41st Vancouver International Film Festival – Asian Presence 2022

We present the Asian films that will be screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival (Canada), from September 29 – October 9, 2022.

– Asian Films –

All That Breathes by Shaunak Sen – India, USA, UK | 2022 – 94 minutes

The air in New Delhi is so polluted that birds of prey are falling from the skies. Notable amongst the casualties are the megacity’s ubiquitous black kites—so named for their ability to gracefully soar. Two brothers from a Muslim family—former bodybuilders Nadeem Shehzad and Mohammad Saud—have dedicated the past two decades of their lives to taking in over 20,000 black kites through the Wildlife Rescue clinic that they established in their garage. Treating record numbers of ill and injured birds, Nadeem, Saud, and their endearingly curious volunteer assistant Salik strive to keep the operation afloat despite understaffing and funding issues. Meanwhile, political tensions loom over their neighbourhood as ominously as the smog. (VIFF 2022)

October 2, 2022 | Sunday | International Village 8 | 12:30 pm
October 5, 2022 | Wednesday | SFU Woodwards | 9:00 pm


Before, Now & Then by Kamila Andini – Indonesia | 2022 – 103 minutes

Dreamlike, sensual, and intensely lyrical, Kamila Andini’s Indonesian 1960s period drama is a glimpse into the emotional life of a woman who escapes war and enters into the pampered existence of a passionless marriage. Lonely and isolated, Nana eventually befriends her husband’s mistress. Happy Salma shines in an understated lead performance that hints at repressed want threatening to break open. Before, Now & Then tracks the currents of denial, desire, and betrayal, all flowing in the mysterious eddies of time. Beautifully composed frames and cinematography vibrate with life in all its minute sensory details. The film features extraordinary sound design and sumptuous music that evokes the last luxurious remnants of pre-Suharto Indonesia. Winner of the Silver Bear at the 2022 Berlinale for Supporting Performance by Laura Basuki. (VIFF 2022)

October 5, 2022 | Wednesday | Vancouver Playhouse | 9:30 pm
October 8, 2022 | Saturday | SFU Woodwards | 3:45 pm


Broker by Hirokazu Kore-eda – South Korea | 2022 – 129 minutes

Working for the first time in South Korea, long-term festival favourite Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters) has come up with a sprawling crime story about a baby adoption scam. But in characteristic Kore-eda style, the tone is predominantly compassionate and melancholic—even the cops warm to the perpetrators. It helps of course that the baby broker, Sang-hyeon, is played by Song Kang-ho, the charismatic star of Parasite, Memories of Murder, The Host, and so many others (Song was named Best Actor at Cannes for this performance). His scheme involves intercepting infants abandoned at a church baby box, but things get messy when a young mom (Lee Ji-eun) changes her mind and discovers his racket. She decides to go along with him to meet the the baby’s prospective buyers—actually cops in a sting operation. (VIFF 2022)

October 8, 2022 | Saturday | Centre for Performing Arts | 6:00 pm
October 9, 2022 | Sunday | Centre for Performing Arts | 5:30 pm


Day After… by Kamar Ahmad Simon – Bangladesh, France, Norway | 2021

The Rocket—actually a rather placid paddle steamer—has been ferrying rich and poor through the wide, slow, shallow rivers of Bangladesh for the best part of a century. Kamar Ahmad Simon’s kinetic and artfully chaotic film is a travelogue with staged elements. Among the latter, actors impersonate student journalists who record an interview with a couple of government politicians (also actors); a YouTuber vlogs his journey with manufactured rapture (cinephiles may think of Geraldine Chaplin’s BBC reporter in Altman’s Nashville); and a deck passenger angrily confronts the steward blocking his access to toilets reserved for the cabin class. If Kamar has laced this two-day odyssey with sociopolitical commentary, you could be forgiven for taking everything at face value: the movie has the electrical charge of observational documentary, the camera drifts across faces, personalities, landscapes, jokes, squabbles, songs, and then moves on. It’s a snapshot of an entire country, so vivid you can smell it. (VIFF 2022)

September 29, 2022 | Thursday | VIFF Centre – Vancity Theatre | 3:45 pm
October 1, 2022 | Saturday | International Village 8 | 12:15 pm
October 8, 2022 | Saturday | The Cinematheque | 6:15 pm

Decision to Leave by Park Chan-wook – South Korea | 2022 – 138 minutes

Virtuoso Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook (The Handmaiden; Oldboy) picked up rave reviews and the Best Director Prize at Cannes for this singularly strange genre piece, a neo-noir mystery about a homicide detective who falls in love with the widow (Lust Caution’s Tang Wei) of an apparent suicide. The deceased was a mid-level bureaucrat in the department of immigration, and an older man; the widow is young, beautiful, and Chinese. She’s so apologetic about her Korean she uses a translation app on her phone during her questioning, but her words don’t allay suspicion in either language, and it emerges that the dead man used to beat her. Then again, she has an ironclad alibi. (VIFF 2022)

September 30, 2022 | Friday | Centre for Performing Arts | 9:15 pm
October 6, 2022 | Thursday | Centre for Performing Arts | 9:00 pm


