These are fifteen Asian short films you shouldn’t miss at the International Film Festival Rotterdam which will take place from January 25 until February 5, 2023 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Artist Hsu Che-yu (The Making of Crime Scenes, IFFR 2022) blends his digitally animated exploration of the relation between media and memory with an account of Taiwanese terrorist Yung Ru-Men, a bomb maker who idolised Japan’s suicidally-inclined United Red Army.
The black-and-white images, presented as still frames, are patchy and unreal, like our memories; both physical places and human figures disintegrate – an oblique and compelling testament, probing unseen acts and murky motivations. – Adrian Martin (IFFR 2023)
The Buddhist tale Twelve Sisters forms the basis of this speculative folk tale that scrutinises our existence on this planet, depicting a generation adrift between mythical and earthly realms. Parinda Mai questions the effects of globalisation, technological progress, and humanity’s place within an endless cycle of exploitation and destruction. Blinded by Centuries captures the confusing times we are living in, culminating in a synergy of image and sound. – Koen de Rooij (IFFR 2023)
In a society founded on social hierarchy and privilege where many have to fight for their place, two candid crocodile-people are trying to cool down at a swimming pool – while struggling with their needs and desires. Chomp It! is an unconventional, dark and drily comedic allegory of life in Singapore. Shot on a sultry 16mm, the humidity almost oozes from the screen. – Koen de Rooij (IFFR 2023)
In an open letter to herself, filmmaker Suchana animates an intimate, transformative migration through the trauma, loneliness, and emotionally uneven pathways to self-acceptance. Deeply personal, yet poignantly relatable, Dear Me offers an outstretched hand of compassion. – Fiona Armour (IFFR 2023)
Ernst Mo works for courier service Delivery Dancer. Every day, she transports an endless stream of parcels, following algorithmically generated routes through a labyrinthine Seoul. After she runs into an alternative version of herself, her reality slowly starts to crack – with all the attendant consequences. In her own unique style, artist Ayoung Kim creates a fascinating and pretty disturbing world. –Koen de Rooij (IFFR 2023)
An opening sequence of an Indonesian earthquake might lead us to expect a sober, realistic drama of displacement and poverty. But then Anggun Priambodo’s black-and-white film takes a sharp turn into whimsical comedy: none are keen to leave the prison in order to help – except one, who fears for the fate of old Mama Emola. The subsequent story unfolds as an ‘odd couple’ road movie in the lyrical and humorous manner of early Hou Hsiao-hsien. – Adrian Martin (IFFR 2023)
Celestial spheres morph into a drizzle of flowers and leaves: translucent, buoyant and dreamlike. With an inquisitive, meditative score by Kim Kwangseok of sparse folk and lingering tolling of bells, Flower Rain is a photochemical, X-ray journey through the compositions and cosmic gateways of bloom. – Fiona Armour (IFFR 2023)
When Gopal, a teenager working at a plastics factory, finds a stray calf grazing on polythene bags, he brings the animal to the local cow shelter run by a Hindu volunteer organisation. Enticed by the sense of camaraderie the outfit offers, Gopal is swept into its increasingly confrontational activist operations. Unfolding like a coming-of-age story, Varun Chopra’s loosely fictionalised documentary Holy Cowboys is a topical, engrossing inquiry into the politicisation of compassion. – Srikanth Srinivasan (IFFR 2023)
A mysterious, dreamlike adaptation of a short story by Hyakken Uchida, shot on 16mm. Shusaku loses his grip on reality when he sees his own face in that of his deceased brother. Trying to find himself, he drifts between his own memories and those of his sibling, slipping further and further into his subconscious. – Koen de Rooij (IFFR 2023)
Korean birth dreams, known as tae-mong, traditionally prophesy the sex of an unborn child through gender-biased symbolism. Males are strong, often fierce animals, females delicate and small. Interpreting the work of artist Lee Jung-seob, filmmaker Chaerin Im confronts a patriarchal culture through a spirited tin-foil lithographic imagining of a powerful she-horse: a strong, fiercely independent warrior encompassing true feminine power and ability. – Fiona Armour (IFFR 2023)
When the village outcast starts to hear strange sounds in the mountains, everyone except his little brother writes it off as another eccentric performance. He must focus now on finding a wife to redeem himself and secure his place in the social hierarchy, but the sounds keep growing louder and louder. – Cristina Kolozsvary-Kiss (IFFR 2023)
Ba graduates from college with a major in sousaphone. With his suitcase packed and his instrument straddled to his body, he returns to his hometown, optimistic about finding a satisfactory job as a musical artist. When his father kicks him out for refusing to play for his new girlfriend, Ba begins a journey through the rundown streets of the small, working-class town, encountering a series of taciturn characters both new and familiar.
Filmmaker Xu Jingwei’s distinctive animation captures a deadpan, monotonous ennui that is simultaneously humorous and tragic. While Ba’s need for a job becomes increasingly dire, No Changes Have Taken In Our Life is not simply a reflection on this post-graduate dilemma, but an exploration of the desire to progress in a place set in its ways.– Fiona Armour (IFFR 2023)
Two stories casually intersect. A young student with a stutter is unhappy at school. She spends many hours with her bedridden grandmother, losing herself in her book. A composer-musician is trying to find herself, struggling with her motivation and self-confidence. Both find solace in the night. With Sekai, Tsukada Marina has made a warm and intimate portrait of two separate lives that briefly come together in a moment of hope. – Koen de Rooij (IFFR 2023)
In Shabnam, the fragmented history of the fabrication of muslin and its scattered documentation across archives all over the world is stitched back together in a piece that is as stunning as it is confrontational. The result is a patchwork of uneasy encounters, hidden narratives and archival images, in which the discomfort of inequality is made tangible to the viewer. – Koen de Rooij (IFFR 2023)
With the arrival of an outsider, a peasant woman in rural China begins to sense the repressive, patriarchal bindings of her fate. A fruit tree fights to bloom. The Funeral of Spring is a deeply symbolic, intimate and languidly pastoral exploration of a woman’s sense of self in an environment devoid of female autonomy. – Fiona Armour (IFFR 2023)
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