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BFI 2013

Belatedly here are the South East Asian entries at the London Film Film Festival, aka the-biggest-film-event-in-the-UK-that-doesn’t-know-how-to-get-its-act-together-to-implement-a-functional-booking-system. Yeah, I’m presently mad at the BFI and their apology (excuses!) does nothing to lessen that. It’s not the first time this has happened, in fact it was worse than last year.

Anyhow, we get films from Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Most have already screened elsewhere as the LFF isn’t really a pioneering, world-premiering event, at least not when it comes to Asian films. The absence of Miyazaki’s「風立ちぬ」(Kaze Tachinu/The Wind Rises, Japan, 2013), which has been/is screening in Toronto, Venice, San Sebastián and now Hawaii, from the programme only confirms this.

Here are the (available) trailers and one-sentence synopses, by country:

Japan jp

  •  「地獄でなぜ悪い」 (Jigoku de Naze Warui/Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, Japan, 2013) – Dir. by Sono Sion

A script written fifteen years ago comes alive in a genre-subverting yakuza film that is described as “an ultra-violent slice of insanity”.

  • 「そして父になる」 (Soshite Chichi ni Naru/Like Father, Like Son, Japan, 2013) – Dir. by Koreeda Hirokazu

Two families discover that their two children – now aged six – were switched at birth. A UK release for the film is planned (I think the week after the festival), so no point watching this one at the BFI.

  •  「舟を編む」 (Fune wo Amu/The Great Passage, Japan, 2012)

Matsuda Ryuhei plays a word geek that compiles a 240,000 word dictionary…and finds love on the side. Japan’s submission for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award.

  • 「さよなら渓谷」 (Sayonara Keikoku/The Ravine of Goodbye, Japan, 2013) – Dir. by Omori Tatsushi.

A woman, suspected of killing her child, is arrested. Her neighbour had an affair with her, but also a darker past – he was involved in a gang rape as a student.

  • Cutie and the Boxer (USA 2013) – Dir. by Zachary Heinzerling.

Not Japanese-produced or directed, but this documentary is about Shinohara Ushio, a Japanese artist that came to New York in the 1960s, who there married Noriko, also an artist in her own right, their shared creative spirit carrying them through the decades despite the many problems they face.


  • Between Regularity and Irregularity (2012, dir. by Tsutani Masahiro). Screens as part of Contained Movement (shorts).

  • 「ドロンコロン」 (Doron Coron, 2012, dir. by Ito Yuichi). Screens as part of animated shorts.
  • 「こまねこのおるすばん」(Komaneko no orusuban/ Komaneko, Home Alone, 2012, dir. by Goda Tsuneo)

  • 「Kick-Heart」 (2012, dir. by Yuasa Masaaki). Screens as part of Love Will Conquer All (shorts)

South Korea 

  • 레바논 감정 (Lebanon Gamjeong/Lebanon Emotion, South Korea, 2013) – Dir. by Jung Youngheon.

[No trailer currently available]

A widower stumbles into the life of woman who has just been released from jail and now participant in a cat-and-mouse game of revenge in the criminal underworld.

  • 신세계 (Sin Segae/New World, South Korea, 2013) – Dir. by Park Hoon-jung.

A thriller about a crime syndicate that is thrown into succession struggles. Stars some Korean big names.

  • 누구의 딸도 아닌 해원 (Nuguui ttaldo anin Haewon/Nobody’s Daughter Haewon, South Korea, 2013) – Dir. by Hong Sang-soo.

From the accomplished Hong Sang-soo. When her mother leaves for Canada, a young woman falls into depression and considers the promise of her married lover to run away with her from it all.

  • 우리 선희 (Uri Sunhi/Our Sunhi, South Korea, 2013) – Hong Sang-soo.

Hong Sang-soo #2 – it’s a lucky year! Sunhi, a young woman, wants to go study in the US, but has three men circling around her – all of whom have some sort of past with her.

China cn

  • 《致我们终将逝去的青春》(Zhì wǒmen zhōng jiāng shìqù de qīngchūn/To Our Youth That Is Fading Away aka So Young, China, 2013) – Dir. by Zhao Wei.

School friends must face the challenge of growing up as they enter adulthood. I had this on a Trailer Weekly a while back – thrilled to see it on the BFI lineup.

  • 《我故鄉的四種死亡方式》(Wo Guxiang De Sizhong Siwang Fangshi/Four Ways to Die in My Hometown, China, 2012) – Dir. by Chai Chunya.

The Rotterdam Film Festival sums this one up as “The effect of people moving away from the Chinese countryside, portrayed in poetic, occasionally stunning and often magical scenes.”

  • 《天注定》 (Tian Zhu Ding/A Touch of Sin, 2013, China) – Dir. by Jia Zhangke

Cine auteur Jia Zhangke’s latest creation, which consists of four vaguely linked narratives of people from different social milieus and is, apparently, a bit of a deviation from his other films. It will be getting a UK release later this year, so I’m giving it a miss.

  • 《水印街》(Shuiyin Jie/Trap Street, China, 2013) – Dir. by Vivian Qu.

A surveyor for a digital mapping company discovers a street that does not appear on any maps or systems anywhere – and meets a woman who works in a building on the street as things take first a romantic, then a dark turn.

Taiwan tw

  • 《暑假作业》(Shu Jia Zuo Ye/A Time in Quchi, Taiwan, 2013) – Dir. by Chang Tso-Chi.

As their parents are divorcing, two children are sent to their grandfather in the countryside for a summer of growing-up-too-fast.

Singapore sg

  • 《爸妈不在家》(Bà mā bù zàijiā/Ilo Ilo, Singapore, 2013) – Dir. by Anthony Chen.

A couple hires a Philippine maid to take care of their wayward young son, a decision slowly brings the family’s failings to the fore.

Hong Kong hk

  • 《過界》(Guò jiè/Bends, Hong Kong, 2013) – Dir. by Flora Lau.

A rich woman and her driver both face uphill struggles as one is left in debt by her husband, and the other needs to find a way to bring his pregnant wife from the mainland to Hong Kong.

  • 《僵尸》(Geung Si/Rigor Mortis, Hong Kong, 2013) – Dir. by Juno Mak.

An actor that can’t find success decides to commit suicide, but the dilapidated housing block he is in has other ideas. Horror.

  • Vara: a Blessing (Hong Kong, 2013) – Dir. by Khyentse Norbu.

[No trailer available yet, though the film’s official website states it will be “coming soon”.]

Lila, a graceful, young woman in the Indian countryside is asked by Shyam, a sculptor, to model for him, despite society forbidding them to interact in such way.


Other interesting films, from elsewhere in the world:

  • Pelo Malo (Bad Hair, Venezuela, 2013)

Junior, aged 9, wants straight hair, because he thinks it will make his stressed and disinterested single mother like him more.

  • The Weight of Elephants (New Zealand, 2013)

Neglected at home, bullied at school, young Adrian makes friends with the new, angry girl next door.

  • Eles Voltam (They’ll Come Back, Brazil, 2013)

Two bickering teenage siblings are thrown out of the car by their parents, who, against the kids’ expectations, however don’t come back to fetch them.

Bonus Bits: