New Talent in Asian Film
Nov. 5, 2015
The Tokyo International Film Festival has been going for 30 years and is the largest such event in Asia. This year's Festival drew more than 60,000 visitors over 10 days in late October. They watched more than 200 films from around the world. The Grand Prix went to a film from Brazil. But the festival is also an opportunity for people in Tokyo to see the latest trends in Asian films.
Festival organizers have been expanding efforts to promote movies from around the region. They have teamed up with the Shanghai Film Festival. The Asian movie industry is producing many talented young filmmakers.
In recent years, the Tokyo festival has focused on discovering young and emerging Asian filmmakers. Viewers this year saw several debut features from East Asian directors in their 30s.
A Chinese film called A Simple Goodbye won the Spirit of Asia Award.
When the main character, Shan Shan, returns home after studying in London, she finds out her father has been diagnosed with lung cancer and doesn’t have long to live.
Degena Yun directed the film and performed the leading role. She is from Inner Mongolia and studied filmmaking in London and Beijing.
It is a semi-autobiographical story in which she subtly and movingly portrays the relationship between father and daughter.
Another Chinese film, The Ark of Mr. Chow, is set following the introduction in 1978 of a system in which children with high IQs are sent to special classes. The story takes place in 1998 at X'ian Jiaotong University, and is a lighthearted tale about friendship and love between five students.
The director Xiao Yang is a graduate of the university. He began attending its special classes at the age of 15. He appeared at a press conference in Tokyo and laughed when the interviewer asked if he was a genius.
"No, I'm not, and it makes me a little uncomfortable to be called one," he said. "It's true that some of my classmates were absolutely brilliant, but I was just an average kid. I was probably just lucky."
In the film, a character named Wu Wei, who is based on the director, studies for an International Mathematics Contest with his classmates, but grows frustrated with his limited abilities and develops feelings of inferiority.
Xiao said of the film: "We live in an age in which people are constantly told that they must be better than others, that they must work hard and achieve superior results. But most people are like Wu Wei in that no matter how hard they try, things don't work out the way they hoped. That's normal. Does it mean that we’ve all failed? I don't think so."
Lazy Hazy Crazy is the directorial debut by Yee-sum Luk. The film illustrates modern life in Hong Kong. It's about friendship and conflict between three teenage girls, and addresses controversial issues such as teenage prostitution.
The director and leading actresses spoke to the crowd after the Tokyo screening. All three actresses made their debuts in this film after auditioning for the roles.
"When I wrote the script, I felt that I needed to find actresses who really seemed like high school students, because the movie is about friendships between people in high school," said Luk. "Professional actresses are good, but they lack the qualities I was looking for. That's why I decided to hold an audition for amateurs."
Actress Fish Liew said, "The script was revised many times during pre-production and even during filming. The characters became more three-dimensional because the director lived with us and observed us in our daily lives, down to the smallest detail."
Young people also feature in the debut work of 30-year-old Taiwanese director, Sunny Yu. It is based on real events.
The Kids is about a teenage couple who quit school and start to work part-time to support their newborn child.
The boy's mother has gambling debts, and they are eventually forced into a life of crime.
Most of the audience at the screening was middle-aged.
"It made me realize that being a teenage parent is difficult, whether you live in Japan or Taiwan," said one woman at the interview session held after the screening.
Another said, "It broke my heart to see this movie, because I have a teenage child."
The film ends on a scene from when the couple was filled with dreams and hopes. What was the director’s intention in ending on such a note?
Yu says, "Even if they're facing a cruel reality, a beautiful past that was filled with hope and love for each other still exists." He added, “Although their lives are difficult now, their memories won’t change. I think it's still possible for them to hope for a bright future.”
Through these movies of young directors, we can see a bright future for Asian filmmaking.