Asian Cinema at the Sydney Film Festival 2012

Sydney Film Festival 2012That time of year has rolled around again: the Sydney Film Festival has released its full program for 2012, and there’s a lot there to get excited about this year!

(As always, we here at HC are mostly interested in the Asian films showing, but there’s a boatload of other cinema showing and you owe it to yourself to peruse the full program!)

Firstly, we’ve got two tracks entirely devoted to Asian cinema: Focus on India and Nikkatsu 100.

Focus on India

Here the SFF has programmed a selection of films that don’t conform to the mainstream Bollywood style, showcasing independent films that take a different tack or show another side of Indian life. The first film — Gangs of Wasseypur, split into two parts — is also the first Indian film ever to screen in competition at the Festival.

Gangs of Wasseypur

Gangs of Wasseypur, Part 1 and Part 2 (2012, India, dir. Anurag Kashyap)
A violent crime thriller, epic in scope, following the conflict between two rival families over the course of several decades.

Jai Bhim Comrade (2012, India, dir. Anand Patwardhan, documentary)
A documentary about the killing of ten unarmed Dalit people in Mumbai by police in 1997 (background from Wikipedia: the 1997 Ramabai Ambedkar Incident).

The Sound of Old Rooms (2011, India, dir. Sandeep Ray, documentary)
A documentary, filmed over the course of two decades, following the story of a man juggling his desire to be a poet with the more immediate concerns of supporting his family.

The Temple (2011, India, dir. Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni)
A herdsman in a small drought-stricken village has a divine vision of Lord Dutta emerging from a fig tree, and the community decides to build a temple.

Valley of Saints (2012, India/USA, dir. Musa Syeed)
A love story set in Kashmir with a strong environmental theme.

Nikkatsu 100

A Colt Is My Passport

Nikkatsu, Japan’s oldest major film studio, is one hundred years old this year!

To celebrate, the SFF is showing four new 35mm prints of some of the studio’s films from the mid 50s to the early 70s, when their focus was on urban youth and gangster cool.

Season of the Sun (1956, Japan, dir. Takumi Furukawa)
Adapted from the 1955 novel by Shintaro Ishihara (who is currently Governor of Tokyo), set in the rebellious taiyozoku youth culture of the 50s and 60s.

A Colt Is My Passport (1967, Japan, dir. Takashi Nomura)
A yakuza hitman film starring action hero Joe Shishido (Branded to Kill).

Retaliation (1968, Japan, dir. Yasuharu Hasebe)
Another yakuza film with Joe Shishido, this time supporting leading man Akira Kobayashi, focusing more on the power struggles between gangs than individual honour or loyalty.

Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter (1970, dir. Yasuharu Hasebe)
(Certainly the best title at this year’s fest!) Russ Meyer-inspired, delinquent girl gang film starring Lady Snowblood’s Meiko Kaji. Third film in the Stray Cat Rock series.

Other Films

11 Flowers (2011, China/France, dir. Wang Xiaoshuai)
A semi-autographical coming-of-age film set during the Cultural Revolution, focusing on the life of an eleven year old in rural Ghizhou province.

A Simple Life

A Simple Life (2011, Hong Kong/China, dir. Ann Hui)
Andy Lau and Deanie Ip star in this drama about the relationship between a man in Hong Kong and the servant who has been with his family for sixty years.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012, USA/China, dir. Alison Klayman, documentary)
A documentary covering three years in the life of Chinese artist, architect and activist Ai Weiwei.

Bachelor Mountain (2011, China, dir. Yu Guangyi, documentary)
The third documentary from filmmaker Yu Guangyi, after Survival Song and Timber Gang. This film focuses on a lonely ex-logger in northern China and his pursuit of the last single woman in town.

Death of a Japanese Salesman (2011, Japan, dir. Mami Sunada, documentary)
Retired salesman Tomoaki Sunada is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and his filmmaker daughter follows his final months as he organises the things he wants to do before he goes.

Despite the Gods (2012, Australia, dir. Penny Vozniak, documentary)
A documentary shot behind the scenes as Jennifer Lynch (David Lynch’s daughter) directs her film Hisss in India with Bollywood stars Govind Menon and Mallika Sherawat.

Final Whistle (2011, Iran, dir. Niki Karimi)
Drama in which a filmmaker struggles to save the life of a condemned woman, the mother of an actress they are working with.

Golden Slumbers (2011, France/Cambodia, dir. Davy Chou, documentary)
Documentary about the golden years of Cambodian cinema in the 60s and 70s, before the Khmer Rouge.

Goodbye (2011, Iran, dir. Mohammad Rasoulof)
Drama about a young woman whose license to practice law has been revoked by the government as punishment for her involvement in protests against the government.

Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai

Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai (3D) (2012, Japan, dir. Takashi Miike)
Another remake of a classic piece of Japanese cinema from Miike, after last year’s 13 Assassins. This was the first 3D film to screen in Competition at Cannes, though I don’t know if we’ll be getting it in all three dimensions…

Headshot (2012, Thailand/France, dir. Pen-ek Ratanaruang)
HC favourite Ratanaruang’s “Buddhist noir” film about a professional killer. I’m hanging out for this one.

High Tech, Low Life (2012, USA/China, dir. Stephen Maing, documentary)
A documentary about two bloggers, working as “citizen reporters” in China, and their battle against government censorship.

Modest Reception (2012, Iran, dir. Mani Haghighi)
An intriguing-sounding black comedy (or something more?) about a couple from Tehran that distribute bags of money to the needy in a rural mountain town for reasons that are unclear.

Our Homeland (2012, Japan, dir. Yonghi Yang)
Drama about a family of North Korean origin living in contemporary Japan. Director Yang (who made documentaries Dear Pyongyang and Sona, the Other Myself) is herself Japanese of North Korean descent.

Postcards from the Zoo (2012, Indonesia, dir. Edwin)
A dreamlike story about Lana, a young woman who grew up in a zoo surrounded by animals after being abandoned by her father.

Tatsumi (Zhao Wei Films)

Tatsumi (2011, Singapore/Japan, dir. Eric Khoo, documentary)
A tribute to the life and work of Japanese manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi, itself animated in a variety of styles.

The King of Pigs (2011, South Korea, dir. Yuen Sang-ho)
A dark, disturbing-looking animated film that deal with social status and bullying at school, from the perspectives of two men meeting later as adults.

The Last Emperor (1987, Italy/China/UK, dir. Bernardo Bertolucci)
This probably needs no introduction. Bertolucci’s film is a historical epic centered on the life of Chinese Emperor Pu Yi, and won 5 Academy Awards back in the day. Screening as part of a Bertolucci retrospective.

The Warped Forest (2011, Japan, dir. Shunichiro Miki)
Quirky-looking fantasy set in a world where giants, tiny people and a variety of critters live side-by-side. There also appears to be some rather unconventional weaponry.

See you at the festival!

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