Pulse-pounding crime capers, gentle and intimate dramas, gothic mysteries, tender love stories and powerful social realism – all these films immerse the viewer for a couple of hours in the sights and sounds of the many areas of the vast and diverse Asia Pacific, putting cultural flourish on universal tales of hope and terror, faith and enlightenment, oppression and freedom.
Republic of Korea
175 mins | Unclassified 15+
“Taut, riveting and visually striking… could easily be Park’s tour de force as both director and actor” – Hollywood Reporter
In a remote mountain village, Jung-chul dreams of nothing more than building a secure, concrete home for his family. But when he’s fired from a local construction site, these humble aspirations slip ever further from Jung-chul’s grasp, throwing his meagre life into tumbling, unstoppable chaos.
Prodigious writer-director-actor Park Jung-bum (The Journals of Musan) unleashes a cinematic masterclass with Alive, his remarkably assured sophomore outing. An uncompromising, rigorously measured portrait of life at the margins of a hypermodern Korea, Alive takes the simplest of stories and reveals its infinite complexities – a powerful, universal emblem of the all-too-human costs that come with inexorable progress.
Director Park Jung-bum in attendance on 29 Nov.
Japan, France, Germany
113 mins | Unclassified 15+
“Naomi Kawase’s ode to the simple joys in life (…) a delicate drama” – The Hollywood Reporter
The sweet red bean jam called an is the lifeblood of the little pastry shop run by the taciturn and dour Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase). When an old lady, Tokue (Kirin Kiki), badgers him to let her help out in his kitchen, he politely refuses – but when he tastes her an recipe, he relents. Before long, the shop is flourishing – but the recipe is not the only secret the wise septuagenarian is hiding.
Adapted from Dorian Sukegawa’s 2013 novel, Naomi Kawase’s tender and intimate drama is a celebration of the power of human beings to unite and overcome anything in their path.
Black Horse Memories
Bîranîna hespa reş
Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkey
90 mins | Unclassified 15+
In a land where their language is smothered by the authorities, a band of young people are valiantly fighting to keep their mother tongue – and their culture – alive. This is Turkish Kurdistan, where the teaching of Kurdish is strictly forbidden. In the face of this unjust dictum, a group of friends secretly print and distribute textbooks – but it’s a dangerous business punctuated by violent, often murderous struggles.
When one of them, Aseke (Dimen Zandi), is killed, her friends vow to honour her last requests: one of which is to travel into the remote mountains to reclaim the black horse she owned as a child, and bring it back so they might meet one last time before she is laid to rest.
The Coffin in the Mountain
People’s Republic of China
119 mins | Unclassified 15+
“An entertaining and smartly written indie” – Twitch Film
When a half-burnt body is found on the fringes of a small village deep in a dense forest, the lives of three of its inhabitants intertwine in this thrilling, blackly comic debut feature from young director Xin Yukun.
This suspenseful whodunit expertly weaves together the stories of an accidental killer on the run, an abused woman plotting a murder, and an upstanding village chief thrust into the middle of the mystery. Shifting the focus between these three linked strands, Xin’s cleverly penned script spins a subtle web of cause and effect, exploring how just one act can irrevocably alter the fate of an entire community.
Winner of the Grand Prix at 2014 Warsaw Film Festival.
Writer and director Xin Yukun in attendance Nov 27.
Dark in the White Light
Sulanga Gini Aran
Sri Lanka, France
82 mins | Unclassified 15+
Sri Lankan filmmaker Vimukthi Jayasundara turns a lens on life and death through a trio of very different men in the philosophical Dark in the White Light.
A young man turns to Buddhism for spiritual enlightenment to stave off mortality and become a healer. A greedy doctor (played by APSA Academy member Mahendra Perera) runs an unscrupulous trade in human organs, sold by the desperate and bought by the fearful. And then there is the surgeon – a lifeline to the sick and dying by day, at night he prowls the streets, giving himself over to pleasure and pain, brutally raping women and indulging his inner Mister Hyde.
Recently in main competition at the Locarno International Film Festival, Jayasundara’s film explores the mindset of the people who live in the shadow of death.
99 mins | Unclassified 15+
“Visually arresting mood piece … (marks) first-time writer-director Grant Scicluna as someone to watch” – The Hollywood Reporter
James (Reef Ireland) is a jailbird at 17, having done time for drowning a little boy when he himself was a child. It’s an incident shrouded in uncertainty – a seizure muddies James’ own memory of the boy’s final moments, and the body was never found. Estranged from his family, driven by remorse and seeking redemption, he travels back to his small hometown on the banks of the Yarra River looking for answers – and encounters the damaged and manic Anthony (Tom Green), who was with him during the killing.
Slow-burning and evocative, this slice of Australian Gothic is an impressive debut.
Director Grant Scicluna in attendance.
The Gate of Departure
65 mins | Unclassified 15+
“A poetic meditation on mortality” – The Hollywood Reporter
In the Australian Premiere of Egyptian filmmaker Karim Hanafy’s striking debut feature, three generations of a family are held captive by guilt and grief.
In a drab house, a son has grown up without his father, watched over by his heartbroken single mother and his widowed grandmother. The three are all prisoners of their own making, shut-ins – but the haunted boy, who has forgotten how long it’s been since he’s been outside, clings desperately to the hope of escaping and making a life outside these walls. Full of sombre beauty and quiet emotion, this sublimely moving film is haunting and unique.
87 mins | Unclassified 15+
On the edge of the Caspian Sea, Elza and her shady fisherman husband Dzhiga are carving out a life together – but Elza is dreaming of escaping to the city beyond her tiny snowbound town, where superstition has as much weight as science.
While he is at work, she plans to be gone by the time he gets home, but she is too timid to go through with it. And then one day, he doesn’t come home at all, and she unexpectedly has been gifted with the power to change her life.
A feature debut from young writer-director Ella Manzheeva, featuring the affecting performance by international fashion model Eugeniya Mandzhieva, The Gulls is also the first film to be shot in the Republic of Kalmykia in 25 years.
106 mins | Unclassified 18+
A group of poor immigrant labourers are arrested and gruesomely tortured by brutal policemen who will do anything to wring a confession from their quarry in this chilling tale based on true events.
Stripped and beaten by sadistic monsters in uniform, the innocent Tamil-speaking workers can’t even understand the questions flung at them by the Indian officers.
Enduring the raw agony of each savage pummelling, they resist breaking as long as they can – until an honest cop steps in to set them free. That’s when things get worse, as they are drawn into a complex quagmire of political intrigue and faced with a merciless system that will do anything to silence them. Premiered in competition (Orizzonti) at this year’s Venice International Film Festival.
A Minor Leap Down
Paridan Az Ertefa-e Kam
Islamic Republic of Iran, France
88 mins | Unclassified 15+
“a filmmaker preparing to rise in the ranks” – The Hollywood Reporter
Almost halfway through her pregnancy, Nahal (Negar Javaherian) learns the worst: Her baby has died inside her, and must be removed. Compounding her misery, she can’t express her tragedy to her status-obsessed middle-class Iranian family – and they don’t want to listen. She silently, robotically resumes her bleak daily grind, knowing her family will force her back on the antidepressants she was taking before her pregnancy. Before long, her silence turns to revolution as she tries to break free of both repression and depression.
Winner of the FIPRESCI prize for best film in Panorama at this year’s Berlinale, A Minor Leap Down is a subtle, nuanced work that illuminates a growing global mental health problem.
Actress and APSA International Jury Member Negar Javaherian in attendance.
The Road Called Life
Mae-mil-ggot, Un-su Jo-eun Nal, Geu-ri-go Bom-bom
Republic of Korea
90 mins | Unclassified 15+
“such exquisite animation deserves to be seen” – Eastern Kicks
From the creators of beloved animation Greed Halicize, directing duo, Ahn Jae-hun and Han Hye-jin breathe life into three traditional Korean tales in their magnificent omnibus.
