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15 Films you shouldn’t miss at the 17th Osaka Asian Film Festival

These are fifteen films you shouldn’t miss at the 17th Osaka Asian Film Festival, which will take place from March 10-20, 2022 in Osaka, Japan. *The festival is running an online program available until March 21st, 2022*

– Selected Films –

Aloners by Hong Sung-eun – Korea | 2021 – 91 minutes
Section: Competition | Japan Premiere

Jina (GONG Seung-yeon) is the top employee at a credit card call centre where the motto is “Happy Your Life,” but, without realising it, happiness is something she has lost sight of. After leaving home, she has led a solo life in Seoul where she has narrowed her world down to the screens of her television, phone, and the computer at her workplace. When her routine is disrupted by the deaths of her mother and a lonely young neighbour, and also having to train a friendly trainee phone operator Sujin (JUNG Da-eun), the antisocial Jina begins to re-evaluate her relationship to others and herself.

In directing, writing and editing her first feature, director HONG Song-eun paints a realistic and sensitive picture of the corrosive effects of loneliness in modern societies through precise visuals that relay stirring performances from debut film actress Gong Seung-yeon and rising star Jung Da-eun (“Way Back Home” (OAFF 2020), “Summer Night” (OAFF 2017)). [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]

Screening Date:
March 14th, 2022 | Monday | Umeda Burg 7: Theater 7 | 21:20 pm
March 19th, 2022 | Saturday | ABC Hall | 10:15 am

Trailer:

Anita by Longman Leung – Hong Kong | 2021 – 137 minutes
Section: Competition | Japan Premiere

Queen of Cantopop, striking actress, fashion icon, generous philanthropist, Anita MUI may have passed away in 2003, but her legend continues to burn bright and it gets a lavish biopic treatment in ANITA. The charts her climb to the top, taking audiences from her days as a child star performing on stage to being dubbed “The Madonna of the East” and a cultural icon during Hong Kong’s golden age in the eighties and nineties. Included are the numerous concerts and fashions that established her reputation as a diva, the heartbreaks that made her tabloid fodder, and the friendships with people like Leslie CHUNG that sustained her. Driving the film is a stirring central performance by model Louise Wong, in her first ever movie role, as she essays the determined nature of the singer Punctuating the drama are archive photos and clips that show the real-deal. At the end of the film, you will understand why Anita MUI was called, “The Daughter of Hong Kong.” [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]

Screening Date:
March 18th, 2022 | Friday | ABC Hall | 15:40 pm
March 20th, 2022 | Sunday | ABC Hall | 12:20 pm

Trailer:

Big Night by Jun Robles Lana – Philippines | 2021 – 97 minutes
Section: Competition | Japan Premiere

Big Night opens with a daytime assassination in a slum in Manila as a young man gets his brains blown out by a hitman, The people around him react with shock then humour and gossip as the victim was said to be on a watch list – a document of suspected drug dealers and addicts who become the target of summary executions. So long as YOU aren’t on it everything will be fine, goes the belief of these bystanders, one of whom is Dharna (Christian BABLES), our main protag, a gay beautician who is quick of wit and sharp of tongue, but silent in the face of social injustice because she figures that being neutral will offer protection. However, when Dharna’s name appears on the neighbourhood watchlist, an all-night odyssey begins for her to have it removed before she gets killed.

In making this film, director Jun Robles LANA (Die Beautiful, 2016) targets people’s complacency in the face of governmental abuse of power through putting a likeable protagonist through the wringer. Black comedy turns into social horror as the clock ticks down and corruption is exposed in Duterte’s bloody and vicious war on drugs. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]

Screening Date:
March 11th, 2022 | Friday | Cine Libre Umeda 3 | 16:40 pm
March 17th, 2022 | Thursday | ABC Hall | 16:15 pm

Trailer:

Boundary: Flaming Feminist Action by Yun Ga-hyun – Korea | 2021 – 107 minutes
Section: Spotlight | International Premiere

After the tragic killing of a woman in the Gangnam Station Murder Case of 2016, Korean women decided to fight back and took to the streets to voice their frustrations. Inspired to speak out, director YUN Ga-hyun and her friends formed Flaming Feminist Action, an activist group that spent four years campaigning around issues surrounding the female body via night-walks, rallies, and political action designed to change a patriarchal culture that demeans and restricts them. Four years on and YUN Ga-hyun gathers her collaborators together to reminisce over the successes and struggles of the movement. Revealing sit-down interviews are mixed with footage shot at the time, some of which is infuriating in showing the push-back against calls for equality and exhilarating as these women show unconventional strategies, profound political thought, and deep solidarity with each other. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]

Boundary: Flaming Feminist Action took the Best Korean Documentary Award at the 2021 DMZ International Documentary Film Festival.

