2001-07-11 | New Asian Currents lineup announcement!

We’re pleased to announce the main lineup for New Asian Currents, our program introducing up-and-coming Asian filmmakers. This time around, we are announcing 40 titles selected from an unprecedented 536 entries. Among these works, 32 will be vying for awards such as the Ogawa Shinsuke Prize, presented to the most promising filmmaker. A list of the selected films.

[South Korean Power]

Of this year’s selection, the countries that stood out the most were South Korea and China. A truly wide variety of themes were explored in the 30 entries received from South Korea, giving insight into the transitions occurring in that society. Until recently, Korean documentary had been prominently a tool for video activism in political and labor movements. Now we are seeing more films taking up new themes, such as issues facing the handicapped and environmental issues, as well as more personal and experimental works. Approaches to subject matter are becoming increasingly diverse.

All the Korean and Korean-Australian filmmakers included in New Asian Currents this year are women. This surprised us, as we did not set out with this aim in mind. Yet I think we can regard this as clear evidence that a fundamental shift is occurring in the world of film and video production in South Korea. Looking at this year’s New Asian Currents overall, you’ll find that 18 films selected are from female directors.

[Chinese Indies]

Entries from China fell into two distinct categories: those produced by television companies, and the independents. Not a few of the television programs were sweet and moralistic “human stories”, relying heavily on narration and sentiment. On the other hand, there were many excellent works to be found amongst those which combined extensive research with the cinema verite method, the so-called fly-on-the-wall approach. There were some television works that stretched to over two hours long—unthinkable in Japan. Only with such flexibility in broadcasting slot size, can rewards of in-depth investigation be reaped.

Due to limited screening slots, we decided to include only the works of young independent filmmakers from China, and three have been selected. Some films we had to omit, though the subject matter was fascinating... The lives of young drug addicts in Beijing recorded by one of their peers, and a personal life of a destitute but happy-go-lucky custodian of a drama school are some examples.

[Male Sexuality: South Asian Films]

Documentaries from India and Bangladesh dealing with men’s sexual identity came out in force. In order to deal with gender-based discrimination in South Asia, filmmakers contemplated the male’s self-image and the enduring myths they embrace about women. These themes may have been influenced in part by the work of aid organizations such as UNESCO and the MacArthur Foundation. While expanding on this theme, diverse approaches have been included in our lineup: A dreamlike depiction of sexual desire expressed in imagery, a film featuring the director’s friend, whose body is male but whose sexual identity is female, and a group portrait of teenagers belonging to the new Bangladeshi middle class.

[Taiwan’s Momentum]

Supported by a biennial documentary film festival (TIDF), Taiwan’s young filmmakers are as buoyant as ever. Video works blending humor with life-size snapshots of their generation are particularly enjoyable. Floating Islands, a documentary series looking at the outlying islands of Taiwan through the eyes of a varied group of filmmakers, can also be regarded as a success. Sponsored by Taiwan Public Television, 12 short-form low-budget 35mm documentaries were completed, and five of these films have been selected for special invitation exhibition.

[New Works from the Middle East]

Iran—the popularity of its feature films and short works is currently flourishing worldwide. It’s unfortunate that we cannot screen all of the various works sent to us by the Iranian Young Cinema Society, which supports the production of short films. This year we present two documentaries from the Middle East with a particularly palpable creative spirit, as well as two special invitation short works. From Turkey, we present the latest effort from director Hasan Karacadag, a 1999 visitor to our festival with The Hearts That Can’t See The Sun; and a splendid student film from Ankara University’s Faculty of Communication. For the first time, we received many entries from Ankara University, and were amazed by the overall high technical level and thematic diversity. In addition we present a new documentary from the director of 1999 entry Title Deed From Moses, Palestine’s Azza El-Hassan, who gives a nimble first-person account of the daily lives of people caught amidst her homeland’s conflict.

[From South-east Asia]

Many short works have arrived on our doorstep from the Philippines and Thailand. Films from Thailand brimming with experimental flavor were in abundance, while those from the Philippines mainly delved into gender and family issues. A filmmaker comes to Japan to interview Filipino brides living in Yamagata prefecture, only to reach an impasse. A private monologue questions how one’s sexual initiation in a public toilet reflects on sexual identity. From Singapore, a mandala of images and text navigated by the filmmaker overwhelms the eyes, ears, and mind.

In modern-day South-east Asia too, an assured new generation of filmmakers are emerging from a family of films exploring personal themes, rather than from movements seeking social justice.

[New Asian Currents’ Japanese selection]

Here we introduce the first two entries from Japan, with more to be announced later. They are the first long-form work by Takashi Toshiko, whose Ode I and Oishi Apartments, Nishi-Tengachaya featured in 1999’s Japanese Panorama selection; and MAYA, a culminant masterpiece from Sekine Hiroyuki, director of U.O. and other films from 1997’s “Pursuit Of Japanese Documentary” section.

(FUJIOKA Asako, New Asian Currents coordinator)