February 22 2016
The Asia House Film Festival starts today and there are two films, one main and one short, which fly the flag for South Asia among the nearly 20 films in all on offer…
TWO FILMS from South Asia will screen at this year’s Asia House Film Festival, which opens tonight.
“Mina Walking” is the UK premiere of a film set in Afghanistan, and made by Canadian Afghan director Yosef Baraki. It is about 12-year-old girl adjusting to life following the death of her mother at the hands of the Taliban.
The new educational opportunities afforded to girls like her are tempting, but can Mina balance that with the demands and expectations made on her by her heroin addicted father and her elderly grandfather.
Shot in semi-realistic style and made with non-professional actors, it’s a rare opportunity to see what life is like for a young girl growing up in a society where life for some is being completely transformed.
Jasper Sharp, the artistic director of the Asia House Film Festival, told www.asianculturevulture.com: “It’s something we don’t normally get to see and is based on the life of a 12-year-old girl in contemporary Kabul.”
“I wanted films that represent different cultures and look at countries where they have no real film industry.”
“Mina Walking” will screen this Sunday (February 28) at 6pm, along with the short Armenian film, “How to Cross.”
Director Baraki will feature in a Skype Q&A after the screening of his film at the Regent Street Cinema.
Also showing at the Asia House Film Festival (AHFF) on Sunday (February 28) is “Panchagavya”. It is a short which examines the plight of cows as they wander around Bikaner in Rajasthan. Made by Japanese filmmaker Hana Kitasei and Indian Shriya Pilgaonkar, the film in Hindi (with English subtitles) examines the status of cows, why they are worshipped as ‘Gau Mata’ – mother cow and what their freedom to roam means for city dweller and conservationist alike.
Sharp commented: “It’s basically a documentary following the cows. If you’ve ever been to India, you’re always struck by the cows wandering around, even in big cities such as Delhi, and you might ask, ‘who owns them?’
“This is quite an insight and shows the connection between man and nature with cows kind of somewhere in between.”
On the same bill as “Panchagavya” is “The Monk”, a rare feature from Burma and made by prize-winning director Maw Niang. The Myanmar-Czech production explores the pressures on a young monk who feels the call of ordinary life against the monastic one.
This year’s festival which runs until March 5, is themed around ‘Breaking Boundaries’.
It features two films from much acclaimed Kazakhstan director Yermek Tursunov.
“Stranger”, the country’s official entry to the Oscars, opens this festival this evening (February 22).
Recreating the country of 1930s and under Soviet rule, it shows one man’s response to a purge when his family is killed off and he by takes to the hills and lives in a world mostly of splendid isolation.
The film released, last year, gets its first UK screening and is recorded in a special sound format known as Dolby Atmos.
Sharp told us: “The main character’s father is killed and he flees and goes to mountains but how divorced can you be from civilisation living a kind of wild man existence?
“It is beautifully shot and it has Dolby Atmos sound which gives it something else. There are only about 10 cinemas in the UK which can handle Dolby Atmos.”
“I am very excited about this, the sound effects will be pretty special and on the big screen it will be massive.”
Tonight’s gala opening takes place at the Ham Yard Hotel cinema in Soho, central London. Tursunov and producer Kanat Torebay will appear at the Q&A after the screening.
Another of Tursunov’s films also screens during the festival. There will be a European premiere for his “Little Brother” at the recently refurbished Regent Street cinema in the heart of London.
Sharp said he was hugely excited by the venues open to the festival this year.
“The Regent Street cinema is where cinema was born in England. It’s been completely refurbished and while it’s been made to look like an Edwardian cinema – it has that historical décor but also a state of the art cinema theatre.”
“Little Brother”, a tale of two brothers who find themselves on different tracks, come to the AHFF on Thursday (February 25).
One of the films that might well resonate with South Asians and those with that heritage is “Seoul Searching”, which charts the travails of a different diaspora.
A romantic teen comedy made by American Korean director Benson Lee it explores the differences between those born and brought up outside Korea but with that heritage and those living in Korea.
Set in a summer camp which mixes both groups it shows how the same ethnic heritage doesn’t always lead to shared understanding or sympathies.
“It’s from his own personal experience and is a culture clash comedy about people who are ethnically Korean but culturally American, coming up against each other,” explained Sharp.
Another of the films he highlighted to www.asianculturevulture.com is “Factory Boss” by Chinese Zhang Wei. It looks at what happens when factory bosses do a deal with a US toy firm and find themselves hit by a falling Chinese currency and a demand for even lower prices from its clients.
“Factory Boss” shows on Friday (February 26) at the Regent Street Cinema.
Sharp also picked out “The Case of Hanna and Alice”, an anime style feature, which is something of pre-requel to Japanese director Shunji Iwai’s live action 2004 film of the same title.
It was shot using a digital rotoscope process where real life actors and sets are converted to an anime style presentation.
In all, there are 11 feature films, three documentaries (including two being shown tomorrow and the day after at Asia House itself) and five short films. The films come from Japan, China, Kazakhstan, Myanmar and Afghanistan.
The festival closes on March 5 with Singaporana Day – with three films representing the western perspective of 1960s and 1970s and how generally the locals were looked down upon and discriminated against in their own land. The three films, “Pretty Polly”, “The Virgin Soldiers” and “Saint Jack” will all screen at the Film Museum in Kennington, South London.