Focus on Asia Fukuoka International Film Festival 2012

This week, Fukuoka Now blogger Eryk Salvaggio covers the festival’s films and events, including recommendations, reviews, and a couple of surprises.

The city of Fukuoka will be a flickering frenzy of light and celluloid as the Fukuoka International Film Festival will launch its 10-day event this weekend. The Festival was launched as part of a Pacific-Asian exhibition in 1989 and has since showcased the cinematic works of cultures across from neighboring Korea and Taiwan to distant Asian countries like Turkey and Iran. Along with the films comes a bit of the business: Producers and directors from across Asia will be in the city presenting their work and hosting symposiums across the city.

This year, the festival is expanding to 36 films from last year’s 25. The festival will spotlight five films from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, including the international renown “Nader and Simin, A Separation,” which has won the American Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear award.

To maximize its international appeal, the FIFF offers English subtitles along with Japanese on the majority of its international offerings, many being translated into Japanese for the first time, a move the festival hopes will allow the filmmakers to find distributors within Japan or elsewhere. According to festival organizers, subtitled prints from the festival’s archives are often requested for other festivals throughout Japan and the English-speaking world.
Some 2012 Film Festival Highlights

You Are The Apple of My Eye (Taiwan, 2011)

This surprising Taiwanese romance is based on an autobiographical novel by the director, and was filmed in the high school where the true story took place. Director Giddens Ko tells the tale of “The girl we all went after” (the title in Taiwan), a pretty high school honors student pursued by the mischievous prankster with a penchant for pervy antics in the back of the classroom. The film was a mainstream success in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
For more info and showtimes:

Fireworks Wednesday (Iran, 2006)

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi is a featured artist at this year’s festival, including screenings of all five of his full-length films. While festival highlight “Nader and Simin, A Separation” won the Fukuoka Audience Award at the 2011 festival, “Fireworks Wednesday” is one of three of the director’s Japanese premieres!
The film has been acclaimed for its portrayal of class and family life in Iran. The Fireworks of the title refer to the Persian New Year, “The Wednesday Feast,” the backdrop of the film as it follows an interconnected tale of family, friends and the emotional “fireworks” as secrets are revealed during preparations for the holiday.
For more info and showtimes:

Lee’s Adventure (China, 2011)

Based on a short 2009 film of the same name, this expanded version of the story explores a heartbroken young man’s search for love. The twist: He suffers from a fictional disease that distorts his perceptions of time. Lee’s Adventure is a frenetic media mashup of live-action, animation, and every shade in between, with lush live-action cinematography and clever nods to modern technology sprinkled throughout.
For more info and showtimes:

The Fable of The Fish (Philippines, 2011)

Called “Isda” in its native Philippines, film is a magical-realist portrayal of poverty as the pregnant and destitute heroine of our story finds herself giving birth to a fish. Despite the premise, the film uses the fantastical to explore real human emotions of family, hope and hopelessness.
For more info and showtimes:

Twisted (Singapore, 2011)

“Twisted,” from Singaporean director Chai Yee Wai, tells three tales wrapped around a womanizing villain who may have gotten away with his worst offences – but audiences can tell right away that a clean escape isn’t part of this comedy-horror hybrid’s story arc. Laughs and body counts rise in equal measure in this edgy, self-aware set of stories with a modern twist.
For more info and showtimes:

Mr. Tree (China, 2011)

An idiotic car mechanic with a tragic past confronts China’s rapid urbanization in his small town, transforming from a bumbling fool to a possible prophet. Fans of international cinema should appreciate this film for its winking social commentary and its uniquely Chinese cinematography.
For more info and showtimes:

FIFF Spotlight: Asghar Farhadi
Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s works are a featured program of the Fukuoka International Film Festival’s lineup this year, with the festival showing all five of his past films, including the winner of last year’s audience award, Nader and Simin, a Separation.

That film – called “A Separation” internationally – has earned accolades across Asia and the world, including earning Farhadi’s spot as the first Iranian filmmaker to win an American Academy Award (he also took home a Golden Globe, and the film beat out the critical favorite Tree of Life at the Sydney Film Festival).

Farhadi lives and works in his home of Tehran, and his films have been interpreted as parables by those with a political eye. But others – including Farhadi himself – say they are stories about modern struggles within a traditional culture, and “A Separation” is an examination of love in present-day Iran.

Other notable films being featured in Fukuoka include Farhadi’s 2009 masterpiece, “About Elly,” an emotionally tense drama centered around three couples on a weekend beach getaway. It is considered the fourth greatest Iranian film of all time by Iranian film critics.

Critic David Bordwell said of the film, “Gripping as sheer storytelling, the plot smoothly raises some unusual moral questions. It touches on masculine honor, on the way a thoughtless laugh can wound someone’s feelings, on the extent to which we try to take charge of others’ fates.”

Iranian cinema earned international fanfare during it’s “New Wave” period starting being seen abroad in the 1990s. Since then, Farhadi has emerged as a leader of Iran’s unique vision of cinema. The debut of his films in Fukuoka, which are presented with English and Japanese subtitles, are a rare treat for anyone who wants to see what Iranian cinema is all about.

For more information, such as movie titles and showtimes, see:

••••••••BONUS EVENT••••••••

An official event of “Focus on Asia – Fukuoka International Film Festival 2012”
Meet and mingle with actors and directors under the sparkling chandeliers of Canoviano, Fukuoka’s newest and most glamorous venue! Live music, DJ, dancers and drinks! Don’t miss Fukuoka’s once in a year international event and party.

Film Festival Party by Fukuoka Now 9/18 (Tue), 18:30~23:30 at Canoviano (Daimyo)
Tickets just ¥2,000 (1/drink) at the door!