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I’m finally getting in that third and final Trailer Weekly I had to make up for from my blogging hiatus in May. South Korea and Japan are back on the menu, which is chock-full with films on sensitive, controversial and intriguing issues: transgender identity, homosexuality, disproportionate age gaps in relationships, being female in a highly patriarchal society, surreal fables and meditations on silence and exile. It’s an eclectic and eccentric mix, but that’s how I like it.

  • آینه های روبرو (Aynehaye Rooberoo/Facing Mirrors, Iran, 2011) – A Norwegian UWC friend raved about Negar Azarbeyjani’s debut feature this week. Aynehaye Rooberoo is an Iranian production about a transgender identity man, Adineh, who steps into the taxi of Rana, a dutiful mother-of-one trying hard to earn a living while her husband is incarcerated. Eddie (as Adineh prefers to be called) asks to be taken to a remote location outside of Tehran, wishing to escape a marriage arranged against his will with a male cousin – he only hopes to return to Germany to complete gender reassignment surgery. When Rana, who represents the traditional Iran, learns of these details, she is at first aghast but as their fates intertwine, the drive transforms into a journey down “a route of prejudice, friendship, and redemption” (quote), Aynehaye Rooberoo becoming a commentary on contemporary Iranian “perception of class, faith, sexuality, and gender identity” (quote). The film has screened, to good reception it seems, at a number of festivals. Fingers crossed that the BFI picks it up for its Lesbian & Gay Film Festival in the spring.
  • 알이씨REC (REC, South Korea, 2011)I already heard about this film quite a while back, but was never quite sure whether to feature it on a Trailer Weekly or not. The synopsis – a gay Korean couple decides to film themselves having sex on the fifth anniversary of their relationship – left me undecided whether this was really a film I wanted to watch or not. Then I read a review on the Korean DVD release on Tom Giammarco’s Seen in Jeongsu blog this week. Highlighting the cultural elements underlining the film, Tom’s review makes me much more keen on watching this. It will still be graphic (the film is rated R for male frontal nudity) but it clearly has an important story beneath it that raises the issue of how homosexuality is perceived in contemporary South Korea as people are pressured to hide their true sexual and gender identities and conform to social norms in ways that are heart-wrenching. Obviously another film I would like the BFI to include in the Lesbian & Gay Film Festival programme.
  • 「人のセックスを笑うな」 (Hito no sekkusu o warauna/Don’t Laugh at My Romance, Japan, 2008) – How did I stumble across this one? I think I may have been looking up something about Matsuyama Kenichi, but I can’t exactly remember. I feel might end up both liking and disliking this feature, which is a story about a 39-year old woman (a rather quirky college art teacher) and a 19-year old male (a relationship-inexperienced student) who fall in love with each other. At least the reviews and comments I have read about the film point that way. There are indications of a sensitive exploration of complicated feelings and difficult situations (good), but the female character may turn out more problematic – to the point of utterly dislikable – than one would initially expect (in a way I hate). Not too high expectations thus, but sort of curious.
  • Wadjda (Saudi Arabia/Germany, 2012) – On the programme for the upcoming BFI Film FestivalWadjda is the first full-length feature to have been filmed entirely in Saudi Arabia, where cinemas have been banned for more than 30 years. It’s also the first film ever to have been directed by a Saudi woman, Haifaa al-Mansour. But it’s not only these ‘firsts’ that matter, obviously it is the film itself, which has screened at some major film festivals internationally, including in Venice. The story it tells is of the 11-year old Wadjda who wants to enter a Qur’an-reading competition – so as to win and use the prize money to purchase a bicycle in a country where girls do not ride bikes. BFI page.
  • La leggenda di Kaspar Hauser (The Legend of Kasper Hauser, Italy, 2012) – Kasper Hauser (sometimes also spelled Kaspar Hauser) is a historical figure who has long fascinated me (somewhere, at my parents, I have magazine cut-outs from a gorgeous photo project on Kasper Hauser that I came across when I was like fifteen). Born in the early 19th century, Kasper Hauser turned up on the streets of Nuremberg (Germany) one day, unable to communicate and seemingly raised half-wild in the woods or perhaps imprisoned in a darkened cell. It’s a tale of many mysteries and conspiracies that has inspired many retellings both in textual and visual form. This particular one, a “surreal post-Western” (quote from trailer link) transposes Kasper Hauser to an entirely different realm, as he washes up on the shores of a beach in a place and time unspecified where they (whoever ‘they’ are) try to turn him into a DJ. The ICA will be screening the film in early October. Super-simple trailer but the music is incredibly hypnotic (and it’s so not my kind of music, normally speaking).
  • Silence (Ireland, 2012) – I will just quote the production company on this one, because they describe it so eloquently: “Eoghan is a sound recordist who is returning to Ireland for the first time in 15 years. The reason for his return is a job offer: to record landscapes free from man-made sound. His quest takes him to remote terrain, away from towns and villages. Throughout his journey, he is drawn into a series of encounters and conversations which gradually divert his attention towards a more intangible silence, bound up with the sounds of the life he had left behind.” And: “Silence unfolds with a quiet intensity, where poetic images reveal an absorbing meditation on themes relating to sound and silence, history, memory and exile.” I’m so intrigued, but I’m pretty sure you’ll have to be a slow-film-lover (like I am) to thoroughly enjoy this one.

Bonus Bits:

  • Le silence sous l’écorce (The Silences beneath the Bark, France, 2009) – Directed by Joanna Lurie. If you watched the trailer for Le Tableau (France, 2012) that I featured last week, you might have noticed this clip, which pops up as a recommended video at the end of Le Tableau. I rarely click on YouTube video recommendations, but somehow did with this one. It’s a short film – the complete short – and what wondrous piece it is. Watch it. It’s beautiful. It’s magical. Ten minutes of your time for a little gem of creativity that is not to be missed.

Magical: Le silence sous l’écorce.