Against the objections of her family, they embark to a new life in Tehran. In the uncompromising metropolis, the lessons of adulthood and the harshness of immigrant life threaten to overwhelm the promise of young love. Life in Tehran is far harsher than Mahi’s previous life in her comparatively idyllic hometown. In documentarian Shalizeh Arefpour’s debut fictional film, we learn that in some places, the stakes for teen romance are much higher than simply having a date to the prom or not. In Tehran, Mahi and Heiran welcome a baby into their lives and young love grinds its gears into adulthood. As both must take full responsibility for their new family, excruciating choices must be made.
Underscored by political unrest and the arduous life as the wife of an illegal immigrant, Mahi recalls longingly the days of her girlhood. Beautiful cinematography and a perfectly mournful score complete Arefpour’s simple and sad assertion in Heiran that sometimes not even love can conquer all.
The official entry from the Chinese Embassy, Walking to School is the story of a brother and sister in rugged mountaintop village where the only access to school is via a rusty zip line over a treacherous gorge. An irresistible young duo and breathtaking visuals envelope the audience in this simple story of rural tragedy and familial conflict.
Director: Peng Jiahuang and Peng Chen
Cast: Ding Jiali, Anamuling, Cao Xiwen, Chen Yifei
In Mandarin dialogue, Lisu dialect with English subtitles
An irresistible young duo and breathtaking visuals envelope the audience as they tell the simple story of rural tragedy and familial conflict. The official entry from the Chinese Embassy, Walking to School is the feature film debut by brothers Peng Chen and Peng Jiahuang. Taking place in a remote mountain village in southern China's Yunnan province, Walking to School, focuses on sister and brother, teenage Naxiang (Anamuling) and 7-year-old Wawa (Jiali). Every day, Naxiang must harness herself and slide over a dangerous river with the support of a rusty cable in order to go to school. Each morning, Wawa and his dog see his sister off to school and then wait anxiously all day until she arrives in the afternoon.
The innocence and tenderness portrayed by these two young actors is magnetic as they run up ladders and across roof-tops with the beautiful green and gray mountains painted in the background. Wawa has a palpably painful desire to go to school with his sister and learn with other children. He must wait for his father to come home and take him across the river. Unfortunately, the ambiguity of his father’s return leaves Wawa feeling doomed to never go to school.
The People I've Slept With
Angela, a free-spirited, libidinous LA art gallery clerk suddenly finds herself pregnant. With the support of her non-traditional family and friends, Angela sets off to find out the identity of the father. Laugh-out-loud funny, raunchy, and touching, The People I’ve Slept With is a fresh look at family values in the 21st century.
Director: Quentin Lee
Run Time: 89 mins
Country of Origin: USA
Cast: Karin Anna Cheung, Wilson Cruz, Archie Kao, Lynn Chen, and James Shigeta.
Centerpiece Presentation: San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival
Official Selection: Hong Kong Asian Independent Film Festival
Official Selection: Toronto Inside Out Film Festival
The San Francisco chronicle says “The People I’ve Slept With” is a “.. rockin’ film” and an “..edgy comedy.”
The People I’ve Slept With is all of that. It is also a fresh look at family values in the 21s century. Our main charmer Angela, a free-spirited, libidinous LA art gallery clerk suddenly finds herself pregnant. She then embarks on a hilarious retracing of her sexy steps through various beds, bathroom stalls, parked cars, and even the occasional tops of bedroom dressers to determine who, in fact, the father is.
With help of a set of lover emblazoned baseball cards, Angela is the DNA detective. She and her gay best friend Gabriel use her pregnancy as a catalyst for re-examining their relationships with those closest to them. Angela’s ever-accepting and wise father (James Shigeta) is a scene-stealer. Employing, and sometimes riffing on, familiar romantic comedy tropes, relationships in the film are complex, realistic, and often painfully funny.
Gabriel clumsily tries to grow up and settle down with someone who is good for him. Angela reluctantly and then less reluctantly evaluates the choices that she’s made and the choices she will need to make in order to be a responsible parent. To the outside observer, these bohemians are anything but traditional. However, by the conclusion we see through Angela, Gabriel and their community, family does matter- above all- regardless of its packaging. Laugh-out-loud funny, raunchy, and touching, “The People I’ve Slept With” also boasts a hot indie-power pop soundtrack featuring The Fabulous Miss Wendy, Cindy Alexander, and many others.