Harvest Moon by Amarsaikhan Baljinnyam – Mongolia | 2022 – 90 minutes

Tulgaa returns to his native village to care for his dying stepfather, honouring his remaining commitments by offering to lend a hand with the summer harvest. But upon witnessing Tulgaa’s clumsy first attempts, Tuntuulei, a sassy 10-year-old boy, takes it upon himself to school the city slicker on the grassland ways. Despite getting off on the wrong foot, the two soon find common ground and form a delicate bond that will transform their lives. (VIFF 2022)

October 7, 2022 | Friday | VIFF Centre – Vancity Theatre | 6:30 pm
October 8, 2022 | Saturday | The Cinematheque | 3:30 pm

Leonor Will Never Die by Martika Ramirez Escobar – Philippines | 2022 – 99 minutes

Once a prominent action filmmaker, Leonor spends her senior years with the ghost of her dead son and the pestering, very alive presence of her younger son. In her cramped apartment, she distracts herself from overdue electricity bills by daydreaming about her movies, until a freak accident causes her to fall into a coma. In this liminal state, Leonor magically finds herself in the production of one of her own long-forgotten, unfinished screenplays, blurring the lines between reality and dream, life and death. Colourful, exuberant, packed with thrills and B-movie nostalgia, writer-director Martika Ramirez Escobar’s debut feature is an homage to the power of stories, the enduring force of grief, and a tender love letter to filmmaking itself. 2022 winner of the Special Jury Prize for Innovative Spirit at Sundance. (VIFF 2022)

October 1, 2022 | Saturday | The Rio Theatre | 9:15 pm
October 6, 2022 | Thursday | The Rio Theatre | 6:30 pm

Motherhood by Ryuichi Hiroki – Japan | 2022 – 116 minutes

Ryuichi Hiroki’s film is shot through with the spirit of Greek tragedy. It’s the story of Rumiko (Erika Toda), who dearly loves her mother Hanae (Mao Daichi) but is unable to feel the same way about her daughter Sayaka (Mei Nagano). Told from both Rumiko and Sayaka’s perspectives, Motherhood parses the psychology of both women, laying bare the fractures that prevent affection from passing down through the family lineage. It’s a sad story, but one that has room in it for compassion and tenderness amid the harshness. (VIFF 2022)

October 5, 2022 | Wednesday | Vancouver Playhouse | 6:00 pm
October 7, 2022 | Friday | The Cinematheque | 9:15 pm


Once Upon a Time in Calcutta by Aditya Vikram Sengupta
India, France, Norway | 2021 – 133 minutes

Loosely inspired by people and events from director Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s life, the film follows an interconnected web of characters and the architecture of their lives. An agoraphobic recluse finds shelter in the derelict theatre inherited from his father, refusing the moneyed siren call of real estate developers and an ambitious young man finds a job in a chit fund without realizing the shady undercurrents of the financial world he’s in. At the centre is Ela, a TV host who strikes out for a new life in the wake of her daughter’s death and a floundering marriage. The Calcutta she navigates is, like herself, haunted by its past and unsure of its future.

Aditya Vikram Sengupta, working alongside Turkish cinematographer Gökhan Tiryaki (Winter Sleep) finds a lyrical atmosphere, exploring the depths and vagaries of the human condition against the backdrop of a crumbling, nostalgia-mired city in the midst of urban development and cultural upheaval. (VIFF 2022)

October 6, 2022 | Thursday | The Cinematheque | 3:30 pm
October 8, 2022 | Saturday | International Village 8 | 8:45 pm


Plan 75 by Chie Hayakawa – Japan, France, Philippines, Qatar | 2022 – 112 minutes

The future is now in Chie Hayakawa’s Plan 75. With 30% of Japan’s population over the age of 65 and one of the lowest birth rates in the world, the Japanese face a historic economic and healthcare crisis. The film presents a near future in which Japan formulates an utterly clinical solution: citizens aged 75-plus can voluntarily euthanize themselves for the good of society.

The plan seems to work, with government facilities crowded with seniors like Michi (Chieko Baisho), a retired cleaning lady who, for ¥100,000 (roughly $960), will be put to death. Bureaucrats like Hiromu (Hayato Isomura) and Filipino migrant worker Maria (Stefanie Arianne) both benefit professionally from killing the elderly rather than caring for them, but beneath the surface everyone is left questioning the morality of it all. (VIFF 2022)

October 1, 2022 | Saturday | International Village 9 | 6:15 pm
October 4, 2022 | Tuesday | International Village 10 | 3:15 pm


Riverside Mukolitta by Naoko Ogigami – Japan | 2021 – 121 minutes

Riverside Mukolitta stars Kenichi Matsuyama as Yamada, an ex-con trying to come to terms with the death of his estranged father. In an attempt to make a fresh start, Yamada moves to a small fishing town and finds work processing dried squid. Helping him get back on his feet, Yamada’s manager finds him a place to live in an old apartment building populated by a motley group of misfits. Holding this community together is Shiori (Hikari Mitsushima), the landlady harbouring her own tragic past. How can healing happen in such an odd place? (VIFF 2022)

