Asian Cinema at the Melbourne International Film Festival 2013

MIFF 2013
Hot on the heels of SFF comes Australia’s biggest film fest, the Melbourne International Film Festival. Their full program has just been announced, and as usual there’s a pretty packed slate of Asian cinema, from their regular Accent on Asia strand to special looks at new Arabic and rarely-seen North Korean cinema!

I’ve put together a quick overview of the feature films on show from Asia, since that’s what we’re primarily interested in here at Heroic Cinema. Obviously there are shorts and documentaries too, and many other fine films from all over the world; check the MIFF website for full details.

The festival runs from 25 July to 11 August.

2012, Bangladesh, directed by Mostofa Sarwar Farooki

A fun-looking satire from Bangladesh. Set in a rural village where a community leader bans television on religious grounds, only to have the people around him rise up in revolt…

A Touch of Sin

A Touch of Sin

A Touch of Sin
2013, China, directed by Jia Zhang-ke

A gritty look at four characters from across modern China, and their relationships with the country’s newfound wealth. Best Screenplay winner at Cannes this year, and a reference to King Hu’s A Touch of Zen in the title — this is one to watch.

A Broad Bellflower
1987, North Korea, directed by Jo Kyong-sun

The first of MIFF’s slate of films from the DPRK, this ’80s small-town romantic melodrama earned its lead actress, O Mi-ran, the title of People’s Actor.

Centre Forward
1978, North Korea, directed by Kim Kil-in and Pak Chong-song

A zero-to-hero sporting film about In-Son, a youngster who dreams of one day joining the North Korean football team. In black-and-white, and recently digitally restored.

Comrade Kim Goes Flying

Comrade Kim Goes Flying

Comrade Kim Goes Flying
2012, Belgium/UK/North Korea, directed by Kim Gwang-hun, Nicholas Bonner and Anja Daelemans

The first film from North Korea made as a co-production with Western partners in more than three decades. The film stars real-life acrobat Han Jong-sim in the title role of Kim, a female coal-miner who wants nothing more than to join the circus as a trapeze artist, and it looks to have (as you’d expect, perhaps) a strong egalitarian, underdog message, and an innocent romance to boot.

Hong Kil Dong
1986, North Korea, directed by Kim Kil-in

North Korea’s answer to Hong Kong’s swordplay and kung fu genre pictures, Hong Kil Dong follows a young man who’s denied a family due to his illegitimacy. An older martial artist takes him in as a student and trains him up. All ground that would seem well-trodden for an HK picture, but this is a film from the DPRK in the mid-’80s!

The Flower Girl

The Flower Girl

The Flower Girl
1972, North Korea, directed by Choe Ik-kyu and Hak Pak

An adaptation of an opera purportedly written by Kim Il-sung himself while in prison in the 1930s, taking as it subject the march towards revolution against occupying Japanese forces. Hong Yong-hee plays a poor flower girl, struggling to support her elderly mother and blind sister, dreaming of the day when the Revolution will come.



2013, Hong Kong, directed by Flora Lau

A contemporary drama by first-time director Flora Lau, starring HK actress Carina Lau as a Hong Kong housewife abandoned by her wealthy husband, and Chen Kun as her chauffeur from Shenzhen, who is trying to find a way to get his pregnant wife into Hong Kong to give birth. Australian-born cinematographer Christopher Doyle (who shot most of Wong Kar-wai’s early work, and Zhang Yimou’s Hero) is cinematographer on this one.

Touch of the Light
2012, Hong Kong/Taiwan, directed by Chang Jung-Chi

A biopic from Taiwan that tells the story of real-life blind piano prodigy Huang Yu-siang, who plays himself in the film.

Monsoon Shootout
2013, India, directed by Amit Kumar
The debut film from director Amit Kumar, Monsoon Shootout pits a rookie cop against the system, in a city where police corruption and violence are all too common. Here’s our review.

Twisted Trunk, Big Fat Body

Twisted Trunk, Big Fat Body

Twisted Trunk, Big Fat Body
2012, India, directed by Punarvasu Naik

The first film from writer-director Punarvasu Naik, Twisted Trunk is a satire/thriller/comedy that takes on the contradictions of modern Mumbai, as a Muslim terrorists’ plan involving a bomb inside a plush Ganesh toy goes wrong. Like Monsoon Shootout, this film is produced by Anurag Kashyap (Gangs of Wasseypur), who has a hand in all three Indian features at this year’s festival.

