleeting. May soon pins all her hopes on becoming the first of Hung’s wives to bear him a son. Writer/director Mayfair based the tale in part on her own family history, recruiting a splendid cast including the great Trần Nữ Yên Khê (The Scent of Green Papaya). The Third Wife’s ravishing cinematography brings the pastoral setting to life with a mix of lyricism and bracing immediacy.
June 5 | Wednesday | Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 2 | 8:30 pm
June 6th | Thursday | Hayden Orpheum Cremorne | 6:30 pm
June 7th | Friday | State Theatre | 11:45 pm
The Wandering Chef by Hye Ryeong Park – South Korea | 2018 – 87 minutes
Jiho Im is known as ‘The Wandering Chef’, and his journeys take him across the Korean peninsula. He forages for unique ingredients, mosses, herbs and roots recognised for their medicinal properties. As he traverses the country, he encounters locals, carries their burdens and prepares meals for them. He meets Soon-Gyu, an elderly woman who offers him a bowl of soup. In return, he prepares a meal, which she and her husband relish. So, he returns, this time conceiving and creating innumerable dishes. Jiho Im never knew his mother, and his longing for maternal connection imbues his relationship with Soon-Gyu. Hye-Ryoung Park’s poignant documentary illustrates the deep connection between food, ritual and memory.
June 15th | Saturday | Event Cinemas George St 9 | 4:30 pm
June 16th | Sunday | Event Cinemas George St 9 | 6:30 pm
Up the Mountain by Zhang Yang – China | 2018 – 126 minutes
Master painter and teacher Shen Jianhua moved from Shanghai to a mountaintop Yunnan village years ago. He offers drawing lessons to numerous guests, including elderly village ladies who produce colourful folk canvases. The women are delightful, chattering as they paint and cook, revealing much about their calm approach to the ups and downs – the very rhythms – of life. One of Shen’s pupils is less serene: newly married, he’s torn between staying and leaving for the big city. His story exemplifies the clash between modernity and tradition in today’s China. Using an aspect ratio similar to a painting, director Zhang Yang (Festival favourite Shower, SFF 1999) has crafted an exquisite, unhurried portrait of a community and the joy of creating.
June 8th | Saturday | Event Cinemas George St 9 | 4:05 pm
June 10th | Monday | Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 2 | 2:00 pm