Content Advisory: This film contains explicit sexual content.
An award winner at San Francisco International Asian American Film festival, Fog is an understated atmospheric puzzle movie. Wai is an ineffectual young man suffering from amnesia who must figure out who he has been in order to decide the kind of man he will be. Set against the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China, Fog resonates as the story of a man and a city – each in search of identity and memory.
Director: Kit Hui
Run Time: 89 mins
Country of Origin: China / Hong Kong / USA
Cast: Terence Yin, Eugenia Yuan, Camy Ting, Joman Chiang, Yuen Fu Wah, Phat Chan
Language: Cantonese, with English subtitles
San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival: Jury Award for Visual Achievement.
Official Selection: Singapore International Film Festival
An award winner at San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival.
Set against the backdrop of the 10th anniversary of Britain's handover of Hong Kong to China, Fogfollows an ineffectual young man Wai (Hong Kong heartthrob, Terence Yin) through the gorgeous bustling metropolis. Wai is attempting to recover from an amnesia that has wiped out his long term memory. He realizes that that the only way to reconstruct himself is through the city that surrounds him and the reflections of others.
Wai pays visits to his n’er do well high school friend Andy (Phat Chan) and his former high school Principal (Yuen Fu Wah) and finds that he was far from a model student. Regardless of the cost to those around him, Wai continues his pursuit of painful truths. In hopes of triggering a deluge of memory and a return of his complete self, he snoops though his mother’s belongings and reconnects with his past love, Jenny (Eugenia Yuan). Jenny is less than joyful at his return and Wai must learn- or relearn- the art of connection. Piece by piece, Wai unearths surprising revelations and must reconcile the disparities between whom he has been and who he hopes to be.
Winner for visual achievement at SFIAAFF, Fog boast entrancing visuals and alluring look at Hong Kong. Lovely performances and subtle symbolism reward the thoughtful viewer. Fog resonates as the story of a man and a city- each in search of identity and memory.
The Shaft is visually expressive masterpiece following the lives of a small family in a coalmining community in Western China. Straddling the line between resignation and fulfilling deepest desires, the characters must face the challenges of their imprisoned lives.
Director: Zhang Chi
Run Time: 98 min
Cast: Huang Xuan, Luo Deyuan, Zheng Luoqian, Gong Qiyi, Li Chen
Mandarin with English subtitles
2009 Seattle International Film Festival
2009 Palm Springs International Film Festival
Jury Prize Marrakesh Film Festival 2008
The Shaft is co-presented by the Global Film Initiative and is part of the Global Lens 2010 film series. For more information, visit www.globalfilm.org
The Shaft presents the tender stories a tight-knit family in a Western Chinese coalmining town. This intimate set of tales threads the lives of the characters in a tapestry of murky destiny. A visually expressive masterpiece of painful desire and desperation, the film’s three vignettes expose us to a gray world aching in vain for some color.
In this post-Communist society, its members are quietly trapped between the strongholds of an oppressive fate and the insatiable need to fulfill their deepest desires. A father must come to terms with his life’s devotion to the decrepit industry as his time on earth threatens to end. His two adult children face the damned inheritance of this soul-crushing career path and their imprisoned dreams.
Zhang Chi’s feature debut begins following the relationship between the beautiful Jingshui and Daming. Embattled by small-town gossip, the relationship begins to falter as Jingshui must make the decision between the love of one man and the ladder-climbing success offered by another. Just then the narrative turns to the dynamic and extensive tale of Jingshui’s younger brother, Jingsheng. Jinsheng longs to leave the coalmining town and fulfill his dream of being a musician. Despite obvious and detrimental financial and academic shortcomings, he is desperate to escape the grips of his coalmining fate.
Finally, the camera’s gazes at the father, a man desperate to tie up the loose ends of his life as he can feel it slipping away from him. With silhouetted conversations and a painful lack of intimacy between characters, this quiet film’s “stark melancholia achieves a rare authenticity.” Flares in the night sky provide moments of hope before retreating back to the hopelessness that haunts the family. As we watch the film, we cannot help but wonder if escape is truly possible. Perhaps the stories of those in coal country are universal, regardless of geography.
