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15 Films you shouldn’t miss at the 16th Osaka Asian Film Festival

These are fifteen films you shouldn’t miss at the 16th Osaka Asian Film Festival, which will take place on cinemas from March 5th – 14th and online from February 28th – March 20th (selected films from previous editions).

About the festival:
The Osaka Asian Film Festival (OAFF) aims to facilitate human resources development and exchange, to invigorate the Osaka economy, and to increase the city’s appeal, through providing opportunities to watch excellent Asian films, supporting filmmaking in Osaka and attracting filmmakers from Asian countries and regions to Osaka.

Marking its 16th edition this year, OAFF, under programming director TERUOKA Sozo (暉峻創三), will again select high-quality Asian films. The Competition section, which receives increased recognition every year, will again select films previously unreleased in Japan. The Indie Forum section, special programs and other sections will also feature a wide variety of excellent Asian films.

Films selected:

Affliction by Teddy Soeriaatmadja – Indonesia | 2021 – 90 minutes
Section: New Action! Southeast Asia | Japan Premiere

Hasan (Ibnu JAMIL) and Nina (Raihaanun) are members of the sandwich generation. They have two precocious children to raise and also their respective mothers who are getting on in years. Following the death of Nina’s mother, they travel back to Hasan’s home town to pick up his own (Tutie KIRANA) only to discover that she has Alzheimer’s and that she refuses to leave the family home. Worse still, Nina is able to sense things from the supernatural world and she senses a mysterious presence infesting the house along with the idea that Hasan and his mother are hiding things from her.

The film’s biggest horror come from a variety of sources, such as the jump scares of “The Conjuring” (2013) and “Insidious” (2010) and the oppressive atmosphere of “Hereditary” (2018) but at its heart is a family drama filled with grief that leads to psychological horror as people who should be close to each other hide dark secrets. – [Jason Maher – OAFF 2021]

Cast: Raihaanun, Dea Panendra, Tutie Kirana, Ibnu Jamil, Abiyyu Barakbah, Tasya Putri

Screening Date:
March 5th, 2021 (Friday) | Cine Libre Umeda 4 | 16:35 pm
March 11th, 2021 (Thursday) | ABC Hall | 15:45 pm

Trailer:

Along the sea by Fujimoto Akio – Japan, Vietnam | 2020 – 88 minutes
Section: Special Screening

Phuong (HOANG Phuong), An (HUYNH Tuyet Anh), and Nhu (QUYNH Nhu) are Vietnamese young women who travelled to Japan to work on the technical trainee program. What they found was exploitation which they escaped, minus their documents, which means they will become illegal residents in Japan and so they have to be careful. Their luck seems to turn when they get better-paying work supporting fishermen in a snowy port town and some semblance of happiness returns to their lives. However, when Phuong suddenly suffers stomach pains, it sets in motion another trial for the women, particularly Phuong whose health hangs in the balance.

FUJIMOTO’s second film about migrant workers is a rich follow-up to “Passage of Life” (2017). An enthralling experience, it marries documentary realism with an effective dramatic structure and moving performances that takes viewers into the intimate world of these characters, showing their complex everyday lives and their vital relationship whilst in a precarious position and teases out a myriad of emotions, both good and bad, with an ever-beautiful landscape around them that channels their feelings. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2021]

Cast: Hoang Phuong, Huynh Tuyet Anh, Quynh Nhu

Screening Date:
March 9th, 2021 (Tuesday) | Cine Libre Umeda 3 | 16:20 pm

Trailer:

Black Milk by Uisenma Borchu – Germany, Mongolia | 2020 – 91 minutes
Section: Spotlight | Japan Premiere

We accompany a young woman on a journey to Mongolia to reunite with her sister and reconnect with her culture in Black Milk, a semi-autobiographical film by Uisenma BORCHU and a follow up to her debut “Don’t Look at Me That Way” (2016: OAFF 2016). Events start in Germany where Wessi (played by director BORCHU herself) has spent decades living. Her arrival in the Gobi desert is all kinds of awkward as a culture clash ensues and she tries to get involved with the nomadic life whilst chafing against patriarchal rules and customs. Her sister Ossai (Gunsmaa TSOGZOL) is also initially overwhelmed by her long-absent siblings modern attitudes towards life. However, a deep bond flows between the two and this helps Ossai protect her sister as she falls in love with an older neighbour, a situation that causes Wessi to break all taboos and traditions she didn‘t grow up with as she pursues her right to love and be loved by whom she chooses. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2021]

Cast: Gunsmaa Tsogzol, Uisenma Borchu, Franz Rogowski, Terbish Demberel, Borchu Bawaa

Screening Date:
March 12th, 2021 (Friday) | ABC Hall | 12:50 pm
March 14th, 2021 (Sunday) | Umeda Burg 7 | 15:30 pm

Trailer:

Born to be Human by Lily Ni – Taiwan | 2021 – 105 minutes
Section: Taiwan: Movies on the Move, Classic and Contemporary | World Premiere

YANG Shi-Nan (Lily LEE) is a 14-year-old boy who undergoes a metamorphosis without realising what is going on. It begins on a normal school day when he gets stomach cramps. After rushing to the toilet he notices that his urine is turning bloody red. Taken to a doctor he is diagnosed with “Disorders of Sex Development,” or intersex. Without consulting him, Shi-Nan’s parents decide to accept “sex reassignment surgery”, turning Shi-Nan into a female and changing her name to YANG Shi-Lan. The family moves to a new city to start a new life and it all seems to be going well as Shi-Lan blends in and even makes friends. It seems like the butterfly is about to break out of its chrysalis but can YANG Shi-Lan truly embrace her transformation?

This is the question that the film dangles in front of audiences as it shows them Shi-Lan’s feminisation whilst also keeping them aware of society’s discrimination and ultimately playing on the idea where a person’s identity is taken out of their hands and the psychological effects it can have on them. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2021]

Cast: Lily Lee, Vera Chen, Yin Jau Der, Alice Lee

Screening Date:
March 11th, 2021 (Thursday) | ABC Hall | 18:15 pm
March 14th, 2021 (Sunday) | Umeda Burg 7 | 13:00 pm

Trailer:

Broken by Lawrence Fajardo – Philippines | 2020 – 93 minutes
Section: New Action! Southeast Asia | World Premiere

Dante (JC SANTOS) is a Filipino ceramicist who has travelled to Saga Prefecture to learn from Japanese craftspeople at a pottery factory. While he had hoped to learn a new craft to help his own family’s business, he finds himself helplessly attracted to Harue (NISHIUCHI Hiro), the heiress of the place who has returned following the breakdown in a relationship with her boyfriend in Tokyo. While their initial meeting is thorny, they soon fall into synchronicity and she teaches him how to repair a broken bowl through a process called kintsugi where broken pieces are attached using lacquer and the cracks are painted with gold. Harue gives the restored bowl to Dante. Perhaps this is symbolic of the way that he might heal her heart. However, Dante’s heart is also broken, a fact revealed when he has to fly home to the Philippines to deal with a family emergency, the truth of which could shatter their fragile connection. Meanwhile, Harue discovers that her father is setting her up for an arranged marriage. Will she choose her duty to her family or personal happiness? [Jason Maher | OAFF 2021]

Cast: JC Santos, Nishiuchi Hiro, Phi Palmos

Screening Date:
March 7th, 2021 (Sunday) | Cine Libre Umeda 4 | 14:35 pm
March 10th, 2021 (Wednesday) | ABC Hall | 18:25 pm

Trailer:

Come and Go by Lim Kah-wai – Japan, Malaysia | 2020 – 158 minutes
Section: Special Screening

In any normal week, millions of people are drawn to Osaka, drawn by fate or a variety of wants. We spend time with some of them in this ensemble drama made up of talents who have appeared at OAFF in the past. A group of Korean women tricked into entertaining Chinese businessmen, a country girl new in town and ripe for exploitation by adult industry figures, a Nepali youth and the Japanese-language teacher who loves him, a lonely Taiwanese AV fan seeking out his favourite actress, and a mixed-race man who makes the mistake of getting mixed up with criminals. These are just some of the lives that intersect in Osaka in dramatic and comic tales full of humanity…

