Japanese film fans feast on Asian movies in Osaka
Eevery March in one of their country’s busiest cities, Japanese cinephiles get to feast on a veritable banquet of films from all over Asia.
Now in its 11th year, the Osaka Asian Film Festival had plenty of Thai flavour on offer at the recently ended event with three new local films from both mainstream and independent side.
Last year it was GTH’s comedy “I Fine, Thank You, Love You”, which came home with the Most Promising Talent Award. This year the Kingdom went one better with Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s “Heart Attack” (“Freelance Ham Puay Ham Phak Ham Rak More”) picking up the ABC Award for the most entertaining film. ABC – Asahi Broadcasting Corporation – is the regional broadcaster based in Osaka and will be buying the rights to broadcast the prize-winning film on its channel in Osaka, Shiga, Kyoto, Hyogo, Nara and Wakayama prefectures.
The main prize of the festival went to the South Korean film “My Sister, the Pig Lady” by Jang Moon-Il while female Mongolian filmmaker, Uisenma Borchu, took home the Most Promising Talent Award for “Don’t Look at Me That Way”.
Nawapol couldn’t be in Osaka for the awards ceremony having dashed back to Bangkok to attend the Thailand National Film Association Awards, aka the Subhanahognsa Awards, where “Heart Attack” won eight prizes.
“It’s like a dream to see my works screened in Japan because by films are influenced by Japanese films, and ‘Heart Attack’ is no exception,” Nawapol said by phone after hearing the news.
“I am very happy that my film won the ABC Award for the most entertaining film and will be shown on Japanese television because it means that Japanese people enjoyed the film and want it to be shown in their country to a wider audience.”
A second film by Nawapol, the documentary “The Master”, about Bangkok movie bootlegger Van VDO, was also screened in Osaka. The movie, which won a Subhanahongsa Award for Best Documentary last year and had its international premiere at the Busan International Film Festival last October, was shown in the special section “New Action! Southeast Asia”. The Japanese audience was shocked by the revelation that art-house films have little to no circulation in Thai cinemas, and the fact the Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s debut feature “Mysterious Object at Noon” and his latest “Cemetery of Splendour” have never been shown.
Another Thai title in the line-up was “5 to 9”, an anthology co-produced by Japan, Singapore, China and Thailand. The film is directed by Daisuke Miyazaki from Japan, Tay Bee Pin from Singapore, Vincent Du from China, and Rasiguet Sookkarn from Thailand, who just won a Subhanahongsa Award for art direction on Kongdej Jaturanrasmee’s “Snap”.
“We met each other at the Berlinale Talents programme”, Tay explained. “Not many people understand Asia so well. And while we are all quite different, we though it would be good to make film together and build more cooperation. We talked about it over coffee in Berlin and decided to do an anthology.”
Miyazaki adds that he joined the project because “the Japanese film industry is very close and very conservative, and not open to co-production. I wanted to start something.”
“5 to 9” is a series of short films set during the evening of the Brazil- Germany match at the 2014 World Cup. The film starts with Du’s story of a young worker in China who meets a prostitute planning to leave the big city. Miyazaki’s short film features well-known actor Masatoshi Nagase in a tale of a fisherman taking revenge on a debt collector. Tay’s segment dwells on the relationship of a teacher and a girl from China on the night of the World Cup match. Rasiguet’s contribution meanwhile features Kongdej as a sci-fi film director who is planning a new project when he learns of the secret relationship between his wife (Sajee Apiwong) and the main actor of his film (Pramote Sangsorn).
This year the film festival also devoted a special section to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Vietnam. The “Vietnamese in Bloom” programme was particularly interesting featuring new titles such as Phan Dang Di’s Berlin International Film Festival 2015 entry “Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories”, the recent box office hit “Sweet 20” by Phan Gia Nhat Linh, a remake of a well-known Korean film and “Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere” by Nguyen Hoang Diep, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2014.