Screening Date:
March 15th, 2022 | Tuesday | Cine Libre Umeda 4 | 18:20 pm
March 19th, 2022 | Saturday | Cine Libre Umeda 4 | 12:10 pm

Trailer:

Far Away, Further Away by Imaoka Shinji – Japan | 2022 – 107 minutes
Section: Indie Forum | World Premiere

“A marriage is weaker without something in common.”
Sayoko (SHINDO Manami) is a seemingly carefree woman but she hides doubts about her marriage behind her cheerful demeanour. After five years of being in Tokyo, it is apparent that she has little in common with her husband and so she begins scoping out apartments which is how she meets Yohei (YOSHIMURA Kaito), a real estate agent who is nursing a broken heart. As they tour properties, Sayoko’s girlish charms work their magic on the downhearted man and she convinces him to look for the wife who abandoned him but their journey brings the two closer.

This is the latest work by director IMAOKA Shinji in his exploration of the differences between men and women and their love lives. Following on from “Reiko and the Dolphin” (OAFF 2020), number one in Eiga Geijutsu’s Best Japanese Films of 2020, it is a more light-hearted drama that takes advantage of the natural beauty of Hokkaido. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]

Screening Date:
March 13th, 2022 | Sunday | Cine Libre Umeda 3 | 16:20 pm
March 18th, 2022 | Friday | Cine Libre Umeda 3 | 10:10 am

Trailer:

In front of your face by Hong Sang-soo – Korea | 2021 – 85 minutes
Section: Special Screening | Japan Premiere

Sangok (LEE Hye-young), a middle-aged woman, returns to Seoul after many years living in the US. The homecoming for this former actress is less than glamorous as she sleeps on the sofa of her sister Jeongok (CHO Yun-hee) . As the two sisters reconnect in a city that has developed so much it is now alien to Sangok, a tension emerges as it seems the actress is holding something back. The truth only comes out under the influence of alcohol when a filmmaker (KWON Hae-hyo) invites her out.

In Front of Your Face, the 26th film by Hong Sang-soo and was presented at Cannes last year. Acting as writer, director, editor, composer, and cinematographer, he follows his perfected art of drawing profundity from the everyday and the human condition via minimalist brushstrokes of simple camerawork, subtle actions, naturalistic acting, and seemingly simple conversations that conceal profound and surprising revelations about how the characters are facing life. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]

Screening Date:
March 15th, 2022 | Tuesday | Cine Libre Umeda 3 | 19:00 pm

Trailer:

Increasing Echo by Chienn Hsiang – Taiwan | 2021 – 85 minutes
Section: Special Programs <Taiwan: Movies on the Move 2022> | Japan Premiere

Many years may have passed but the damage caused to the marriage of Mr. YAN (CHEN Yi-wen) and Mrs. YAN (CHEN Shiang-chyi) by the husband’s infidelity has remained and the two act out a relationship defined by distance and frustration. Even on the eve of their son’s wedding, the two barely interact. When Mrs. YAN receives a call informing her that her husband’s former mistress suffers from dementia and lives in a nursing home, her pent up grievances finally start to uncoil. Her first step is to take her husband to see the mistress as revenge but afterwards, in his own act of defiance, Mr. YAN runs away leaving his wife to track him down to try and restore some order.

Scenes from a hollowed-out marriage play out in director CHIENN’s cold-fury of a drama where subtle imagery and a pair of powerful subtle performances show the pain and anxiety caused by the unfaithfulness and unexplored resentments of the central couple. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]

Screening Date:
March 17th, 2022 | Thursday | Umeda Burg 7: Theater 7 | 21:30 pm
March 20th, 2022 | Sunday¿ | Cine Libre Umeda 4 | 12:30 pm

Trailer:

Journey to the West by Kong Dashan – China | 2021 – 111 minutes
Section: Competition | International Premiere

The truth is out there for Tang Zhijun, the editor-in-chief of Space Exploration magazine. In his youth, he was a hopeful ufologist but the present-tense narrative set in the China of now shows him as a tired old man ground down by money worries, personal tragedies, and the struggle to keep his magazine afloat. Despite this, he still remembers to keep looking to the stars and when he gets word that there has been an alien sighting in a remote village, he sets out from Beijing and goes on a journey to the west with an embittered colleague, an alcoholic weatherman, and a naive alien super-fan, each wondering if they will have a close encounter with the third kind.

