Category Archives: 2013 Busan International Film Festival

Silent Witness 全民目擊 (2013) – China

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 31st December 2013

Directed by: Fei Xing
Starring: Aaron Kwok, Sun Hong Lei, Yu Nan,Deng Jiajia

Support our decade of film scholarship on Asian Cinema by buying Official DVD or Blu-ray release from our Store

fromvegastomacauposter

This is a brilliant film that twists and turns so amazingly that results in a film where the audience is drowned with tears of unconditional love. What turned out to be a court drama thriller, turned into a simple moment of fatherly love, ultimate sacrifice and redemption. Director Fei Xing did an amazing job in rounding out the ending, despite obvious intentions to get around the usual censorship. The film is perfectly paced and seen through the eyes of all the main protagonists. This is a good piece of cinema and probably deserves more attention that its has garnered.

Aaron Kwok produced a steadfast and determined performance as the never give up lawyer, but the star of the show goes to Sun Honglei whose underlying love for his daughter provides the film with its best resonating moments. His outright reactions in the court room are almost priceless to watch. Yu Nan (recently since in Expendables 2) is also brilliant as the lawyer torn in the middle of all the troubles. While newcomer Deng Jiajia does an adequate job as the daughter accused of murder and finally understanding the meaning of loss, remorse and responsibility.

All in all, “Silent Witness” is an accomplished and matured court drama thriller, muddled within the essence of parental love, deeper emotions and twists and turns. Director Fei Xing has successfully created a film that touches the audience’s heart and expresses universal themes and messages at its core. This is a hugely underrated film and without doubt should not be missed. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 9/10

Support our decade of film scholarship on Asian Cinema by buying Official DVD or Blu-ray release from our Store

fromvegastomacauposter

HKAFF: Intruders 誰誰誰是兇手 조난자들 (2013) – South Korea

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 21st November 2013

Directed by: 盧勇石 Noh Young-seok
Starring: Jun Suk-ho, Oh Tae-kyung

Reviewed at 10th Hong Kong Asian Film Festival 2013

Support our decade of film scholarship on Asian Cinema by buying Official DVD or Blu-ray release from our Store

fromvegastomacauposter

To truly empathize with the situation, one must not take this movie too seriously, but at the same time enjoy for what it is worth. “Intruders” is essentially a Hollywood style gore, slasher, murder thriller that contains the plot of a “Jason X” movie, while being filmed with plenty of cinematic flair and style. What I liked about this film is that indie director Noh Young-seok is never pretentious and provides plenty of laughs and thrills along the way. In fact, Noh Young-seok even manages to add the political undertones by getting North Koreans involved in the process. However, Intruder despite being largely entertaining, it really doesn’t have something to say or intriguing message to behold. Sometimes, it doesn’t really need to be, as in terms of those 80s slasher flicks in the reins of “Freddy” and “Jason”, Intruder is like a perfect homage to those.

Jun Suk-ho plays an aspiring screenwriter who goes to the remote countryside in order to complete his script in uttermost piece. Jun Suk-ho looks vulnerable and insecure type of characters, as a result, when bad things happen, it is relatively easy for the audience to identify with him. When he is scared, you can feel that he is genuinely scared. Oh Tae-Kyung plays the slightly haunting former jail inmate who tries extremely hard to befriend Jun Suk-ho, only to be on the opposite side of the fence. Jun Suk-ho is perfect as the guy you just never want to trust and probably the only character in the film, where the audience just cannot exactly read. This is a good thing, as it adds to the suspense factor to the film. The only screaming girl in the movie, is outright annoying and probably set out to achieve exactly that.

All in all, “Intruders” is not entirely ambitious, it is essentially a payback to all those 70s and 80s Hollywood slasher flicks which populate the Halloween factor. The North and South political conflicts is never truly explored, apart from being sounded out at regular intervals. Director Noh Young-seok does not entirely succeeds, but managed to produced enough thrills, laughs and slash to make Intruders an enjoyable experience. As for “Jason” or “Freddy”, they are tame in comparison. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 7/10

Support our decade of film scholarship on Asian Cinema by buying Official DVD or Blu-ray release from our Store

fromvegastomacauposter

HKAFF: Moebius 뫼비우스 切夫之痛 (2013) – South Korea

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 29th October 2013

Director: 金基德 Kim Ki-duk
Starring: 曹在顯 Cho Jae-hyun, 李恩雨 Lee Eun-woo, 徐英洙 Seo Young-ju

Reviewed at 10th Hong Kong Asian Film Festival 2013
Asian premiere at the 2013 Busan International Film Festival (October 2013).

Support the site by buying this DVD or Blu-ray from our HK Neo Distribution Ebay Store

After narrowly missing the Busan screening of the controversial and censorship loathed new film from master filmmaker Kim Ki Duk, I wasn’t going to miss the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival leg of “Moebius”. What can I say about this film? Let’s start of by a few descriptive words, namely disturbing, twisted, unbelievable, fascinating, frustrating and incestuous. Believe me, Kim Ki Duk have made some strange films, dealing with difficult and often controversial subjects (i.e. “Pieta”), but in “Moebius”, he goes further and beyond even himself. From the opening scene of a moebius wife who is mentally ill from her husband infidelity, fails to cut his penis and instead turn her attention to their son and quite frankly and literally chop off his penis. With a breath of fresh air, let’s continue. In fact, the film proudly produces not just one scene of penis chopping, but a total of 4 penises being disfigured. That’s not precisely the point, as director Kim Ki Duk is not trying to have a penis count, but rather show the effects of dealing with traumatic experiences, broken families, loneliness, troubled people and possibly karmic effects.

Seo Young-ju who impressed in “Juvenile Offender” continues his good form. In fact, one of the reasons why this film works so well is the level of commitment that all the actors take into their roles in this film. Their portrayal and focus is so single minded into the film, that the audience might as well be indulged into some kind of reality show. Seo is able to portray the innocent youth who is still coming to terms of his means of sexuality and the act of it. In such a stage of discovery, his penis is dismantled by his mother and is forced to face a life without his manhood. How he deals with the situation is interesting alone and when you add in his regretful father (played by Cho Jae-hyun) who inturns also surgically remove his penis, so that he can help his son live through this experience together. Add to this is a side story of the older grocery store lady who in effect have sex with all the men in the movie.

Being graphic is one of Kim’s strong points, although the scenes of actual chopping may have been cut, he never shy away from a situation or happening. There many messages and themes in this film that drills well beyond its surface material. Essentially the film is about a number of social outcasts and while the nature of the events is disturbing, the underlying message is even more frightening. What makes “Moebius” so fascinating to endure is not its one note subject about the deeper theory of the human condition and how one single event can lead a total round circle. I am not a Buddhist and have never held such beliefs, but I do believe that what comes around will go around.

All in all, in creating “Moebius”, director Kim Ki-Duk has stirred up even more controversy, but all in good nature. In fact, it seems as those Kim Ki-Duk has actually matured a notch higher, a bit wilder and a bit more over the top. To call “Moebius” daring is actually an understatement, as it is more than that, it is a film that will haunt you, lingers with you and perhaps disturb you till you never think about it again. There are many things in life that we cannot explain and as disturbing the premises of chopping penises (note 3 or 4 in total), this is a gory and bloody film that comes with plenty of substances. While, “Moebius” doesn’t entirely succeed, it will likely blow you away. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 8/10

Support our decade of film scholarships and writing by liking our Facebook page.

BIFF: Pascha (2013) – South Korea [World Premiere]

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 28th October 2013

Director: Ahn Seon-kyoung
Starring: Kim So-hee, Sung Ho-jun, Shin Yeon-sook

Reviewed at the World Premiere at 2013 Busan International Film Festival (October 2013)

Support the site by buying this DVD or Blu-ray from our HK Neo Distribution Ebay Store

This film starts with an interesting premise and even manages to show some promise throughout, but it never really settle for a tone or any meaningful resolution. Rather, “Pascha” is one of those movies where the journey is more important than the destination. It is process that makes “Pascha” worth seeing, the struggle of humanity, love, compassion and living within the strict rules of society and tradition. “Pascha” is not controversial at all, despite its premise, as the relationship between the older woman and the young adult (aged 19) feels every bit genuine and in turn creating a good enough film for the audience to feel and endure.

Kim So-hee plays the older woman almost 40, with her life steeling away from tradition. Dating and living with a 19 year old boyfriend, she is unable to face her parents, society and therefore indulge in the love and company of cats. In fact, both are loners, we hardly see their friends, if they have any. It is hard not to sympathizes with their relationship and despite how doomed it seems to be, it somehow works. Sung Ho-jun is less enduring as the 19 year old in love with Kim So-hee, but the two radiates with chemistry, often making up for their age differences and glaring looks of mother and son. Still not enough is shown or known about Sung Ho-jun’s character and is often overshadowed by a more matured display from Kim So-hee.

All in all, “Pascha” is one of those films that neither excites totally or takes you to boredom, but there is a journey where the audience gets to feel as though they are part of this unlikely relationship. I have always believed the foundation of a long lasting relationship lies in couples actually needing each other. In “Pascha”, director Ahn Seon-kyoung never tries to do too much, (perhaps saving for an emotional farewell for their cat in the very beginning of the film) and ultimately it is precisely the reason why the film worked out. By the end of the film, I can say that there is something in “Pascha” that is worth the journey taken, even if the process is rather tame. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 7.5/10

BIFF: 10 Minutes 10분 (2013) – South Korea [World Premiere]

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 18th October 2013

Director: Lee Yong-Seung
Writer: Kim Hye-Min
Starring: Park Jong-Hwan, Kim Jong-Goo, Jung Hee-Tae, Lee Si-Won, Jang Liu, Jung Seung-Kil

Reviewed at the World Premiere at 2013 Busan International Film Festival (October 2013)

Support the site by buying this DVD or Blu-ray from our HK Neo Distribution Ebay Store

“10 Minutes” is a small film, but also strikingly realistic portrayal of early life in the workforce and quite frankly office politics. Films about office politics is nothing new, but newcomer director and student Lee Yong-Seung impresses in his debut feature length film by staying true to its source, purpose and aims. Being simple is not easy and this film shows exactly how difficult it is when you are at the bottom of the chain, whether it is in life or in the workforce. 10 minutes may seem like a short time in the span of our lives, but how often does a split minute decision you make turns out to be the longest in your life and this film defines exactly that.

By casting newcomer Park Jong-Hwan for the lead intern role, Lee strikes gold, as Park is able to show raw emotions, the naivety of one with youthful ambitions and more importantly being real and genuine. The audience may not precisely sympathetic with Park’s character, but it undoubtedly made the film a journey that is fascinating to follow. Park is perfect for the role and his raw and at times native and expressive emotions is fascinating to endure. It is easy for the audience to side and detest from him at the same thing and also realising precisely why he fails to fit in. Ultimately, we have all been Park at some point in our lives, but perhaps without realising. Another newcomer Lee Si-Won shows potential for more things to come. Her sarcastic display, confident screen presence and good looks provides the film with some much needed energy and light. She is neither the villain or the victim, but she portrays the role of someone who in not entirely qualify, but coming in at the expense of more qualify people to pitch perfect condition.

All in all, “10 Minutes” is a nice little gem of a discovery and despite its honest intentions, it is never pretentious and almost always entertaining. Watching people suffer in workforce due to gossips, not fitting in and everything else you can associate is interesting to a degree, but what makes the film stands above the genre convention, is everything seems so realistic and director Lee smartly intervenes his notion of life choices and how one’s decision that is made within 10 minutes can have larger consequences. In essence, “10 Minutes” shows the reality of the workplace and that it is who you know and not what you do that makes the difference. Life choices can be easy or difficult, but most of the time will lead you to an entirely different path. A smart guy once told me, “Just assume you made the best choice and let it go at that. Afterall, you did the best you could with the knowledge you had.” I thinks this ring true with “10 Minutes” as well. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 8/10