The first, When the Buckwheat Flowers Bloom, is set in the 1940s and follows an elderly market-seller as he entertains his travel companions with stories of love and loss. The comical Spring Spring sees a naive 1920s field-labourer move in with his master’s family at the promise of marrying the master’s daughter. While in A Lucky Day, set in 1930s, a poverty-stricken rickshaw driver works to support his ill wife and child.
From a painstakingly real rendering of the streets of Seoul to a field of wildflowers hand drawn petal by petal, The Road Called Life captures the beauty and grief of life and everything in between.
85 mins | Unclassified 15+
“A gripping psychological drama … an intense, very well-performed tale” – Variety
It’s been ten years since his little daughter went missing, but the tortured Inspector Joshi (Adil Hussain, Life of Pi) hasn’t given up the hunt. Every night he’s out in the trash-choked back alleys of Mumbai, desperately searching for her. When a shadowy figure leads him to a red light bar named ‘Paradise’, he swings open the door on a sordid world where children are sold into sexual slavery for the scum of the earth – but is his discovery real, or a nightmarish vision bubbling up from his frantic, haunted brain?
With more than a nod to film noir, director Partho Sen-Gupta’s blistering psych-thriller blurs the boundaries between reality and dreams.
97 mins | Unclassified 15+
“a choral film shot in urgent, handheld, docu-drama style that illuminates (a) tragedy” – Screen International
2013’s Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda) ripped through Southeast Asia, killing more than 6000 people in the Philippines alone. Taklub follows three grieving souls in the devastated city of Tacloban after it bore the brunt of the tempest’s fury.
Shot against the real backdrop of a stunned city facing the bleakness of a long and hardscrabble recovery, Brillante Ma. Mendoza’s (Thy Womb, the 6th APSA winner of Best Director) documentary-like drama is a story of tragedy and loss, but also endurance and faith.
Taklub competed in Un Certain Regard at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
105 mins | Unclassified 15+
Petty theft leads to an idyllic summer love affair, Kazakhstan-style, in the award-winning debut feature from director Kenzhebek Shaikakov.
Nabbed by the local police for stealing chickens, young Sapar is forced to pay his debt to society by spending a summer watching over grazing sheep. Out on the pasture, his digs are a simple shelter, a tent made of branches and straw. It’s there he meets alluring Kyrgyz girl Aichurek, and together they make this tent a real home – a place to play in, to dream in, and to fall in love in.
A sweet tale of budding love and passing fancy, Tent won best debut nods at this year’s Yakutskiy Film Festival and Zabaikalskiy Film Festival.
120 mins | Unclassified 18+
“Startlingly surreal… confirms Avishai Sivan as a distinctive voice in world cinema” – Screen International
Scooping four awards at the Jerusalem Film Festival (Best Feature, Cinematography, Screenplay and Actor) as well as the Special Jury Prize at Locarno, Tikkun is the powerful third feature from young Israeli director Avishai Sivan.
Haim-Aaron, a devout Yeshiva scholar is devoted entirely to study and religion until a near-death experience changes everything. Returning from the brink of death after a freak accident, he throws off the pious trappings of his past to pursue a life of physical pleasure.
Stunningly shot in ethereal black-and-white, Tikkun takes on an eerie, almost supernatural air as it paints a magnetic portrait of one man’s existential crisis of faith.
Very Big Shot
FILM KTEER KBEER
107 mins | Unclassified 15+
Three coke-smuggling brothers are looking to get out of the business for good – but an underworld drug lord strongarms them into one last big score in this blackly comic thriller.
The job: smuggle stolen amphetamines from Lebanon to jacked-up rebel fighters in Syria. Hatching an ingenious plan, the brothers recruit their best customer, a hack indie filmmaker, and pretending to be movie producers, hide the drug shipments in film canisters to dodge airport X-rays. Needless to say, it doesn’t all go as smoothly as Argo.
An entertaining crime romp with guts, heart, wit, and biting social satire, this debut feature, recently premiered at Toronto International Film Festival, is an impressive calling card for young Lebanese writer/director Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya.