23rd BAFICI Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival – Asian Presence

Twelve Asian films will be screened during the 23rd BAFICI Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival (Argentina) which will take place in cinemas and online from April 19 – May 1, 2022.

– Asian Films –

A New Apartment by Szu-Wei Chen – Taiwan, USA | 2022 – 22 minutes
Section: Places

A woman moves into a new apartment, but strangely discovers she’s the only resident in the building.

There’s something Polanskian in the beginning of this short, mainly from Rosemary’s Baby, with which it shares a shy, apparently fragile female protagonist who starts to suspect something strange is going on in her building. In this section, there is a remarkable use of out-of-field sound and a consciousness that there is nothing more suspicious than a series of extremely clean and organized hallways. As the story moves forward, progressively, A New Apartment skillfully turns into something else—a social film pierced by existential angst. A short film that mutates without us realizing it, and that in less than 30 minutes builds a tension that never disappears, even when there are variations in tone and intensity. (Hernán Schell)


Carnivorous Bean Sprout by Seo Sae-rom – South Korea | 2021 – 5 minutes
Section: Avant-Garde & Genre Official Competition

A black comedy about a strange creature that satisfies the desires of who seek fear for sheer pleasure.

The little shop of comedy with shark teeth and the shape of a bean sprout arrives at Bafici—welcome to the Seo Sae-rom’s world of altern colors and chewed up tourists. From the appearance of the carnivorous sprout in Asian waters, unknown until now, to its tourist and commercial exploitation, the short sniffs some postmodernism and then rapidly fires against every instinct of modern stupidity (it even shows some animal mutation that even the best Rick & Morty episode couldn’t possibly rave about. Part Jaws —the real aquatic fear—, with some Pac-Man added to the mix —the design with plain colors— is one of the possible formulas for this capsule— Carnivorous Bean Sprout wants to be fast and furious, and succeeds, like an impossible hunter crouched at the bottom of the sea. (Juan Manuel Domínguez)


Happy Together by Wong Kar Wai – Hong Kong | 1997 – 96 minutes
Sections: Rescues

A queer love story set in Argentina, starring Hong Kong royalty Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung as an on-and-off couple whose volatile and passionate relationship begins to spiral out of control.

Happy Together is born from an unachievable dream—filming Manuel Puig. Much harder still, filming The Buenos Aires Affair. The end result is not a book by Puig nor is it 100% Buenos Aires. Wong Kar-wai seems to discover a new form for his cinema—the form of uprooting. This time, Buenos Aires is not a city. Rather, it is a mental configuration, an array of ideas implanted in the characters’ heads and to which it is possible to resort to, like one last hope, in order to see in it a rediscovered city, brought back by that thing called magic, movie magic. Happy Together can be seen as Wong’s take on a romantic comedy. That is, a disheartening take. A perversion of comedy in which crying replaces laughter and disenchantment ends up taking over the world. (David Obarrio)


Last Film Show by Pan Nalin – India | 2021 – 110 minutes
Section: Avant-Garde & Genre Official Competition

When the magic of movies conquers nine-year young Samay’s heart, he moves heaven and earth in pursuit of his 35mm dreams, unaware of the heartbreaking times that await him.

Cinema as childish longing, no less. Cinema as dream, desire, house, home. Samay, the protagonist of this film, is nine years old and has a friend in a movie theater that allows him to watch films. And he has friends in film history: Antoine Doinel from The 400 Blows, and also Totò, from Cinema Paradiso. But Last Film SHow, vibrant, narrative, expansive, touching, generous, does not need to be “the Indian Cinema Paradiso,” because, in fact, it is not. Pan Nali’s film isn’t nostalgic and doesn’t imitate other cinemas—it is cinema from India fascinated with films, it is a coming-of-age tale that looks toward the future of cinema with the tools cine has given it, even the material ones. And it is cinema from India in each gesture —of protection but also culinary— made by the mother, a mother dreamed by cinema. (Javier Porta Fouz)


Leonor Will Never Die by Martika Ramirez Escobar – Philippines
Section: International Official Competition

Leonor Reyes was once an important figure in the Filipino film industry, but now her family struggles to pay the bills. After an accident leaves her in a coma and transports her inside an incomplete film, Leonor will be able to discover the perfect ending to her new story.

Action-packed meta-meta-cinema in the glorious style of the Filipino films from the ‘80s (those which, according to the censors from that era, “had no other purpose but to provide to the violence market”), the first film by Ramirez Escobar has just the right tone and ways to be as far from celebratory brainlessness as it is from petrifying reverence. The trick in Leonor Will Never Die doesn’t even qualify as a trick—it is as simple as choosing, at every crossroads, the path of generosity and nobility. Here we have lovable characters (both living and ghostly), there is music and dance, the is a broken fourth wall and a cry that should become a t-shirt: “Fuck you, Ronwaldo!” There is, above all, a film that recovers imagination, humor, surprise and emotion. That is, cinema. AM

Maternal Awakening by Shiika Okada – Japan | 2021 – 5 minutes
Section: Avant-Garde & Genre Official Competition

An invisible figure comes across a little girl walking through her neighborhood. Different time spaces and vignettes play out in rapid succession, in surrealistic landscapes where babies come from before reaching a state of rational self-awareness.

Animated cinema from Japan, we know or sense it, contains multitudes of styles and tackles all sorts of themes. But even in that ample landscape there is room for the appearance of new voices, for surprise. The very young Okada is one of them, as seen in this trip —take it as you like: sometimes it seems as if it were drawn on an LSD tablet— at full speed and with lots of nerve through some of women’s growing dilemmas, angst and pains. Vampirizing aesthetics with voracity and a style that here would surely evoke that of Ayar B., Maternal Awakening is less feminist vindication and more of a punk cry, angry and quarrelsome, that doesn’t have or doesn’t want to give any answers—it wants us to listen to the questions loud and clear. (Agustín Masaedo).