Sharing the same title as the classic of Chinese literature, Journey to the West updates its story into a blackly comic sci-fi road-movie as told via a snappy mockumentary-style watching a group of oddballs traipse their way to enlightenment while being driven by nostalgia, regret, and a romantic if desperate desire to believe the impossible. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]

Screening Date:
March 16th, 2022 | Wednesday | Umeda Burg 7: Theater 7 | 21:00 pm
March 19th, 2022 | Saturday | ABC Hall | 18:30 pm

Trailer:

Mama´s Affair by Kearen Pang – Hong Kong | 2022 – 127 minutes
Section: Competition | World Premiere

MEI-FUNG (Teresa MO Shun Kwan) was once a top artiste manager and helped produce some of the biggest stars for her record label but she quit when she got pregnant. After years of living as a housewife, distance has grown between herself and her husband and her 17-year-old son HIN is about to study abroad, and this prompts her to re-enter the entertainment world. It’s impossible at first but a chance encounter with CHING, a delivery boy at a local cafe, introduces her to a talented singer and he reignites Mei-fung’s spark. With her connections and his raw talent, the public soon fall in love with him but as her career rises again, her son Hin only sees a caring mother become a career-driven stranger, a feeling furthered when their family falls apart and Ching enters the scene and a rivalry develops between Hin and Ching…

Following her debut “29+1”, which won the OAFF2017 Audience Award, writer/director PANG returns to Osaka with her sophomore feature which is led by veteran actress Teresa MO, rising singers/actors KEUNG To and Jer LAU Ying Ting. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]

Screening Date:
March 12th, 2022 | Saturday | Cine Libre Umeda 4 | 13:50 pm *SOLD OUT*
March 15th, 2022 | Tuesday | ABC Hall | 18:20 pm

No Ground Beneath the Feet by Mohammad Rabby Mridha – Bangladesh | 2021 – 90 minutes
Section: Spotlight | Japan Premiere

Saiful, an impoverished ambulance driver, has come to the capital city of Dhaka to earn his livelihood. In his hometown on a sandbank in the Jomna River basin, his family has suffered devastating flood damage but his job does not allow him to return home. Meanwhile, in the midst of his grueling life in Dhaka, he succumbs to temptation and is consequently trapped into a problematic marriage with another wife, who is also struggling to survive in the city. Scrambling between two wives, depressing work, and a series of unfortunate events, Saiful struggles to get any solid ground beneath his feet, literally and metaphorically.

“No Ground Beneath the Feet” is the debut film of Mohammad RABBY Mridha, a promising new Bangladeshi filmmaker. The men who migrate to the city to work alone are ensnared by a variety of traps, with those who trap them also living on the edge in the chaotic city. The film sharply describes the dark realities of Bangladesh. The film’s realistic representations, along with Saiful’s emotional struggles, will not allow the audience to take their eyes off the story. In 2021, the world film industry paid attention to Bangladesh cinema, and this film is one of its representative masterpieces. Selected for the 26th (2021) Busan International Film Festival. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]

Screening Date:
March 13th, 2022 | Sunday | Cine Libre Umeda 4 | 18:50 pm
March 18th, 2022 | Friday | ABC Hall | 10:10 am

The Girl on a Bulldozer by Park Ri-woong – Korea | 2021 – 113 minutes
Section: Competition | International Premiere

19-year-old Hye-young’s (KIM Hye-yoon) behaviour is very unbecoming for a young lady. Prone to vulgarities and violence, anger is her go-to emotion and fighting is how she sometimes settles things. Maybe it comes from having to manage an irresponsible debt-ridden father whose gambling addiction contributed to her mother’s death, the constant arguing over the family’s income from their Chinese restaurant, or the way people look down upon her, whatever the case, the only person she is sweet to is her innocent little brother Hye-jeok. She sets aside her familial resentments when her father winds up brain dead in hospital following a car accident and his creditors come calling, police start investigating the case, and connections to this crisis lead to a shady politician. As the sole family guardian in this overwhelming situation, Hye-young’s anger (and a bulldozer) will serve her well as she has to clear up this mess.

In her break-out lead role, KIM Hye-yoon gives an electrifying performance as a character prepared to bulldoze her way past all obstacles. With a realistic mystery setting, the tension and the pleasure come in seeing how her anger and determination carry her through danger and desperate times to a satisfying ending. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]

Screening Date:
March 12th, 2022 | Saturday | Cine Libre Umeda 3 | 16:15 pm *SOLD OUT*
March 18th, 2022 | Friday | ABC Hall | 13:00 pm

The Light of Spring by Fujikawa Fumito – Japan | 2022 – 84 minutes
Section: Indie Forum | World Premiere

The story begins with a little boy named Syui, a cheerful child who is focussed on going to a museum with his father. Unbeknownst to him, when he returns home, his mother and sister will be gone as his parents have decided to separate. We get a glimpse of what happens to Syui and his family during this period.