After two films set in Europe, director LIM Kah-wai returns to his adopted home of Osaka for a story of itinerant individuals seeking some form of companionship, comfort, and hope. Sifting through the upmarket and down-at-heel sides of the city, LIM finds great material for a set of interlocking storylines that paint the Osaka of now, a global city, a gateway to Asia, and a melting-pot of cultures where people come and go. [Jason Maher | OAFF 2021]

Cast: Lee Kang-sheng, Lien Binh Phat, Watanabe Makiko, Chihara Seiji, Usamaru Manami

Screening Date:
March 12th, 2021 (Friday) | Cine Libre Umeda 3 | 9:10 am

Trailer:

Elisa’s Day by Alan Fung – Hong Kong | 2021 – 106 minutes
Section: Special Focus on Hong Kong 2021 | World Premiere

It’s a tragic case of history repeating as two cases twenty years apart find their connections in people who were abandoned by their parents. The story begins in recent times with Sergeant Fai (Ronald CHENG), a grizzled cop who is on the verge of retirement. When he books a young woman named Daisy (Carol TO) for drug possession, the memory of an earlier case that derailed his career emerges. We are taken to 1997 and meet 15 year-old Elisa (Hanna CHAN), an innocent and naive girl who has fallen in love with Wai (Tony WU), a decent guy with a motorbike and few prospects. Elisa soon gives birth to a baby girl after the two move in together but life isn’t easy. Desperate to earn money, Wai becomes a member of the triads and commits a crime so serious he must flee Hong Kong and leave Elisa and their daughter behind to face the cruelty of society alone. When Wai returns he finds he cannot be a permanent part of their lives and their once happy family is poisoned by resentment which leads to a tragic outcome… [Jason Maher | OAFF 2021]

Cast: Ronald Cheng, Hanna Chan, Tony Wu, Carol To

Screening Date:
March 6th, 2021 (Saturday) | Cine Libre Umeda 4 | 12:00 pm
March 12th, 2021 (Friday) | Umeda Burg 7 | 13:30 pm

Trailer:

Green Jail by Huang Yin-yu – Japan, Taiwan, France | 2021 – 101 minutes
Section: Taiwan: Movies on the Move, Classic and Contemporary | World Premiere

Iriomote Island, Okinawa, Japan. a place once known as “Green Jail” due to the coal mining village that was located deep in its mangrove jungles. It held thousands of miners, some of whom were from Japan, some from the colonies Taiwan and Korea. This island community developed its own currency, schools, and life based around the mine which we learn about in this documentary.

Grandma HASHIMA, a 90-year-old woman, is our guide. She can tell some of the stories of “Green Jail”. She is the final eyewitness to this history and uniquely positioned since her adoptive father YANG Tien-fu was the head of colonial Taiwanese miners. We watch her final days on the island as she fades away but finds the strength to recount her life. We also see archive footage, photos, and listen to the voices of the actual miners narrate their own stories while shown atmospheric reconstructions. Most powerfully, Grandma HASHIMA’s vital testimony forms the thread to understand this hidden history before it is forgotten. [Jason Maher | OAFF 2021]

Cast: Hashima Yoshiko, Louis Leslie Kimura

Screening Date:
March 6th, 2021 | Cine Libre Umeda 3 | 16:25 pm

Trailer:

Here and there by JP Habac – Philippines | 2021 – 100 minutes
Section: New Action! Southeast Asia | World Premiere

As Covid-19 swept the globe, governments reacted by imposing lockdowns and restricting people’s movements to curb the spread. One thing that kept everybody connected was the internet. This applies to Len (Janine GUTIERREZ) and Caloy (JC SANTOS), two people living in Manila who wouldn’t ordinarily meet if not for the pandemic. She is a political science major nursing a lonely heart while Caloy is part-time student working a delivery driver supporting his family who live far away in Cebu. After clashing over a social media post, they meet at an online drinking session organised by Len’s friends and from this chance encounter a beautiful friendship blossoms as they quickly bond over their shared frustrations and life stories. Despite being separated by a screen, the two become close, and Len entertains the possibility of romance…

“Here and There” uses the Covid-19 pandemic to frame a sweet and believable take on how people interact through ubiquitous SNS services. Seeing the characters get close as they constantly text each other and hang out via video calls has an air of authenticity made all the more compelling by the chemistry from the cast. [Jason Maher | OAFF 2021]

