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Films this week come from a variety of sources – some more from the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) catalogue, one (and a half) from Twitter and one from an invitation email for the monthly ICA members’ preview – so it’s a mixed selection that is somehow dominated by Korean connections. And, for once, nothing Japanese, at least not in the trailer section. The Bonus Bits, meanwhile, are all about Japan.

  • Kauwboy (The Netherlands, 2012) – I first stumbled across this Dutch production via an article on hancinema.net, which mentioned that it was the opening film for the recent Seoul International Youth Film FestivalKauwboy is a story about a neglected 10-year old boy that lives with his emotionally volatile father and finds a kauwboy (a jackdaw bird), which he decides to keep as a pet in secret. The film previously already screened at the Berlinale, where it won an award in the Generation Kplus juvenile category. But don’t write it off as a kids’ film winning awards in the youth section of grand film festivals – Darcy Paquet tweeted his praises after seeing it in Seoul (read bottom to top):

  • 잠못 드는 밤 (Jammot Deuneun Bam/Sleepless Night, South Korea, 2012) – Another tweet got me to notice this drama, Pierce Conran of Modern Korean Cinema being the one to commend it – highly – this time:The trailer itself probably won’t pull you in as it reveals little (it’s the clip of a scene that I think we will be able to better appreciate as part of the film), but Pierce’s words make me think it is just the right kind of movie for me. Those small, easily overlooked works are, after all, the ones I cherish the most, because they somehow get into human emotions the deepest (I’m thinking everything from 「管制塔」/Kanseitou/Control Tower to 「ぐるりのこと。」/Gururi no Koto/All Around Us to 「僕らの未来」/Bokura no Mirai/Our Future here). Anyhow, the story in Jammot Deuneun Bam: A young couple – they are two years into their marriage – is hesitant about whether or not to have a child, feeling pressured by people around them. The film has been lauded for being “real” rather than presenting some sort of fantasy on the screen. (Note: no official poster for the film yet.)
  • 범죄소년 (Bumjoe Sonyeon/Juvenile Offender, South Korea, 2012) – Scroll down for trailer. Jang Ji-gu is 16. He’s a troubled child: his teenage mother abandoned him at birth, his father is out of the picture as well, and his grandfather is ill and needs care-taking. With no one to guide his way and provide him with any sense of normalcy, stability and, most of all, love, Ji-gu has fallen into a life of crime, from theft to assault, and ends up in a juvenile detention centre. One day his mother appears.
    Bumjoe Sonyeon is on the programme for TIFF and I’m looking forward to hearing how it’s received. Tales of growing-up are always my cup of tea, even more so if they present a story of many shades of grey like here: a complex situation in which there are no clearly good or bad people, but dire circumstances that have triggered someone’s undoing.
  • Camp 14 – Total Control Zone (Germany, 2012) – A documentary. Back in March the Guardian published a lengthy but absolutely fascinating piece on Shin Dong-Huyk, the only person known to have escaped a North Korean prison camp alive. The article, which was an excerpt from Blaine Harden’s book Escape from Camp 14, is no longer available on the Guardian website due to copyright issues, although you can read an older one (from 2008) about Shin in The Washington Post and a more recent one from the New York Times, which refers to Harden’s book. And now there is Marc Wiese’s documentary, which will screen at TIFF. I’m sure it will be heart-wrenching, but it’s a must-see for me. Hope I get the chance! By the looks of the screenshot below, it seems that Wiese may be telling part of the story through animation. I’ve seen that done in a number of documentaries (and also dramas) recently, and I rather like it. Note: I find the NY Times article a bit overly critical of Shin – like someone was looking for a faultless hero, but found that the truth was much, much more complicated.

Camp 14 – Total Control Zone.

  • Sans Soleil (Chris Marker, France, 1982) – This one appears in the retrospective section of TIFF. From the film catalogue: “Widely considered the greatest ‘essay film’ ever made, Chris Marker’s Proustian travelogue traverses Iceland, Paris, San Francisco, Guinea-Bissau and a hypermodern Tokyo as it ruminates on memory’s perpetual struggle with the incessant passage of time.” I’m intrigued.
  • Tabu (Portugal/Germany/Brazil/France, 2012) – Tabu is showing at the ICA today at the Members’ Preview screening and will have a short run at the London cinema in September. Pilar and Santa, two elderly women, are looking for Ventura, a mystery man that their recently deceased acquaintance Aurora had an affair with long ago. Okay, I know that the ICA is obviously trying to get people to see the film, but I’m totally sold by what they write on their website: “unforgettable highlight of this year’s Berlin Film Festival”, “shot entirely in black and white, brimming with deliciously strange visuals, and bookended by two unforgettable flashback sequences narrated entirely through voiceover” and “seems to have emerged from nowhere with a cinematic language entirely of its own, as indebted to the films of Terrence Malick as it is to early silent cinema”.

Bonus Bits:

  • Aquabluesweater has done some fab number-crunching again in the post Top Recent Anime Movie Director Comparison.
  • It’s been two years since Kon Satoshi died in August 2010. Hop over to this webpage that contains tributes from French artists. Still hoping that his final project, Dream Machine, will see the light of day.
  • Ogawa Yayoi, the mangaka of 「きみはペット」 (Kimi wa Petto), is launching a new manga in September. Do I have any hope that it will measure up to Kimi wa Petto and inspire a dorama as quirky and awesome as Kimi wa Petto (I probably love the dorama more so than the manga if I’m honest)? No, but I thought I would still mention it.
  • As I mentioned on Twitter a few days ago, Katabuchi Sunao, of the wonderful 「マイマイ新子と千年の魔法」 (Maimai Shinko to sen-nen no mahō/Mai Mai Miracle, Japan, 2009), is working on his next animated film, an adaptation of the award-winning manga 「この世界の片隅に」 (Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni/To All the Corners of the World). It’s a story of a young woman who moves to a start her newly married life in Kure City in the prefecture of Hiroshima. The film is set during World War II. Sounds exactly like the right material for Katabuchi – bits of history and plenty of scope for delving into emotions of all sorts, all stuff that Katabuchi handled superbly in Maimai Shinko. So excited because it could turn out to be another gem!

Manga Adaptation: Katabuchi’s next anime project.