Make Yourself At Home
With equal elements of Vertigo, Fatal Attraction, and Korean art-house horror, Make Yourself at Home is an eerie US debut from luminous Korean superstar, Song Hye-ko. A dash of the supernatural and an unsettling score are highly effective in this tale of identity, fate, and suspense from first-time feature director, Soopum Sohn.
(USA / S. Korea)
Director: Soopum Sohn
Cast: Rob Yang, Song Hye-ko, June Kyoko Lu, Athena Currey, Arno Frisch
Official Selection: San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival
Official Selection: Pusan International Film Festival
Official Selection: San Diego Asian Film Festival
In English and occasional Korean with English subtitles.
With equal elements of Vertigo, Fatal Attraction, and Korean art-house horror, Make Yourself at Homeis an eerie US debut from luminous Korean superstar, Song Hye-ko.
Soopum Sohn directorial debut, Make Yourself at Home, introduces US audiences to some spooky goings on in upper middle-class New Jersey. A creepy prologue sets the stage by giving a cursory glance at the gift –or curse- of shamanism. Protagonist Sook-hye hopes to escape her supernatural fate by building a life for herself far from these traditions. She enters into a brokered marriage with Korean-American Peter (Rob Yang.)
Culture shock awaits her upon her arrival to the wealthy suburb of Montclair, New Jersey. Peter’s domineering mother (June Kyoko Lu) scoffs at Sookhy’s attempts to make herself at home and undermines her place in the household at every turn. Feeling ever more isolated, Sook-hye becomes obsessed with the glamorous and affluent couple next door, Julie (Athena Currey) and John (Arno Frisch). Sookhy even takes the step of taking an English name- Julie.
But all is not settled. In an outing to the Korean Christian church, we learn that a shaman who denies her fate will inevitably cause pain to those around her. In the tradition of the best of Asian horror, no one is spared from these consequences. When Peter dies in a tragic accident Sookhy, née Julie, is left to construct a life with her bitter mother-in-law, who expects that she will return to Korea. Watch for June Kyolo Lu who turns in a truly stand-out performance as a grieving mother, giving a previously unsympathetic character some much-needed humanity.
Nonetheless, Sookhy has no intention of returning to Korea and, instead, focuses her attention on the objects of her desire- her Julie and John. With nothing to lose, the charming Sookhy begins a campaign to insinuate herself into their lives and their home- with tragic consequences.
As the menace builds, a quirky and unexpected score becomes appropriately unnerving. Near perfect lighting and set design offsets the very dark goings-on in these lush homes. With a dash of the supernatural, Make Yourself at Home, artfully shows the conflicts between the material and the spiritual.
A Brand New Life
Abruptly abandoned by her father at a Catholic orphanage, 9 year old Jin-hee learns acceptance and resilience while forming friendships with her fellow orphans. With astonishing performances by its young cast, A Brand New Life is Ounie Lecomte’s moving semi-autobiographical account of a young girl’s attempt to make connections in a world where relationships and indeed, children, seem to be disposable.
Director: Ounie Lecomte
Cast: Kim Sae-ron, Park Do-yeon, Ko A-sung, Kyung-gu Sol
In Korean w/English subtitles
Special Mention: Berlin International Film Festival
Showcase Feature: Tribeca Film Festival
New Voice/New Visions Award: Palm Springs International Film Festival
“An admirably un-manipulative drama about the impermanence of relationships and the resilience of kids in the face of it.” – Variety
9 year old Jin-hee (Kim Sae-ron) adores her father (Kyung-gu Sol) and has pleasantly settled into his brand new life with his new wife. She is obedient and happy in her home. Jin-hee has no want for a brand new life, nevertheless, one will be thrust upon her. Under the pretense of going “traveling” Jin-hee’s father, without warning, abandons her in front of the iron gates of a Catholic orphanage.
So begins Jin-hee’s new life. At first shocked and in denial, she rages at those around her refusing to acknowledge the cruel truth that her father is not going to return for her. With no choice other than to accept reality, Jin-hee cautiously begins to form friendships with her new family in the orphanage. Jin-hee becomes particularly close to 11 year old Sook-hee (Park Do-yeon) as Sook-hee smoothes over the difficult transition for her new friend. As familial as life becomes for the orphans, the truth is that they all hope one day to be adopted into a forever family. When the time comes for Sook-hee to move on, it is truly bittersweet for the orphans left behind.
Excruciatingly natural performances by the child actors in Lecomte's semi-autobiographical film A Brand New Life bring the plight of these forgotten children to life. Emotional authenticity abounds and the unhurried pacing allows room for the audience to fit into the daily routine of the orphans. By the conclusion, Jin-hee learns resilience and preserves for the next chapter of her life. A Brand New Lifeis a moving semi-autobiographical account of a young girl’s attempt to make connections in a world where relationships and indeed, children, seem to be disposable.
The Mountain Thief
The Mountain Thief is a story born of both desperation and hope. Julio and Ingo, a father and son living in desperate poverty in the real-life slum of Payatas, find themselves at the center of a village scandal. The Mountain Thief, “reveals the unimaginable realities of people living in extreme poverty, and what happens when their tenuous hold on hope and survival is threatened.”
Director: Gerry Balasta
Cast: Randy Catonjay, Manuel Gonzaga, Jr., John Richard Casas, Reynaldo R. Cinc
Language: Tagalog with English subtitles
World Premiere at San Francisco Asian American International Film Festival
The Mountain Thief is a story born of both desperation and hope. Director Gerry Balasta takes on the neorealist tradition to create this film about a small family living in a world of mountainous trash and towns made of society’s scavengers. Using a docudrama approach, the actual residents and scavengers of Payatas, Philippines, the world’s largest dumpsite town, took on the task of acting in the film. Reminiscent of Italian neorealist films with its use of non-actors, who were merely graduates of a local acting class set up by Balasta himself, the film’s emotional impact is overwhelming.
The story revolves around Julio, a widower from a distant town who came to seek desperate refuge in the hopeless slums of Payatas with his disabled son, Ingo. Settling in the slum village of “Little Hope,” (as the called by the locals), Juilio and Ingo spend their days scavenging on top of mountains of trash. Surrounded by shacks filled with hungry people, the father and son team continue subsisting and searching for pieces of metal and cans that can be sold for pocket change. Pocket change is all that’s required to keep them alive another day. Julio and Ingo maintain this daily routine, doing their best to make themselves a part of this desperate society. As they begin to construct a home in the mountains of trash, a scandal erupts in Little Hope- with Julio standing at the center of it all. He and his son find themselves falling deeper and deeper into hopelessness.
The characters/real people climb mountains of trash, scavenging for materials that can be sold for survival, knowing the action of the film is but a step away from their day-to-day lives. As an audience, we look at our own lives and admire, with wondering awe, how they are able endure. A tale of survival and love, of despair and triumph, The Mountain Thief, “reveals the unimaginable realities of people living in extreme poverty, and what happens when their tenuous hold on hope and survival is threatened.”
Vacation is the story Toru (Kaoru Kobayashi), a middle-aged guard at a high-security prison and Kaneda (Hidetoshi Nishijima) a condemned prisoner. By assisting in Kaneda’s execution, Toru earns time off that he uses for his honeymoon. An Official Selection at the New York Asian Film Festival, Vacation presents an austere and intense vision of two men set upon on parallel paths: one that is tragic and one that is hopeful.
Director: Hajime Kadoi
Run Time: 115 mins
Cast: Kaoru Kobayashi, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Nene Otsuka, Shusei Ito
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Winner, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor: Yokohama Film Festival
Official Selection: New York Asian Film Festival
Effective use of fractured chronology thoughtfully draws us into the story of the relationship between Toru (Kaoru Kobayashi), a middle-aged guard at a high-security prison and Kaneda (Hidetoshi Nishijima) a condemned prisoner. Intercutting scenes of Toru’s personal life and professional life, the film gives a full picture of his character as a dutiful, kind, and lonely man. When given a chance at romantic contentment, if not bliss, through an arranged marriage to a pretty, young divorced mother, Mika (Nene Otsuka), Toru is as nervous as a school boy and anxious to begin his new life. These moments belie a soft-heartedness that he must keep in check in his work. However, it is with Kaneda and the other guards that we see occasional cracks in his stoic façade. The cadre of guards provides an entire ensemble of strong supporting performances.
Kaneda has spent the better part of his life withering away in prison sketching beautiful portraits and cityscapes. In an early scene Kaneda asks to stops his pleas for clemency; he appears to be resigned to his fate. It remains to be seen if he believes this fate will truly end in execution.
