These are the winners of the Osaka Asian Film Festival which took place from March 10-20, 2022 in Osaka, Japan.
About the festival:
The Osaka Asian Film Festival 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. Promoting Osaka worldwide as a gateway city for Asian films, and engaging with many people from the fields of culture, art, education, tourism and business, from Osaka and all of Asia, OAFF works as an open platform to contribute to the development of Osaka and cinema.
Grand Prix | Best Picture Award
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]
“Aloners” deals with the very contemporary subject, not only in Korea but around the world, of people living alone. The beauty of the film, however, is not just the choice of the subject. We are impressed by the excellent usage of film language, such as the shot which captures the protagonist alone, answering the phone at work. Both solitude and the connection with others are illuminated through human life and death, which gives the film serenity and strength.
Most Promising Talent Award
If ever a film lived up to its title, it’s Angry Son which presents a perma-mad protag Jungo (HORIKE Kazuki), a high school student living in rural Ota City, Gunma Prefecture. Audiences are asked to sympathise with his temper tantrums, most of which are aimed at his feisty Filipina mother Reina (GOW). Fortunately, she gives as good as she gets as she and her son navigate aggravating instances of xenophobia, being a single-parent household, and his quest to search for a father he has only ever known through child-support payments.
If you can resist the urge to dislike the angry one, you will find writer/director IIZUKA Kasho’s drama rich with incidents and issues, from exploring homosexuality and the mixed-race experience, to Filipino life in Japan. It always remains entertaining and has a heart-warming tear-jerker of a finale that replaces anger with love thanks to fully fleshed-out side characters offering a hopeful look at people learning to live together. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]
Dealing with both racial and gender identities is no easy job but Director IIZUKA skillfully portrays how a young man faces his own sexuality and identity crisis as a Filipino-Japanese. His journey to explore his future reasserts the importance of embracing differences especially when we’re still living in a world divided by discrimination and injustice. The performances by both GOW and HORIKE Kazuki (堀家一希) are powerful. This proves Director IIZUKA’s ability to direct actors and to handle conflict in drama.
Competition Special Mention
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]
Watching “Anita” at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022 was a memorable experience for the jury. Assumingly it was the same for the audience. Because the film’s budget scale differs considerably from other entries, it was difficult for us to regard the film as a fair candidate for the awards, but we decided to make a Special Mention, hoping it will leave its mark on the Osaka Asian Film Festival. The touching film lovingly portrays the life of Anita, a shining star of Hong Kong entertainment, and the history of the unique city of Hong Kong from the 1980s to the present day. We sincerely hope that this film will be shown on the big screen in Japan in the future.
ABC TV Award
“No matter what happens, you will always have a place in my heart.”
When Nam’s (Hedwig TAM) friend Yuet (Renci YEUNG) announces that she is about to get married, we are taken via flashbacks to their adolescence at an all-girls Christian high school when they first met and shared a chaste romance of kisses that are sneaked and fingers intertwined when classmates aren’t around. However, their relationship has its limits because one treats it as love, while the other deems it growth and they pull apart. As the wedding brings them together again, it seems all a bridesmaid can do is to hold hands of the bride and pass her once beloved to someone else. Sapphic love gets a beautiful soft-focus and pastel-coloured treatment in this earnest pure-love story full of sympathetic and nuanced characters to empathise with, references to Hong Kong fashions and Leslie Cheung to give us a time and place. Sensitive performances from Hedwig TAM and Renci YEUNG that hold our hearts until their hands finally part. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]
ABC TV Comment:
The shine of romance in the time of fresh but fragile adolescence is vividly captured with beautiful images and convincingly delivered in a well-made entertaining film.
Yakushi Pearl Award
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]
Yakushi Pearl Comment:
BAYARTSETSEG Bayarjargal impressively realizes a new image of a Mongolian woman of the new generation, through the role of Saruul, who never hesitates to explore an unknown world.
JAPAN CUTS Award
It is 1965, a time of rapid economic growth for Japan and also a time when the people called Sanka, a nomadic band of outcasts, were fading away. Having arrived at his father’s countryside estate from Tokyo to focus on preparing for his high school entrance exam, a lonely 15-year-old named Norio (SUGITA Rairu) encounters three Sanka, first teenage Hana (KOMUKAI Naru), then her father Shozo (SHIBUKAWA Kiyohiko) and her grandmother. Taken under their wing and drawn to their simple and rugged lifestyle, Norio begins to spend his summer days fishing in the rivers and catching snakes in the bush for food. He also witnesses how they are discriminated against by people like his authoritarian father who rejects their illogical lifestyle. With bad blood already existing between Norio and his father, and a hopeless desire to become one with the Sanka, Norio is forced to confront the cruel reality of his age.
Director SASATANI Ryohei shows how humans live as one with nature and the sharp divide between modernity and the environment in this melancholy film about the loss of innocence that calls into mind JISSOJI Akio’s Poem (1972) in setting and story. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]
JAPAN CUTS Comment:
We are pleased to present the JAPAN CUTS Award to “Sanka: Nomads of the Mountains”, a stirring 1960s-set coming-of-age drama that confronts societal progress and development in Japan’s mountainous regions. Beautifully shot and bolstered by compelling performances, Sanka’s human drama delivers a melancholic and moving reflection on the societal conflicts and turmoil prevalent in postwar Japan, depicting the struggles of a nomadic tribe when its way of life is threatened by the onset of modernity.
Housen Short Film Award
Sasha (Kostyantyn TEMLYAK), a 27-year-old PhD student from Kiev, has just received news that the “love-of-all-his-life” has broken up with her boyfriend and so he has cut short his hiking holiday and is desperately trying to get home. However, having missed his flight, he has to spend the whole day in an unfamiliar city with Sashka (Sasha BYSTRZHITSKAYA), an almost-but-not-quite manic pixie dream girl who charms him as they get into misadventures that are drawn out by their constant search for cash, wi-fi access, mishaps with mobile phones, and intercultural hijinks. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]
Depicting the coincidental encounter and parting of a young Ukrainian man and woman on a trip to Turkey, the film successfully eternalizes a moment for the two, who will never get lost together, and embraces the charm unique to time-limited short films. Although it is difficult to ignore the current tragic situation of the filmmaker’s homeland, the film is nevertheless a story of everyone who wanders through a foreign land. The universality is remarkable and deeply evocative.
Housen Short Film Award Special Mention
Natsuki (ABE Junko) travels from Japan to Nepal after she receives an anonymous postcard with a picture of Mt. Everest printed on the back. It reminds her of her brother Kenji, who went missing while attempting to climb Everest. Natsuki has always wondered about his motivations, what kind of person he was, and who he was close to. While Natsuki realises she doesn’t know her brother at all, she still believes that the postcard was sent by him and decides to go to Everest to find the answers to her questions.
Director MATSUMOTO Yusaku initially planned to make a documentary about KURIKI Nobukazu, a well-known mountain climber, but it became a tribute after KURIKI tragically died during an attempt to scale Everest. Shot on location in Nepal with DP KISHI Kentaro (Noise, The Sower), MATSUMOTO uses the story a woman’s ascent of Everest and the film’s audio and visuals to powerfully convey the awe-inspiring landscape, the exertion involved in inhabiting it, and the spiritual lessons it can impart. [Jason Maher – OAFF 2022]
ABE delivered a perfect performance under extremely severe filming conditions, playing the role of a woman searching for her brother who is missing on Mt. Everest.