Cast: Janine Gutierrez, JC Santos, Victor Anastacio, Yesh Burce, Lotlot De Leon

Screening Date:
March 9th, 2021 (Tuesday) | Cine Libre Umeda 4 | 12:00 pm
March 13th, 2021 (Saturday) | Cine Libre Umeda 4 | 12:30 pm

Trailer:

Ito by Yokohama Satoko – Japan | 2021 – 116 minutes
Section: Competition | World Premiere

SOMA Ito (KOMAI Ren) is a high school student in Hirosaki City, Aomori. Her hobby is playing the Tsugaru shamisen, a three-string instrument that is popular in her home prefecture. She picked up the skill from her late mother, a talented shamisen player in her own right. While Ito can express herself through music, talking is a little harder due to shyness, which, when coupled with her strong Tsuguru dialect, makes it hard for her to communicate. And so she has few friends but, despite this, she has a strong inner spirit and she makes a big decision to start a part-time job at a maid cafe, much to the concern of her father Koichi (TOYOKAWA Etsushi). With every meeting that Ito has, her confidence begins to grow.

This is the latest film from YOKOHAMA Satoko, an award-winning director known for her work “The Actor” (2012). Both she and lead actress KOMAI Ren hail from Aomori Prefecture, the setting of the film. The story comes from a work by popular novelist KOSHIGAYA Osamu and its title, “Itomichi” 糸道(いとみち)comes from the scar which is formed in the nail of a Shamisen player from the string. (OAFF 2021)

Cast: Komai Ren, Toyokama Etsushi, Nishikawa Yoko

Screening Date:
March 10th, 2021 (Wednesday) | Cine Libre Umeda 3 | 18:00 pm
March 14th, 2021 (Sunday) | Cine Libre Umeda 3 | 9:20 am

Keep Rolling by Man lin-chung – Hong Kong | 2020 – 118 minutes
Section: Special Focus on Hong Kong 2021 | Japan Premiere

“Keep Rolling” is a deeply personal portrait of the celebrated filmmaker Ann HUI. It spans seven decades of her life and features a wealth of archive footage, photos, and interviews with friends, family, and major players in the international film industry. Acting as our guide is Ann HUI herself, an effervescent presence who delivers humorous and honest looks at her background, career, and private life as she takes in all of her artistic and commercial highs as well as the crushing lows and personal sacrifices she has experienced as part of her unwavering dedication to cinema and her continual exploration of Hong Kong life. “Keep Rolling” was one of five films named as a Film of Merit at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards 2020. (OAFF 2021)

Screening Date:
March 5th, 2021 (Friday) | Umeda Burg 7 | 17:50 pm
March 11th, 2021 (Thursday) | ABC Hall | 12:55 pm

Trailer:

The Slug by Choi Jin-young – South Korea | 2020 – 99 minutes
Section: Competition | International Premiere

If you could meet your childhood self, what would you tell them?

This is a tantalising question that a woman named Chun-hee (KANG Jin-a) gets to answer. She lives a modest life in her maternal grandparent’s house, the place she lived from her teenage years when her parents died. It is a place filled with many unhappy memories as her uncle, aunt, and cousins made her feel unwelcome, something which only added to the shame she felt from excessive sweating. As an adult, she puts on a brave front and tries to get along with others and when she meets an equally shy person, she finally finds someone who can love her back. However, one day, she is struck by lightning and after that moment, she can see her teenage self (PARK Hye-jin) popping in and out of the house. Their surreal house-share offers Chun-hee a chance to deal with her lingering traumas.

“The Slug” is CHOI Jin-young’s debut feature and it is a confident one for she has made a delicate film with a light atmosphere and quirky tone that conceals a profound and moving story of self-acceptance that avoids all of the cliches and strikes the heart honest and true. [Jason Maher | OAFF 2021]

Cast: Kang Jin-a, Park Hye-jin, Hong Sang-pyo

Screening Date:
March 9th, 2021 (Tuesday) | Cine Libre Umeda 4 | 14:05 minutes

Trailer:

The Way We Keep Dancing by Adam Wong – Hong Kong | 2021 – 128 minutes
Section: Special Focus on Hong Kong 2021 | Japan Premiere