Vacation refers to time off earned by Toru in exchange for assisting with Kaneda’s execution. The bureaucratic and institutional process of the ending a man’s life is shown with an unblinking, yet entirely humane, gaze. Each of the now-familiar guards has a role to play in Kaneda’s death.
Ultimately, Toru and Kaneda are inextricably linked by the fact of this death- and through the vacation that is the reward for this sacrifice.
The Harimaya Bridge
Daniel Holder (Ben Guillory) is forced to reconcile own prejudices when his estranged son Mickey dies in a traffic accident in Japan. The Harimaya Bridge is a gorgeously photographed and quietly acted story of cultures clashing and families coalescing. Watch for a cameo from Executive Producer Danny Glover.
Country of Origin: Japan/USA
Director: Aaron Woolfolk
Run Time: 120 min.
Cast: Ben Guillory, Saki Takaoka, Misa Shimizu, Danny Glover, Victor Grant
Language: English and Japanese with English and Japanese subtitles
“It is a unique, complex, consciousness-raising accomplishment.” - LA Times
The Harimaya Bridge tells a pan-generational, pan-continental story of fathers, sons, and cultural awakening. Daniel Holder (Ben Guillory) is haunted by the loss of his father in World War II’s Pacific Theater. When his already estranged son, Mickey decides to make his own way in the world by taking a teaching job in rural Japan, the gulf deepens.
Daniel is forced to reconcile own prejudices when Mickey dies. With no other choice but to visit the site of his son’s death and the country where his father was lost, Ben comes face to face with a rural society deeply steeped in tradition, suspicious of outsiders and even more so of African Americans. While collecting Mickey’s artwork, Ben discovers that he barely knew his son at all. Mickey had constructed an entire life for himself in a place so far from home with people so different that those Ben would call family. Final revelations call all of this into question in this gorgeously photographed, quietly acted film. A true intercultural gem.
Executive producer, Danny Glover on The Harimaya Bridge: “The idea that it's not governors and public officials who change the world, but the thoughts and feelings of everyone in society. I would like this film to be one of the triggers for people to think about that.”
The lives of three unlikely friends takes a wild turn as a series of small crimes spins wildly out of control.
Director: Raja Menon
Run Time: 97 min
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Vijay Raaz, Arjun Mathur, Violante Placido, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Jayati Bhatia, Benjamin Gilani and Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwa
Hindi with English subtitles
45th Chicago International Film Festival
Featuring a talented ensemble cast, director Raja Menon has entered a realm of storytelling where very few storytellers dare step foot. Barah Aana uses its own formula to tell the story of three unlikely friends, whose lives take an unexpected turn, leading them into a world of cat-and-mouse crime.
Set in today’s Mumbai, a driver (Naseeruddin Shah), a watchman (Vijay Raaz), and a waiter (Arjun Mathur) are our humorous protagonists whose lives begin the straddle the real and the surreal. Wonderfully acted, Menon’s opus scores with the accuracy of the characters and their ability to relate to anyone living in the world of metropolis. The older driver’s stoicism and dependability juxtaposes wonderfully with the watchman’s mischievous yet weak nature and the waiter’s confident, attractive ambition. The stark differences in each of these men fuels constant, humorous and sometimes dark moments of banter between them.
But, the lives of the three roommates take a drastic turn as the watchman finds himself in an improbable crime, fueled by his frustration. After getting pick-pocketed on the way to the train station and losing all of the money for his ill son, his emotional breakdown is interrupted when he knocks out a harassing drunkard. This former wet-blanket discovers an unfound confidence in himself and an easy way to make money and he tries to convince the others to participate in a series of small, low risk kidnapping crimes.
As the wheels of crime begin to turn and spiral out of control, so do the characters. Adroitly executed, the crimes prove to be madly entertaining as we watch our three men on screen begin to change before they lose the grips on their lives. The climax of this engrossing film will have your eyes transfixed on the screen and your mind racing with questions on how the film will end. With perfect and beautiful cinematography and first-rate acting, Barah Aana will leave you begging for more.
Cooking With Stella
A sub continental “Upstairs/Downstairs” from Dipil and Deepa Mehta, this comically delicious exploration of class, ethnicity, and gender premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and has been winning rave reviews ever since. Guileless Canadian diplomats in Dehli are unknowing foils for their wily household cook in this hilarious and touching satirical caper.
Country of Origin: India
Director: Dilip Mehta
Cast: Don McKellar, Seema Biswas, Lisa Ray, Vansh Bhardwaj, Shriya Saran
Language: English and Hindi with English subtitles
Opening Night Selection: Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA)
Premier: Toronto International Film Festival
This comically delicious exploration of class, ethnicity, and gender premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and has been winning rave reviews ever since. Brother/sister team Dilip Mehta (The Forgotten Woman) and Deepa Mehta (Water, Earth, and Fire) have written and instant satirical classic in Cooking with Stella.
When Canadian diplomat couple Michael (Don McKellar) and Maya (Lisa Ray) relocates to Dehli, they inherit an army of servants. The most intriguing and talented of these is Stella, (Seema Biswas) the charming, if unassuming, household cook who has outlasted many diplomats in the well-appointed Canadian compound. Traditional household roles are upended when Stella learns that it is Michael, not Maya that will be home with the children. At first, Stella is uncomfortable with the breach of protocol when Michael, a former chef, makes himself too cozy in her kitchen. However, Stella soon warms to his flattery when he asks her to teach him the art of South Indian cooking.
Soon, we learn that there is more to Stella than meets the eye. As Stella continues with her plotting right under the noses of the stereotypically nice Canadian couple, a morally upright new nanny, Tannu, (Shriya Saran) arrives from the country. Yet, intrigue awaits even the guileless Tannu. Heroic Anthony (Vansh Bhardwaj) arrives on the scene just in time to stir her heart.
There is more than meets the eye in Dilip Mehta’s social satire as well. In Cooking with Stella, Mehta examines both the servers and the served with equal parts sympathy and critique. The luxurious diplomatic haven is contrasted with the real life of the street markets outside the compound’s walls. This comedy of manners culminates in Stella cooking up her wiliest scheme yet and Cooking with Stella concludes in an ending both satisfying and poignant.
Over the course of a single teeming Bombay summer, three young artists become close friends. Coming from very different backgrounds, they struggle with the expectations of family and with a youth culture in transition. The fleeting nature of relationships and youthful idealism simmer just under the surface of this modern tale of self-discovery.
English and Hindi with Hindi subtitles
Run Time: 102 min
Cast: Gaurav Dwivedi, Jatin Goswami, Samrat Chakrabarti ,Tannishtha Chatterjee
Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress Awards: Mahindra Indo-American Arts Council Film Festival New York 2009
Best Film Award: New York City Indian Film Festival
A quiet and moving film that captures the complexities of youth and Mumbai’s rapid modernization, Bombay Summer tells the intimate story of three friends caught in the throes of love, heartache and self-discovery. Over the course of a single teeming Bombay summer, three young artists become close friends. Coming from very different backgrounds, they struggle with the expectations of family and with a youth culture in transition. At the center of this feature-debut from director Joseph Mathew Varghese is Geeta (played by the amazingly talented Chatterjee), a young career woman with an adroit nature towards balancing the needs of herself, her family and life in ever-modernizing India. But life is starting to reach out to her in ways she never knew and she is letting herself take its hand.
This summer she is in the midst of an affair with Jaidev, a starving young artist adjusting to a writer’s life in which he feeds himself, and not fed by the silver spoon that he is so used to. Growing together, the evolving duo befriends Madan, a commercial artist trying to make ends meet, and their already delicate lives take yet another unexpected turn. Despite their differences, the three form a friendship whose strength will be tested and possibly disintegrated. When Madan begins to work for the underground on the side to make some extra money, the consequences of his decisions will come to threaten the bond these three have formed and push their commitment to one another in the face of betrayal.
Featuring an incredible cast and breathtaking cinematography, the melodious soundtrack by French composer Mathias Duplessy and an improv-driven script, the fleeting nature of relationships and youthful idealism simmer just under the surface of this modern tale of self-discovery.
About Elly begins as a deceptively innocuous story of three content middle-class Persian families enjoying a weekend getaway on the Caspian Sea. The getaway turns catastrophic, however, when the titular Elly, disappears. Throughout the search for Elly we find that nothing is what it seems. At the conclusion, each character’s truth, as well as a piece of our own, is revealed.
Country of Origin: Iran / France
Director: Asghar Farhadi.