2013, India, directed by Anurag Kashyap

Director Kashyap’s follow-up to last year’s two-parter Gangs of Wasseypur (which several of us here at HC enjoyed immensely), Ugly is set in the more compact world of modern-day Mumbai. An aspiring actor’s daughter disappears while he’s at an audition, and the resulting police investigation is (as the title suggests) ugly and complicated.

Atambua 39º Celsius

Atambua 39º Celsius

Atambua 39º Celsius
2013, Indonesia, directed by Riri Riza

Based on real-life events, Riri Riza’s new film is about a father and son from East Timor in the Indonesian border town of Atambua, where they have lived since the independence referendum in 1999. The son, Joao, dreams of returning home and reuniting with his mother and sisters, while his pro-Indonesian father refuses, hitting the bottle instead.

Closed Curtain
2013, Iran, directed by Jafar Panahi and Kamboziya Partovi

Shot in secret (as Iranian director Jafar Panahi has been banned from making films for two decades), Closed Curtain is an inward-looking portrait of melancholia and depression. Winner of the Silver Bear for Best Script at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.

Manuscripts Don’t Burn
2013, Iran, directed by Mohammad Rasoulof

Another film from a director banned from making films in his homeland, Mohammed Rasoulof, who was arrested in 2010, this one takes a far more direct approach to state censorship. It is a dark, angry thriller, following a pair of government “enforcers” tasked with finding and destroying a manuscript that describes a failed government attempt to murder a busload of intellectuals.

My Sweet Pepper Land
2013, France/Germany/Iraqi Kurdistan, directed by Hiner Saleem

A drama set on the border between Iraq and Turkey, this Kurdish film sounds like a playful poke at the American western genre. Former military man Baran becomes the police chief of a border town, determined to take on the outlaws currently running the show.

Rhino Season

Rhino Season

Rhino Season
2012, Iraqi Kurdistan/Turkey, directed by Bahman Ghobadi

Much praised for its cinematography, Rhino Season follows the story of a poet (Iranian actor Behrouz Vossoughi) imprisoned during the reign of the Shah, due to a personal vendetta. Thirty years later he is released and searches for his devoted wife Mina (Monica Bellucci).

Capturing Dad
2012, Japan, directed by Ryota Nakano

A combination coming-of-age and road movie, Capturing Dad follows two young sisters sent to be by the side of their dying father. He passes away while they are travelling, and they are left to attend the funeral of this man they never knew.

Lesson of the Evil
2012, Japan, directed by Takashi Miike

I could have guessed that this was director Miike’s film from the title and the blood-spattered promo image on the MIFF site! Japan’s master of mayhem returns after last year’s Ace Attorney with a film set in a high school, focusing on handsome, talented and deranged high school teacher Mr Hasumi. Note that this is the only film I’ve seen on MIFF’s program with a ‘certain scenes may disturb some viewers’ warning, if you’re not familiar with Miike’s earlier work.

Like Father, Like Son

Like Father, Like Son

Like Father, Like Son
2013, Japan, directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda

Following up on last year’s I Wish, Kore-eda brings us another family drama, this one involving two families who discover (thanks to a blood test) that their sons were switched at birth. Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes this year.

Outrage Beyond
2012, Japan, directed by Takeshi Kitano

HC favourite Takeshi Kitano continues his return to his yakuza film roots in this, the sequel to 2010′s Outrage. Expect guns shoved in faces, shifting allegiances and Kitano’s ever-present inscrutable stare. Here’s our review.

Tokyo Family

Tokyo Family

Tokyo Family
2013, Japan, directed by Yôji Yamada

Yoji Yamada looks back at Japanese cinema history, with this modern retelling of Yasujiro Ozu’s 1953 Tokyo Story (a classic of Japanese cinema, and often named as one of the greatest films ever made.) An elderly husband and wife come to Tokyo to spend some time with their grown children, who are so distracted by the stresses of modern life that they don’t have much time for them.

When I Saw You
2012, Greece/Jordan/Palestinian Territory/UAE, directed by Annemarie Jacir

A drama centered on an eleven-year old boy and his mother, displaced from their native Palestine by the Six-Day War in 1967 and living in a refugee camp in Jordan.

Harmony Lessons

Harmony Lessons

Harmony Lessons
2013, Germany/Kazakhstan, directed by Emir Baigazin

A debut feature from Emir Baigazin, Harmony Lessons is set in a school in remote Kazakhstan, where young student Aslan — bullied at school and outside — dreams of revenge.

The Attack
Belgium/Egypt/France/Lebanon/Qatar, directed by Ziad Doueiri

An adaptation of the novel of the same name, The Attack stars Ali Suliman as a Palestinian surgeon in Tel Aviv, whose life is abruptly, shockingly changed when his wife kills herself and 17 others in a suicide bombing.

Manila in the Claws of Light
1975, Philippines, directed by Lino Brocka

Screening in MIFF’s “Masters and Restorations” track, Manila in the Claws of Light is considered one of the classics of Filipino cinema, from Lino Brocka, their best-known director. The film follows a country boy who has come to Manila to find his childhood sweetheart, only to find that she was tricked when she left their village and has ended up ensnared by prostitution ring.

2012, Saudi Arabia/Germany, directed by Haifaa al-Mansour

Wadjda is the first feature shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, directed by their first woman filmmaker — Haifaa al-Mansour, who went to film school here in Sydney. The story follows a young girl who wants nothing more in the world than to own a bicycle (taboo in the conservative Kingdom for girls) and works hard to raise the money for it herself.

Ilo Ilo

Ilo Ilo

Ilo Ilo
2013, Singapore, directed by Anthony Chen

Winner of the Caméra d’Or at Cannes this year, Ilo Ilo is an autobiographical drama from Anthony Chen set during the Asian financial crisis in 1997. Angeli Bayani plays a Filipino maid who comes to work for a Singaporean family, developing a bond with their young son and straining the relationship between his parents.

A Werewolf Boy
2012, South Korea, directed by Jo Sung-hee

The commercial debut from Jo Sung-hee (whose graduation film End Of Animal I really, really liked at SFF 2010), A Werewolf Boy has been a hit in Korea, the third best seller of 2012. It’s a fantasy romance set in the 1960s, where a young girl befriends a feral boy in the countryside, only to find that he’s perhaps not just uncivilized…

Behind the Camera
2012, South Korea, directed by E J-yong

A mockumentary (following on from the director’s 2009 film The Actresses) about the South Korean film industry, in which E J-yong plays himself as a director who assembles a cast for a film only to announce that he plans to direct from Los Angeles. Over Skype.

Juvenile Offender
2012, South Korea, directed by Kang Yi-kwan

16-year old Ji-gu is released from juvenile detention, only to be reunited with the mother he never know, who had given him up at birth.

Nobody's Daughter Haewon

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon
South Korea, directed by Hong Sang-soo

Festival regular Hong Sang-soo returns with another stripped-back drama, starring Jeong Eun-chae as troubled film student Haewon.

South Korea, directed by Lee Dae Hee

Five years in the making, Padak is an animated feature about a mackerel, caught in the ocean and kept in the fish tank at a seafood restaurant — from which there seems to be only one inexorable escape, one which she’s determined to avoid.

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
Taiwan, directed by Arvin Chen

Arvin Chen’s second feature after Au Revoir Taipei, this film is a romantic comedy (but with more complex subject matter than most) in which married couple Weichung and Feng negotiate their midlife crises — his questioning of his own sexual orientation, and her desire for a second child.

Deniz Hasgler in Jîn


Turkey, directed by Reha Erdem

Jîn tells the story of a young Kurdish rebel who leaves the group of guerilla fighters that she has joined in search of a different life.

Coming Forth By Day
2012, Egypt/UAE, directed by Hala Lotfy

Documentary filmmaker Hala Lotfy’s first fiction feature, this film follows young woman Soad, who has put her own life on hold and spends most of her time looking after her incapacitated father during the day.

2013, UK/USA, directed by Park Chan-wook

Stoker is celebrated South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s first foray into Hollywood film, and it’s a slick-looking thriller/horror piece starring Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, and Our Nicole, who I’ve always liked best in darker fare.

Enjoy the festival!

This entry was posted in Festivals and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.