September 30, 2022 | Friday | International Village 9 | 3:30 pm
October 3, 2022 | Monday | International Village 9 | 9:30 pm


Septet: The Story of Hong Kong by Ann Hui, Sammo Hung, Ringo Lam, Patrick Tam, Johnnie To, Hark Tsui, Wo Ping Yuen – Hong Kong, China | 2020 – 111 minutes

This group of shorts from seven of Hong Kong’s best filmmakers is an elegiac tribute to that city’s past—and a subversive commentary on its present. The themes vary between films, but there is significant overlap among them: they include regret over love that went unfulfilled, the personal ruptures that came with the ‘97 handover, and the ways in which Hong Kong has changed since that fateful year. (VIFF 2022)

October 6, 2022 | Thursday | International Village 9 | 4:15 pm
October 9, 2022 | Sunday | International Village 9 | 10:30 am


Stonewalling by Huang Ji, Otsuka Ryuji – Japan | 2022 – 147 minutes

The latest from husband-and-wife directing team Huang Ji and Ryuji Otsuka is a look at consumerism in China that will make your blood run cold. Lynn (Yao Honggui) is nearing the end of her post-secondary education and looking forward to a career as a flight attendant. She has a pushy, patriarchal boyfriend and a mother deep in debt; things get even worse when she finds herself pregnant. Not interested in motherhood at this point in her life, Lynn decides to carry out the pregnancy and sell the child to her mom’s debtors. (VIFF 2022)

October 1, 2022 | Saturday | The Cinematheque | 9:00 pm
October 4, 2022 | Tuesday | The Cinematheque | 2:45 pm


The King of Wuxia by Lin Jing-jie – Taiwan | 2022 – 220 minutes

Lin Jing-Jie’s doc is a detailed, deeply poignant tribute to one of history’s great filmmakers. King Hu (1932-1997) was a consummate film artist—a sure hand not only at directing, but also drawing, calligraphy, acting, and other arts. Lin assembles actors, choreographers, critics, scholars, producers, fellow directors, and others who knew and loved Hu; their tributes and analyses form a mosaic-like depiction. (VIFF 2022)

October 1, 2022 | Saturday | The Cinematheque | 2:15 pm
October 9, 2022 | Sunday | The Cinematheque | 2:15 pm

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

Novelist Junhee (Lee Hyeyoung) is taking a break from writing, going on a daytrip to a small town to visit an old friend’s bookstore. Their reminiscing of years gone by turns into a discussion of a local public garden, one of the town’s must-see local attractions. It’s there on a leisurely stroll that Junhee has a chance encounter with a famous actress and a former colleague, a movie director. Suddenly, an aimless afternoon reignites an idea that Junhee has been ruminating for some time: what if she were to write and direct her own film? (VIFF 2022)

September 29, 2022 | Thursday | SFU Woodwards | 6:30 pm
October 4, 2022 | Tuesday | International Village 9 | 9:15 pm


Tortoise Under the Earth by Shishir Jha – India | 2021 – 95 minutes

Shishir Jha enters the scene with this richly layered cultural snapshot, thoughtfully excerpting an intimate tragedy to contextualize the wider environmental disaster enveloping the Santhal tribe, an ethnic group native to India and Bangladesh, whose lives are at risk by their proximity to uranium mining.

Centering on the story of a young couple trying to come to terms with the loss of their daughter, Tortoise Under the Earth captures a heartbreaking sense of yearning, gradually expanding on the narrative scope to include regional specificities. Jha adopts a hybrid docu-fiction format to accentuate the layers of subtext at play, weaving ethnological and anthropological elements, and elegantly casting a macro lens over a heartfelt micro storyline. The gentle, observational gaze results in mesmerizing imagery, glimpsing tribal traditions and folklore, and a spiritually rich way of life in harmony with nature. Jha impresses with fresh, intuitive filmmaking, drawing from an immersive process that results in a sense of immediacy and powerful humanist messaging. (VIFF 2022)

October 2, 2022 | Sunday | VIFF Centre – Vancity Theatre | 6:00 pm
October 4, 2022 | Tuesday | VIFF Centre – Vancity Theatre | 12:30 pm


We Are Family by Benny Lau – Hong Kong | 2022 – 100 minutes

Veteran Hong Kong star Eric Tsang (Infernal Affairs) has a field day here as Chi Kwong, a terrible actor (actually a retiree who works as an extra in HK movies) whose unwaveringly cheerful and sunny disposition makes him a natural for WeFamily, a rent-a-mom-and-pop operation. In his first assignment, Kwong plays a stern dad to a distraught daughter taking her first driving lesson. When a cop commandeers the car to chase a runaway criminal, he assumes that’s all part of the script (it isn’t). Another client needs a respectable family to present to her prospective in-laws (not a great long-term plan, to be sure), a scheme which immediately goes off the rails when her fiancé’s family arrives for dinner an hour early. (VIFF 2022)

October 1, 2022 | Saturday | International Village 9 | 12:45 pm
October 5, 2022 | Wednesday | International Village 10 | 9:15 pm

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