Myanmar Diaries by the Myanmar Film Collective – Myanmar, Netherlands | 2022 – 70 minutes
Section: Places

A hybrid film about life under the regime of terror in Myanmar in the aftermath of its military coup of February 1st 2021, told through personal stories by a group of anonymous young Burmese filmmakers.

A viscerally political film must also be a clandestine film, with uncertain, faceless, nameless authors. That’s a small lesson that the awards it won at the Berlinale do not refute. Reluctant to exposure by nature, Myanmar Diaries is less a film than a strange device with worldwide radiation power. Sheltered in a preventive cone of shadows, its images return with fatal tenacity to an old question: what should cinema do? What is it for? In any case, this artifact that never ceases to be a film gropes forward and, in the same impulse, wonders about its own matter, that is to say, about its forms and behavior. If the oppressor is omnipotent, if his fierceness is implacable, how does one speak of him? The film finds itself while thinking about its enemy. (David Obarrio)


Shelter by Erica Kwok – Hong Kong, Portugal | 2022 – 25 minutes
Section: International Official Competition

A nighttime delivery man meets a woman who works at a publishing house. He helps her to deliver boxes of books to a warehouse during rainy days, and each encounter weaves an endearing bond between the two.

This unique piece of condensed emotion hides a secret. What is it about? A refutation, no less. As though it came out of the interstices of stories built with all the dedication and the substance of the “great love stories,” to contradict their assumptions, to ignore them, to abandon them—with no reproach, but also without timidity. Between the proletarian hesitation of the boy —who can dream, perhaps, of a life without incident— and the introspection of the woman —who has no direction, who collapses elegantly under the sorrow-filled light of a corner of the city that becomes alien to her—, the director establishes the flow of looks, of anodyne words, of rigid bodies of a love story before love manifests itself. (David Obarrio)


Small, Slow but Steady by Sho Miyake – Japan | 2022 – 99 minutes
Section: Careers

Keiko, a young boxer, was born with hearing impairment. After winning two difficult fights, she feels a fear of fighting is taking over.

There are sports that, on film, gain a playful texture, a terrain of possibilities that make it feel as though they were designed for epicness. By the sweaty drops of Rocky, we mean boxing. But here, the formula is redefined and reversed—Keiko, a female boxer with a hearing disability, has turned her gym into a home thanks to her coach and owner of the place. And suddenly, right before her third fight, everything seems ready to become extinct. From an austerity worthy of Kitano, characters dreamed by Clint Eastwood and the miracle of actress Yukino Kishii, the film generates some sports emotions that are also sensible and sentimental (although quiet, almost secret). A powerful ode that is built from silences and an ending that is, believe us, absolutely unforgettable. (Juan Manuel Domínguez)


The Novelist’s Film by Hong Sangsoo – South Korea | 2022 – 92 minutes
Section: Careers

A novelist embarks on a long journey to visit the bookstore of a colleague with whom he has lost contact. Later, he bumps into a film director, his wife and an actress. The encounter as a mere excuse for the banquet so representative of Hong’s cinema to flow.

If all of Hong Sangsoo’s films somehow revisit the themes or characters of his previous ones, The Novelist’s Film is the most perfect of the Korean director’s works. Here we have a structure made of successive encounters that may recall that of The Woman Who Ran and a conclusion that harks back to Oki’s Movie, but its plot, or its character, the novelist (Lee Hyeyoung again), is like the reverse of his immediately preceding film, In Front of Your Face. Hong’s mastery can be appreciated in the sinuousness with which the encounters with old friends are woven, but also in the small details: that zoom from the viewpoint that must be the longest in his filmography or the splendorous irruption of color as if it were a Jonas Mekas film.(Jaime Pena)


Transparent, I Am by Yuri Muraoka – Japan | 2021 – 11 minutes
Section: International Official Competition

In 2020, when the world is forced to change drastically due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the director wonders what changes he sees in it, as the white mask over his face becomes the screen that projects his past.

Estrangement from the world and from one’s own ghosts, unstable equilibrium, stimuli that give no respite. If pain and love are foundational emotions, in this piece they are the genuine engine of the recording and of the implementation of each procedure, renewing the world of images in an expansion of the intimate that makes it close and moving. Sometimes cinema reinvents itself, not by renouncing its heritage but by participating in several dissimilar and personal traditions in a single, great action. It’s not about the pompousness of the gestures or the search for novelty, but rather about the lightness with which the decisions and the tests are joined, almost as if the nature of the elements accompanied and propitiated the revelation of a mystery, something unnamed, which is always shown to us for the first time. (Magdalena Arau)


We Were Never Really Strangers by Patrick Pangan – Philippines | 2022 – 15 minutes
Section: Romances

Gio and Miguel, two strangers, feel a strong connection after meeting randomly outside a church. They both find in the other a means of escape from the person they are and that which they want to become.

The casual meeting between two young people is the kickoff point in order to penetrate into the difficulties of a relationship that includes uncertainty, fears and lots of sexual tension. It is a tale about physical desire, but also emotion. As the minutes go by, it becomes clear that there is a strong attraction between them, and Pangan submerges us into a micro world of male codes and continuous seduction. Little by little, in an innocent manner, where everything seems to be relaxation and freedom, empty conversations, strolls and karaoke, new complicit gazes appear, as well as bodies and desires, in a confusing game of irrepressible seduction.(Elena D’Aquila)

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