New Emissary

Asia to Spice up NY Film Fest?

Award-winning Thai fantasy and conceptual Korean film are on the line-up this year.

The New York Film Festival opens next week, and will feature some big features like opener The Social Network, (the much-hyped film about the ‘acrimonious fall of the founders of Facebook’), and will be closing with Hereafter (a film consisting of several interconnected stories and directed by 80-year-old legend Clint Eastwood). Also headlining the show is The Tempest, a re-make of the Shakespeare play starring celebrated veteran actor Helen Mirren.

And as with all good film fests, the NYFF—now in its 48th year—will also feature amongst its crowd-pleasing hits a dose of international selections, including from the Asian region. This year from South Korea comes Oki’s Movie (Ok-hui-ui yeonghwa), a drama-comedy that explores through a series of four stories, concepts of identity and memory. The film’s director, Hong Sang-soo, is a film festival regular, having won various awards throughout his nearly 15-year professional career. And Oki’s Movie will open in his home country tomorrow. It’s so far earned an underwhelming review from Variety that calls it ‘limp,’ but we’ll see what happens with the additional publicity from the festival and how local audiences will receive it. There will also be special tribute screenings of several films by 79-year-old Japanese filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda throughout the NYFF’s run.

And notably, again getting international film recognition, is the movie Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, by Thai director Weerasethakul Apichatpong, who earlier this year won top prize for his film at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival.

Apichatpong‘s winning film is truly making the rounds, having just opened the Cinema Digital Seoul (CinDi) film festival in Korea last month. In fact the director, who’s also won awards at Cannes in 2004 and 2002, seems to have this year become an international media favourite. The New York Times profiled him yesterday, affectionately describing Uncle Boonmee as ‘an impressionistic story about a dying man and his encounters with ghosts.’ The work was actually shot ‘in the jungles and farmland of north-eastern Thailand using amateur actors on a budget of less than $700,000.’

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The piece also shed some new light for me on Apichatpong, who has apparently become embroiled in his native country’s political uprisings this year. Public statements he has made on the situation there, such as ‘Thailand is violent and full of inequality,’ have apparently gotten him in trouble with the Thai monarchists and he’s even been getting anonymous sinister threats on the Internet. Let’s hope that his real life doesn’t ever merge with movie-style drama.