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Overview of 14th Flavours Asian Film Festival line-up vol. 2

The second part of our look at the festival lineup…

Five Flavours team discussing this year’s programme project quite different emotions than the ones expressed by many film festival organizers while introducing the 2020 edition. The festival did have more time to prepare for the pandemic disruption and maybe that is why the 14th Five Flavours is not treated as a substitute for the festival experience as we knew it before March 2020, but a new opportunity to solidify the festival-goers’ bond with the event as well as reach new audiences. Check out the first part of the lineup overview, while now let’s continue with the summary of the rest of the programme.

Lucky Chan-sil (2019, dir. Kim Cho-hee)

Parasites is a new section at the festival centred around films reflecting upon contemporary Korean society. The programming team noticed that many motifs in Bong Joon-ho’s groundbreaking film are echoed also in other Korean titles also discussing major absurdities of capitalism mixed with vicious rivalization and huge social pressure to succeed, the three elements leading to extreme social and economic inequality. The films in the section differ in genre and tone, present various stories and unique protagonists, but the bitter kernel and black humour persists throughout. The closest to the heart of a cinephile will be Lucky Chan-sil (2019) directed by Kim Cho-hee, who worked as a producer of Hong Sang-soo’s films from 2008 till 2015. The story revolves around a 40-year-old woman, who dedicated her whole life to filmmaking but suddenly is left jobless when the director she worked with drunk himself to death. Self-referential black humour could not have been wittier. In Lucky Chan-sil cinephilia is projected as a force that can give vital energy as well as make a person indifferent to everything in life. In her directorial debut Kim Cho-hee presents a very honest and touching picture of moving on in one’s life while simultaneously reconnecting with the person one once was.

Microhabitat (2017, dir. Jeon Go-woon)

The main protagonist of Microhabitat (2017, dir. Jeon Go-woon), 30-something Miso, also stands at the crossroads when the price of whisky and cigarettes raises. To safeguard a steady ritual of going out for a drink, she decides to move out from her shabby flat and cut the cost of accommodation altogether, living at her friends’ houses and cleaning them for free in return. The rounds she makes between the apartments give her a glimpse of how her friends’ life changed since they all played in a band. The conflict between Miso’s lifestyle and socially accepted model of adulthood is unavoidable. It is interesting how both these films feature female protagonists than clean other people’s apartments. The space of a house and its symbolism seem to be one of the key dramatic motifs in contemporary Korean cinema.

A Hard Day (2014, dir. Kim Seong-hun)

The fight against reality continues in Loser’s Adventure (2018, dir. Ko Bong-soo), this time literally. In his second feature Ko Bong-soo tells a story of three young adults who decide to resuscitate the local training hall and prepare for wrestling competition. Ko Bong-soo reflects on the notion of masculinity, the pressure to succeed, but also a turn away from Soul towards the provincial towns – he sets the film in the small blue collar town of Daepoong. It might be interesting to compare Loser’s Adventure with Kim Jee-won’s The Foul King (2000) – both films centre on wrestling and masculinity, but produced almost 20 years apart they become a witness of Korean society’s rapid change. A Hard Day (2014, dir. Kim Seong-hun) and Beasts Clawing at Straws (2020, dir. Kim Yong-hoon) are well balanced mix of action, heist and black humour, while Dust and Ashes (2019, dir. Park Hee-kwon) is a piercing look at an individual struggling with institutions. Parasites can be cathartic in a way the section combines the feeling of a dead end with grassroot striving for a different life.

Mermaid Unlimited (2017, dir. O Muei)

Journey to Asia taps into the ability of cinema to mentally transport the viewers into different worlds while travel restriction does not allow for it in real life. Such cinematic travelling is commodified in a home entertainment style, seeing distant landscapes while still sitting comfortably on one’s sofa. Nevertheless, it is a chance to go outside of one’s bubble and see the perspective of people living in different cultures and natural environments. This year, the Festival presents an array of feature films combining two elements – journeys, both real and metaphorical, and the element of water, which gives life and takes it away, and is rooted deeply in local mythologies and traditions. The notion of community as well as fragile ecosystem persist throughout the films in the section, linking the programme to eco-cinema.

Mekong 2030 (2020, dir. Kulikar Sotho, Anysay Keola, Sai Naw Kham, Anocha Suwichakornpong, Pham Ngoc Lân)

Mekong 2030 is an omnibus project in which filmmakers from Southeast Asian countries connected by the flow of Mekong river – Kulikar Sotho (Cambodia), Anysay Keola (Laos), Sai Naw Kham (Myanmar), Anocha Suwichakornpong (Thailand), Pham Ngoc Lân (Vietnam) – travel along the river banks and try to envision near future. Recently in Southeast Asia sci-fi futuristic tales are booming and it is one of the ways to talk about local modernities and their consequences. The Takatsu River (2019, dir. Yoshinari Nishikori) is a warm family tale about the strength of the bonds between people and their environment that is threatened by the housing developer’s activities. Mermaid Unlimited (2017, dir. O Muei) is set on the volcanic island Jeju in the southern tip of Korean peninsula. The protagonist, a young professional swimmer, moves there from the big city to help women cultivating the traditional art of shell diving through popularizing synchronized swimming.

Ohong Village (2019, dir. Lim Lung-yin)

Ohong Village (2019, dir. Lim Lung-yin) also focuses on return migration from the city to small provincial home towns. It zooms in on the unsustainability of oyster farming in southern Taiwan and burgeoning ecotourism that might bring an alternative source of income but might entirely change local lifestyle. Although it seems to be a lot to encompass in one film, Lim Lung-yin finds the right balance, while also captivating the audience with footage shot on 16 mm. The river Ganges is a silent protagonist of Hotel Salvation (2016, dir. Shubhashish Bhutiani). The film revolves around an adult son accompanying his father who, according to the tradition, wants to spend his last days on the banks of the holy river. A meditation on passing and the unfathomable is also the theme of Sea Serpent (2017, dir. Joseph Laban) set on a tiny Philippine island Marinduque where one day hundreds of red apples start washing ashore. In Sea Serpent Joseph Laban uses the figure of Bakunawa – a serpent-like dragon in Philippine mythology that is supposed to cause eclipses – to reflect on environmental change through symptoms of approaching apocalypse.

A Witness Out of the Blue (2020, dir. Fung Chih-chiang)

Hong Kong cinema occupies an important place in the Five Flavours programme for several years now. The film industry of the city is characterized by a unique combination of art, indie and genre titles which resonates with the Five Flavours’ profile, thus Hong Kong became the programme’s mainstay. Each edition brings either latest titles or retrospectives, this year section Hong Kong Now features the latest titles of gradually booming indie production in the city. Trivisa (2016) presents one of the forces behind the phenomenon – Johnnie To’s support for young filmmakers. Cult director invited young filmmakers, Frank Hui, Jevons Au and Vicky Wong, to direct three interlocking novels that draw from the history of Hong Kong gangster cinema. A Witness Out of the Blue (2020, dir. Fung Chih-chiang) taps into this tradition while focusing on an investigation of brutal murder in which the sole witnesses is a colorful talking parrot. Expect fast-paced action and twisted puzzle but also humor and calm reflection. Hong Kong action cinema’s close connection to everyday reality provides yet an unexhausted source of creativity and means of keeping the genre relevant.

Apart (2020, dir. Chan Chitman)

Lost in the Fumes (2017, dir. Lam Tze Wing Nora) prefigures another movement – the wave of anti-Extradition Law protests in 2019. The film revolves around Edward Leung, student and activist, who unexpectedly finds himself in the middle of a political conflict surrounding the Hong Kong Legislative Council elections. Lam Tze Wing uses a framework of political drama to slowly dissect the power dynamics and entanglements that profoundly change Hong Kong society. Apart (2020, dir. Chan Chitman) revisits 2014 prodemocratic Yellow Umbrella Movement through a story of a couple and their friends who were actively participating in the protests. Apart is an intimate look at the generation of young Hong Kongers, who majorly differ from the youth of 1970s-2000s, but interestingly find affinity with the ones taking part in anti-British social movements in 1960s Hong Kong. Instead of pursuing careers and making money, they have to fight for their rights as citizens and make decisions that will determine their life as well as the future of the city. Memories to Choke On, Drinks to Wash Them Down (2020, dir. Kate Reilly, Leung Ming-kai) revisits the latest 2019 events in four episodes: three fiction and one documentary. However, politics is not in the center of the story this time, but provides the background. Kate Reilly and Leung Ming-kai show contemporary Hong Kong in its global and multicultural aspect. Visitors from different parts of the world stop here for a while or for life, find soul mates in random encounters, savour the unique local cuisine, fall in love with a city and join the fight for its future. Hong Kong Now is completed with Suk Suk, a moving love story that also gives an insight into the complicated biographies of the city’s inhabitants, many of whom are migrants.