Run Time: 119 mins
Language: Farsi with English subtitles
Cast: Golshifteh Farahani, Mani Haghighi, Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti
Winner of Berlin Film Festival’s Silver Bear
Best Picture at the Tribeca Film Festival
About Elly begins as a deceptively innocuous story of three content middle-class Persian families enjoying a weekend getaway on the Caspian Sea. Sepideh (Golshifteh Farahani) and Amir (Mani Haghighi) invite the titular Elly (Taraneh Alidoosti), their daughter’s pretty and sweet kindergarten teacher to join their close knit clique of college friends for the holiday from the hustle of Tehran. Unbeknownst to Elly, Sepideh has arranged the trip as a romantic set up with their recently divorced friend Ahmad. Ahmad, who has recently returned from Germany is anxious to find a Persian wife.
The outing begins blissfully and we are lulled into feeling that we’re watching a lovingly photographed travelogue peopled by happy Persian bourgeoisie. However, at about the 1/3 mark things begin to unravel and the travelogue turns into a nightmare. All is never what it seems in the polite and often inauthentic exchanges between those in this well educated group of friends. Deceptions and subterfuge compound and soon spiral out of control as the revelers realize that fate has intervened and Elly has mysteriously disappeared without a trace.
Casual lies, at times told only through shear necessity, are the result of a faux-politeness. Other apparently minor deceptions are the kind told every day and have to do with the gender roles and honor. Other lies reveal larger truths about class differences. Suspicion is everywhere and the only clues to Elly's disappearance are given by the small children in the group. As they try to piece together the circumstances surrounding her disappearance, nothing is certain. When people are so viscerally connected to their own deceptions, truth is nearly impossible to find.
Elly’s disappearance serves as a prism through which each character’s truths are revealed despite their best efforts. Moreover, her mystery serves as a prism for the audience as we examine our own assumptions. As the conclusion is revealed, questions of personal responsibility linger and certainly no one will be able to forget about Elly.
A languid and steamy Hanoi summer is the backdrop for this meditative piece about longing, desire, and changing social mores in modern Vietnam. An unhappy marriage is at the center of this brilliant and atmospheric ensemble film full of plot twists and subtle eroticism. Burning up festival screens all over the world, Adrift, drops us into the relationship between buried desires and those barely made manifest.
Director: Bui Thac Chuyen
Cast: Johnny Nguyen, Linh Dan Pham, Do Thi Hai Yen
Language: Vietnamese with English subtitles
Official Selection: Toronto International Film Festival
Official Selection: Venice International Film Festival
Official Selection: Venice International Film Festival
Adrift is co-presented by the Global Film Initiative and is part of the Global Lens 2010 film series. For more information, visit www.globalfilm.org.
A languid and steamy Hanoi summer is the backdrop for this meditative ensemble piece. Adrift is about longing, desire, and changing social mores in modern Vietnam.
Disregarding the advice of her wise and worldly best friend, Cam (Linh-Dan Pham), Duyen (Do Thi Hai Yen) hastily marries Hai (Duy Khoa Nguyen), a cherubic cab driver, one rain soaked day. Duyen makes a glowing and beautiful bride, but one whose marriage will not be consummated on her wedding night. She waits for her new husband while he prefers to drink himself into a useless stupor. Thus begins the marriage.
Hai and Duyen’s coupling is apparently companionate rather than romantic. A pampered mama’s boy, Hai seems to take no physical interest in his wife. Duyen becomes increasingly aware of the emptiness pervading her. Though, this emptiness is not hers alone. Adrift deftly portrays longing and unmet desires within each of its characters. Duyen turns to Cam and confesses that she is a wife in name only.
Cam, a more complex character than the sweet, obedient Duyen, has desires of her own. Yet Cam’s desires are unacceptable in Vietnamese society. Confused and heartbroken herself, Cam impetuously sets into motion a series of events that cannot be undone. Through several surprising plot twists, a would-be love triangle morphs into something far more encompassing and far more difficult to unpack.
Often cast in candlelight or half shadow, the depictions of the characters serve as stunning metaphor for the darkness with which each character is struggling. Some are fully aware of their struggle while others simply act without understanding the motivation. The suffocating tone of the film is consistent with the stifling summer and ultimately with the unbearable weight of emptiness and passion. Understated eroticism is heartbreakingly rendered without ever being manipulative.
Burning up festival screens all over the world, Adrift, drops us into the relationship between buried desires and those barely made manifest.
The Road To Elephant Pass
Adapted from the renowned novel by Nihal de Silva, The Road from Elephant Pass is a war time road movie that shines the light of individual connection in the shadow of the Sri Lankan civil conflict. While the backdrop is war, the theme is clearly humanity and connection in constant struggle with conflict and division. With gorgeous cinematography and strong lead performances, The Road from Elephant Pass is an adventure movie with a soul.
Director: Chandran Rutnam
Cast: Suranga Ranawaka, Ashan Dias, Athula Pathirana, Kumar Mirchandani, Priyantha Rambukenage
Language: Sinhalese and Tamil with English subtitles
Sri Lanka's official submission to 82nd Academy Award's Foreign Language film category in 2010
The official entry from the Sri Lankan Embassy is adapted from the renowned novel by Nihal de Silva.The Road from Elephant Pass is a war time road movie that shines the light of individual connection in the shadow of the Sri Lankan civil conflict.
Captain Wasantha’s (Ashan Dias) mundane assignment to transfer an informant, Kamala (Suranga Ranawaka) transforms into a nightmare when the Tamil Tigers launch a massive attack in the peninsula targeting the camp at Elephant Pass. They are faced with no choice but to escape together through rebel held wilderness. Their journey continues as they cross the abandoned Wilpattu National Park on foot. As they start the journey, they are sworn enemies. They share different ideas, politics, and even daily habits. In moments of relative calm they passionately discuss their opposing views and even belie their objectives. However, in order to survive the ordeal, they furtively begin to gain each other’s trust.
The army captain and the activist tread carefully toward each other as they encounter countless dangers, both physical and emotional. With moments of a true adventure movie, and painstaking attention to the nature around them Kamala and Captain Wasantha must overcome violent threats.
While the backdrop is war, the theme is clearly humanity and connection in constant struggle with conflict and division. With gorgeous cinematography and strong lead performances, The Road from Elephant Pass is an adventure movie with a soul.
Celebrated as one of Sundance’s 10 best, Taqwacores tells the story of a group of Muslim students in Buffalo, NY who have cobbled together a unique and refreshingly inclusive view of faith, culture, and identity- all set to a rockin’ punk soundtrack.
Director: Eyad Zahra
Cast: Bobby Naderi, Noureen DeWulf, Dominic Rains, Nav Mann, Ian Tran, Volkan Eryaman, Tony Yalda, Rasika Mathur, Ann Marie Leighton, John Charles Mayer, Denise George
Official Selection: Sundance Film Festival
Official Selection: SXSW Film Festival
Official Selection: Cleveland International Film Festival
“Punk and Islam are not as far apart as you’d think.”
Content Advisory: This film contains explicit sexual content and some violence.
Celebrated as one of Sundance’s ten best, The Taqwacores is provocative and challenging. The narrative is seen mainly through the eyes of Yusuf (Bobby Naderi) a first generation, George Clooney- handsome Pakistani engineering student. While studying at a Buffalo, NY university, he seeks Muslim-friendly off campus housing. Yusuf happens upon an artistically ramshackle apartment inhabited by a diverse group of Muslim students. Yusuf then finds that the Taqwacores have cobbled together a unique and refreshingly inclusive view of faith, culture, and identity- all set to a rockin’ punk soundtrack. Yusuf’s journey is our journey. Each character is fully fleshed out and fully human. As Yusuf becomes acquainted with Rabeya (Noureen DeWulf), constantly clad in a burqa, we learn that feminism and humor have a unique niche in the Tacqwacore Islamic vision. Sectarian tensions are played out between Umar (Nav Mann) and Amazing Ayuub (Volkan Eryaman.) Rejection of dogma and authority provide a path for self discovery for Yusuf through the relationships he develops with skate-punk scensters. These include; Sufi hero, Jehngir (Dominic Rains), stoner Fasiq (Ian Tran) and anglo convert Lynn (Ann Leighton). Traditionally taboo topics such as sexual orientation and gender identification are comically and touchingly examined through encounters with Muzzamil (Tony Yalda) a recent San Francisco transplant to the house.
Jengahir’s vision of an all-inclusive Tacqwacore punk concert comes to life over the winter break. Finally, tensions simmer and explode in a classical tragedy climax that will leave you breathless.