Asian cinema at the Sydney Film Festival 2011

Sydney people needn’t be too jealous of MIFF-going Victorians this year — our own film festival starts in a couple of days, and has a bunch of films from Asia showing as well.

Here’s a quick roundup of what SFF is serving up this year; as always, check the official program for the real deal in case I’ve made a mistake or the schedule changes.

From China and Hong Kong:

  • I Wish I Knew, a documentary from Jia Zhangke (The World, Still Life) focusing on Shanghai and its people, told mostly through a diverse set of interviews.
  • Sacrifice, from another well-known Chinese director, Chen Kaige (The Emperor and the Assassin, Farewell My Concubine), who’s also the Jury president this year at SFF. In keeping with the huge scale we’ve seen from him in the past, it’s a lush, detailed historical drama, starring Ge You, Wang Xueqi and Huang Xiaoming.
  • Ann Hui’s new film All About Love, a romantic comedy centred around the rekindling of a romance between stars Sandra Ng and Vivian Chow.
  • The Ditch, a gritty-sounding first “fictional” film from documentarian Wang Bing, focused on the fates of those sent to desert labour camps during the Anti-Rightist Movement of the late ’50s in China.

From Japan: (The first two of these are also showing at MIFF in July)

  • 13 Assassins, a samurai film from HC favourite Takashi Miike, a remake of Eiichi Kudo’s 1963 film.
  • Norwegian Wood, an adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s novel by Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung, with a Jonny Greenwood (from Radiohead) score.
  • Mutant Girls Squad from production studio Sushi Typhoon, a few of whose films have been picked up for DVD here by Madman (we’ve got a review coming for one of these, Alien vs. Ninja, shortly). Schoolgirls, mutants, war with humanity: I’d guess that we’re venturing into cartoonish carnage with this one.

From Singapore, we have two collections of shorts, Civic Life and Where the Heart Is, including Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor’s film Tiong Bahru, filmed amongst the hawker stalls of the eponymous estate.

Finally, South Korea brings us End of Animal, a fascinating-sounding thriller from Jo Sung-hee. A cab driver and his passenger pick up an odd young man in the middle of the night, only to see him count down to zero and vanish, at the same time as everything electrical fails, all at once. This is director Jo’s feature debut, and I’m certainly intrigued!

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