Hong Kong’s underground artists have used the warehouses of the Kowloon Industrial District to set up studios, workshops and homes. Finding rent exorbitant and freedom restricted in other parts of the city, creatives like rapper Heyo (Heyo), YouTuber Alan (Babyjohn CHOI), and dancer Hana (Cherry NGAN) rub shoulders and make friendships as they pursue their art. Each is a rising star in their own right but their careers are offered a massive boost into the stratosphere when they are recruited to be the faces of the government’s gentrification of the area. They are all drawn into a publicity stunt to transform the district into a ‘Dance Street’ where everything gets an “urban” facelift thanks to corporations. At first, these creatives feel like they can keep their roots in the streets whilst encouraging corporate investment, but when the area begins to change beyond their recognition and locals are forced out, their credibility, artistic community and the soul of the place are under threat.

“The Way We Keep Dancing” is the follow up to “The Way We Dance” (2013) and it Adam WONG’s latest dance film, “The Way We Keep Dancing” and was selected as the closing film of the 57th Golden Horse Film Festival. It features the vibrancy of youth culture in its many forms, be it street dance, hip-hop, whilst also offering a smart meta narrative critiquing its intersection with corporate interests. [Jason Maher | OAFF 2021]

Cast: Cherry Ngan, Babyjohn Choi, Lokman Yeung, Lydia Lau, Heyo

Screening Date:
March 7th, 2021 (Sunday) | Cine Libre Umeda 4 | 12:00 pm
March 13th, 2021 (Saturday) | Umeda Burg 7 | 13:10 pm

Trailer:

Three Sisters by Lee Seung-won – South Korea | 2020 – 115 minutes
Section: Spotlight | International Premiere

The line between comedy and tragedy is razor thin as seen in the epically dysfunctional lives of three sisters who are struggling with various problems and a general lack of self-awareness. Eldest sister Hee-sook (KIM Sun-young) is a mousy florist who is always apologising for everything. Neglected by her family, she suffers in silence with a cancer diagnosis. Mi-yeon (MOON So-ri) appears to live a perfect life as a devout Christian but witnessing her husband having an affair sends cracks furiously splintering across the surface of her carefully controlled facade. And then there’s Mi-ok (JANG Yoon-ju), the youngest, and a real hysteric who constantly gets drunk and violent. When they are called back together to the family home, the root of their problems come into sharp focus.

With a trio of strong performances from our leads, “Three Sisters” proves to be a dramatic tour-de-force laced with some bleak laughter that, as the film goes on, escalates in calamity and pathos as we root around in their misery. It feels honest, not least because everything adds up to a universal truth: Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you weird at relationships. [Jason Maher | OAFF 2021]

Cast: Moon So-ri, Kim Sun-young, Jang Yoon-ju

Screening Date:
March 5th, 2021 (Friday) | Cine Libre Umeda 4 | 12:00 pm
March 14th, 2021 (Sunday) | ABC Hall | 10:30 am

Trailer:

Yes, Yes, Yes by Yano Akhiko – Japan | 2021 – 74 minutes
Section: Indie Forum | World Premiere

Where do you go when you die? What were we born for?

These are some of the questions that a teenage boy named Takeaki wrestles with as his mother Sayuri is hospitalised for a serious illness. Immature and frustrated, he lashes out with acts of destruction while locking himself in his shell. His turmoil is shared by his father, a taciturn and domineering man who hides his feelings, and sister Juri, who will bring a new life into the world in difficult circumstances. However, each person thinks only about themselves and the family falls apart as they struggle with the pain, loneliness, and meaning of living alone but it is through recognising the suffering of the mother and her overwhelming love for her family that a small change occurs in the heart of her husband which unlocks the rebirth of their family.

With concise storytelling and raw performances that feel honest, “yes, yes, yes” presents an extremely moving experience that radiates the sort of desperate love which will move audiences to tears. [Jason Maher | OAFF 2021]

Cast: Uesugi Kazuma, Uryu Kazunari, Inoue Minami, Kawasumi Nahoko

Screening Date:
March 8th, 2021 (Monday) | Cine Libre Umeda 4 | 16:15 pm
March 11th, 2021 (Thursday) | Cine Libre Umeda 3 | 18:40 pm

Trailer:

For more information about the festival and the programme please visit the official website here: http://www.oaff.jp

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