NETPAC Award at the 4th Bengaluru International Film Festival

December 23, 2011

Flying Fish (Igillena Maluwo, 2011, Sri Lanka, 115 min.), directed by Sanjeewa Pushpakumara (b. 1977)

On Dec. 21, 2011, members of the NETPAC jury at the 4th Bengaluru International Film Festival, comprising of Shaoyi SUN (film critic and scholar from China), Kesari HARVOO (filmmaker from India), and DANG Nhat Minh (veteran filmmaker from Vietnam), reached unanimous decision to nominate the Sri Lankan film FLYING FISH, directed by Sanjeewa PUSHPAKUMARA, for the NETPAC award, “for its stark depiction of realities of rural life under Sri Lankan Civil War situation through powerful visual imagery.”

Born in 1977, Sanjeewa is completing an advanced degree in filmmaking at Korea’s Chung-Ang University. Flying Fish, his debut film, received a grant from the Hubert Bals Fund of the International Film Festival Rotterdam to support its post-production.

Haolun SHU receives his Special Jury Prize at the 4th Bengaluru International Film Festival, India on Dec. 22, 2011. The award is presented by the Governor of Karnataka, Dr. Hans Raj Bhardwaj. He is flanked by two veteran Indian actresses.

Haolun SHU’s film No. 89 Shimen Road (黑白照片), was among the 13 films to compete for the main awards, the Best Film and Best Director awards, at the 4th Bengaluru International Film Festival. Although the film didn’t win one of these two titles, the main jury, which comprises of Sturla Gunnarsson (filmmaker from Canada), Jan Erik Holst (producer and critic from Norway), Gunilla Burstedt (film educator and promoter from Sweden), PH Vishwanath (filmmaker from India), and Chinese director Xie Fei (谢飞), recognized SHU’s great achievement by giving the film the Special Jury Award.

No. 89 Shimen Road (黑白照片), China (2010, 85 min.), directed and written by Haolun SHU

Two months before this Special Jury award, No. 89 Shimen Road won the NETPAC Award at the 27th Warsaw International Film Festival, Poland. The 27th WFF NETPAC Jury gives out the award to No. 89 Shimen Road “that poignantly depicts the struggle of a country confronted with a new order. It is also a personal and touching view of a world that no longer exist”.


4th Bengaluru International Film Festival

December 19, 2011

Scooter, major transportation means in Bengaluru, India, 8 rupees per kilometer

A few words about life in Bengaluru, India: It is an interesting place, full of people and traffic congestion. The weather is quite nice, and the people are friendly, helpful, and nice in general. I haven’t started traveling, but director Xie Fei told me that there is not much to see in the city, with the exception of a few colonial palaces (including the Bengaluru Palace) and temples. My immediate impression is that there are many bank branches and scooters, and the infrastructure is in poor condition, with narrow roads and old buildings badly in need of widening and repairing. The place is surprisingly full of Christian churches and Hindu temples.

The festival is so far a successful one, with nice people and manageable schedule and relatively focused venues. It is developing a character, which is more or less focused on political films, or films that deal with sensitive or controversial subjects. Two countries seem to be greatly featured: Israel and Poland. I watched several Israeli films and was particularly fascinated with the film Lebanon, which recounts Israel’s 1982 invasion of its northern neighbor through soldiers’ eyes. The film won the top prize at the 2009 Venice International Film Festival.

4th Bengaluru International Film Festival

December 18, 2011

Director Xie Fei was interviewed at the 4th Bengaluru International Film Festival, where his two films were shown

Director Xie Fei is part of the main jury of the 4th Bengaluru International Film Festival. He is here also to present two of his award-winning films, A Mongolian Tale (黑骏马, 1997) and Woman Sesame Oil Maker (香魂女, 1993). The main jury will decide the winner of the following films:

When We Leave, Dir:Feo Aladag (Germany/119/2010)
Invisible, Dir:Michal Aviad (Israel/90/2011)
89 Shimen Road, Dir:Haolun Shu (黑白照片, China/85/2010)
Beyond, Dir:Pernilla August (Sweden/99/2010)
Busong, Dir:Auraeus Solito (Philipines/93/2011)
Ogul (the Son) , Dir:Atilla Cengiz (Turkey/97/2011)
Apartment in Athens, Dir:Ruggero Dipaola (Italy/90 mins/2010)
In the Name of Devil, Dir:Barbara Sass (Poland/112/2011)
The Colors Of The Mountain, Dir:Carlos Cesar Arbelaez (Colombia)
Lovely Man, Dir:Teddy Soeriaatmadja (Indonesia/75/2011)
King of the Devil’s Island, Dir: Marius Holst (Norway/120/2010)
Lucky, Dir:Avie Luthra (South Africa/100/2011)

4th Bengaluru International Film Festival

December 18, 2011

NETPAC Jury at the 4th Bengaluru International Film Festival, India

I am now in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), India, as part of the NETPAC Jury (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) of the 4th Bengaluru International Film Festival. The three-member jury includes Dang Nhat Minh (邓日明, left), one of Vietnam’s foremost film directors, Kesari Harvoo, managing director at Kesari Harvoo Communication Pvt. Ltd. and a filmmaker of India (center).

Photo taken at the 4th Bengaluru International Film Festival (Dec. 15-22, 2011), in front of the Lido Cinema.

There are 10 Asian films nominated for the NETPAC award. These films are: Urumi (India, 2011), Flying Fish (Sri Lanka, 2011), The Qandil Mountain (Iraq, 2010), Ondooralli (India, 2011), Policeman (Israel, 2011), Apart Together (China, 2010), Hanezu (Japan, 2011), Opekka (Waiting, Bangladesh, 2010), Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (various countries, 2010), The House Under Water (Iran, 2010). The winner will be decided on December 21, 2011.

“Transmedia” Conference

December 17, 2011

ZHANG Zhen of NYU (left) and Emilie Yueh Yu YEH of Hong Kong Baptist Univ.

On December 11, 2011, I was invited to attend the “Traversing Cultural and Media Boundaries: Translation and Transmedia” symposium as a discussant. The symposium was co-organized by Japan’s Research Center for Modern and Contemporary Japanese Culture, Graduate School of Letters, Nagoya University and China’s Center for Foreign Literatures, School of Foreign Languages, Shangahai Jiao Tong University. This was an interesting symposium and I was most pleased that I got the opportunity to see some of my old friends in Shanghai, including Zhang Zhen of NYU and Emilie Yueh Yu YEH of Hong Kong Baptist University.

Zhang was here to present her recent research on Shanghai, titled “World Expo, Film History and the New (Old) Shanghai Imaginary”, and YEH, like me, was a discussant. This was the rare occasion for these two smart women scholars of Chinese cinema to sit down together by the same table. So, without their consent, I took the picture. The event went really well.

Review of Dam Street (红颜; China, 2005)

December 1, 2011

Review of Dam Street (红颜;China, 2005), A Laurel Films, Rosem Films, and Fonds Sud Cinema production.

Director: Li Yu
Producers: Fang Li, Sylvain Bursztejn
Screenwriter: Fang Li, Li Yu
Editor: Karl Riedl
Music: Liu Sijun
Cinematographer: Wang Wei
Cast: Liu Yi, Liu Rui, Huang Xingrao
Running time: 93 MIN.

Reviewed by NYU Student Sneha Dontula

Dam Street (China, 2005), directed by Li Yu

Dam Street, directed by Li Yu and released in 2005, follows the life of a young woman who must face societal pressures as she grows up in the 1980s in China. Li Yu, who is one of a small number of women directors in China, understandably takes a close look at what it is like to be a female in a male-dominated society. In fact, the women in the film completely take center stage: men are mostly on the margins of the story, and if they are present, they are shown in a largely negative light.

The first example of this appears when the main character, Yun, and her boyfriend, Wang Feng, are telling Feng’s sister, Wang Zhengyue, that Yun is pregnant. Zhengyue immediately becomes angry and starts abusing Feng. She literally kicks him right out of the shot. His presence is simply not required. In fact, Wang Feng leaves their village shortly after this scene, never to be seen in person again. Two more examples of men being portrayed as objectionable occur at Yun’s wedding, later in the film. The married man whom she had been having an affair with had divorced his wife and married Yun, but he seems oblivious to Yun’s feelings throughout the ceremony. The worst portrayal of all, however, is when Boss Qian tries to sexually assault Yun at her own wedding. When she protests, Boss Qian tells her that no one will believe Yun is a victim because she is a “slut.” The multiple unfavorable representations of men serve as a foil to the one truly good male in the film—Xiao Yong, Yun’s son.

While every other male in the film is either conniving, selfish, disloyal, or just dim-witted, Xiao Yong is the opposite. He is clever, kind, and mischievous, but still completely devoted to Yun. From the very first moment he sees Yun, he is captivated. He is the only character who seems to accept her unconditionally—even when she is getting assaulted by others in the village for having an affair, Xiao Yong is the only one who steps up to protect her. Even when Yun’s own mother, Teacher Su, is angry with Yun, Xiao Yong continues to stand up for her. One of the most interesting features of the relationship is how Xiao Yong has a belief in Yun that persists even though Yun has very little faith in herself.

Ever since her pregnancy and ensuing rejection from society, Yun has displayed a resigned attitude towards her life. She has not left her village or attempted to get a fresh start. Instead, she has seemed to accept the image that others have of her—as a useless, promiscuous woman. Her demeaning job in the singing troupe and her lack of willingness to stand up for herself show how badly she needs something to inspire her. Yun is not a woman who is strong or self-assured, and she is not in any way the ideal protagonist of a feminist film. Luckily, Xiao Yong’s presence is the catalyst she needs, and we get to see a transformation in Yun’s sense of self that culminates in her departure from the village. Though the end of the relationship between Xiao Yong and Yun is heartbreaking, it is also hopeful. We understand that Yun is no longer willing to submit to others’ opinions of her: she is ready to live her life freely without scrutiny from anyone else.