In his latest film, FUJIKAWA Fumito (The Name of the Whale (2015), winner of the Audience Award at the 2015 Pia Film Festival) presents a dramamentary shot in the suburbs of Tokyo with a real-life family of four acting out the split. With no script to work from and naturalistic performances from the Hirabuki family based on their everyday lives, FUJIKAWA and his non-professional cast give us an honest snapshot of contemporary city life in Japan in a light but absorbing experience. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]

Screening Date:
March 12th, 2022 | Saturday | Cine Libre Umeda 3 | 18:50 pm
March 14th, 2022 | Monday | Cine Libre Umeda 3 | 11:50 am

The Sales Girl by Janchivdorj Sengedorj – Mongolia | 2021 – 123 minutes
Section: Competition | International Premiere

Showing that Mongolia isn’t all nomads on the steppes, yurts and throat singing is director Sengedorj JANCHIVDORJ who gives a sweet and contemporary coming-of-age story of a shy and humble student discovering her sexual side.

Said student is Saruul (BAYARTSETSEG Bayarjargal) and she is studying nuclear physics at the behest of her parents. Her star sign is Scorpio. Apparently, Scorpios are very sexual and can drive people wild with lust but you wouldn’t know it from her gloomy looks and unflattering clothes. However, when Saruul fills in as the sales girl of a sex shop for a classmate, this late bloomer explores the erotic as the store’s owner, Katya (ENKHTUUL Oidovjamts), takes her under her wing. Audiences will see an amazing character transformation happen on screen as Saruul learns to embrace a new aspect of herself, laugh at the difficulties and funny moments of sex and how to avoid the dangers and Sengedorj does this without being creepy or exploitative. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]

Screening Date:
March 14th, 2022 | Monday | Cine Libre Umeda 4 | 11:40 am
March 19th, 2022 | Saturday | ABC Hall | 15:30 pm

Trailer:

The Wonder of a Summer Day by Ibayashi Yuka – Japan | 2022 – 87 minutes
Section: Indie Forum | World Premiere

Kanata (NOGISHI Konoha) and her younger sister Sumire (IKEDA Nonoka) have been living apart since their parents’ divorce. Kanata is having trouble adjusting to her new school and is spending her summer holiday helping her mother run her snack bar. When Kanata’s mother suggests that she go to her grandmother’s house for a final summer holiday memory, Kanata heads into the countryside. Once there, Kanata can’t hide her annoyance at the innocent Sumire who bubbles with enthusiasm for the time they will spend together but a trip with Sumire in search of fireflies, which are not supposed to appear during the summer, forces the lonely teen out of her shell.

Director IBAYASHI brings the warmth and charm of her leading cast, who give beguiling naturalistic performances, and also Toyama Prefecture, from the calm city streets to the wonders of the natural world in the surrounding mountains and waterways. The everyday aspects of the environment that might normally get ignored are made visceral and special through IBAYASHI’s cinematic lens. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]

Screening Date:
March 16th, 2022 | Wednesday | Cine Libre Umeda 3 | 16:00 pm
March 19th, 2022 | Saturday | Cine Libre Umeda 3 | 12:20 pm

Whether the Weather is Fine by Carlo Francisco Manatad – Philippines, France, Singapore, Germany, Indonesia, Qatar | 2021 – 104 minutes | Section: Spotlight | Japan Premiere

Miguel (Daniel PADILLA), his mother Norma (Charo SANTOS) and his beloved Andrea (Rans RIFOL) venture out into the ruins of the coastal city of Tacloban after it has been hit by Typhoon Haiyan. As they wander around the disaster zone, they find order has collapsed as packs of animals, religious fanatics, and children run loose amidst a deteriorating environment. Their goal should be to get on an evacuation ship to Manila but they soon get caught up in painful personal quests and religious mania…

Drawing from the real-life devastation of his hometown wrought by a supertyphoon, director MANATAD crafts an ecological satire/drama that skews away from disaster movie cliches to create a hauntingly melancholy experience that highlights the absurdity that can be found in the aftermath of natural disasters. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]

Screening Date:
March 11th, 2022 | Friday | Umeda Burg 7: Theater 7 | 21:10 pm
March 15th, 2022 | Tuesday | Cine Libre Umeda 4 | 16:00 pm

Trailer:

For more information about the festival please visit: https://www.oaff.jp/2022/en/index.html

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