Bento Harassment (2019, dir. Rempei Tsukamoto)

Tasty Cinema at 14th Five Flavours engages with the audiences on many levels, stimulating mind as well as all five senses. The programme explores the social function of food and cinema, trying to translate an offline experience into an online realm. Five Flavours encourages not only to eat with one’s eyes but also satisfy the hunger induced by the films and try one’s hand in recreating the dishes shown on screen. Japanese cinema seems to be the one that celebrates national culinary culture in many different ways, but Southeast Asian treats and South Korean homemade cuisine also make an appearance. In Bento Harassment (2019, dir. Rempei Tsukamoto) mother tries to reconnect with her rebellious teenage daughter by preparing for her cute lunch boxes that include pleas, old jokes, and all the messages that get ignored in daily mother-daughter communication. Lunch boxes do not simply convey information but become means to express emotions, love and caring, however reciprocation is not guaranteed. Single-parenting and the powerful motif of a lunch box is also featured in The Taste of Pho (2019, dir. Mariko Bobrik) that tells the story of 10-year-old Maja who is also embarrassed by the traditional lunch prepared for her every morning by her father, a Vietnamese chef and master of pho soup. Challenges of adjusting to life in Warsaw as well as raising his daughter in between two cultures is narrated with warm humour, each frame expressing a subtle affection towards the story and its protagonists.

Japanese lunch box, an element of everyday life that rose to the level of grassroot national symbol, returns in Bittersweet (2016, dir. Shogo Kusano). The film tells a story of an ambitious young woman, Maki, starting a career in a marketing agency. A natural-born workaholic does not care much about nutrition, so she lives on instant food devoured in front of a screen. Her life life changes when she meets a handsome gay guy, who loves to cook and is vegetarian. This romantic comedy is an interesting take on the connection between love and physical as well as mental health. Naoko Ogigami in Kamome Dinner (2006) also projects food as a means of communication, this time not between different generations or sexes but distant cultures. The film revolves around a woman who opens a Japanese restaurant in Helsinki, but has problems with attracting customers. However, once she connects with other Japanese women living in the city, the inner energy sparks up and Helsinki locals start to come in to discover Japanese food prepared miles away from its place of origin. Little Forest (2018, dir. Yim Soon-rye) is also a tale of migration and life-changing decisions narrated from a woman’s perspective. The film revolves around Hye-won who leaves her temporary job in Seoul and returns to a small town where she grew up. In the familiar surroundings, she discovers memories full of flavors and aromas, and tries to recreate the food of her childhood.

Little Forest (2018, dir. Yim Soon-rye)

Strong female voice and mother-daughter dynamic returns in Singaporean Not My Mother’s Baking (2020, Remi M Sali) that tells the story of a young woman, a talented chef specializing in mouth-watering cakes and delicious creams. She is torn between an infatuation with Chinese young man working with his parents at the roast pork stall and her Malay friend who seems to be a perfect fit for a husband. The triangle gets more complicated as she decides to establish her own online cooking show, but the intergenerational conflicts seem unavoidable. Not My Mother’s Baking shows how in multiethnic Singapore, intercultural marriages still raise some family objections. Marriage and food is also in the center of The Tale of Samurai Cooking (2013, dir. Yuzu Asahara), which introduces Japanese cuisine in its most secret and localized variant, far away from internationalized treats such as ramen and sushi. The film is set in the Edo period and tells the story of a young servant Haru who during a ceremony surprises everyone with her culinary prowess and grabs the attention of samurai Dennai, who arranges for the girl to become his son’s wife. Anxious about the family future, the patriarch resolves that cooking skills will teach his son to honour the tradition. The film itself is an homage to washōku – the traditional Japanese cuisine featuring duck in wheat bran, fava bean with fish paste, and yubeshi – sweets made of yuzu fruit, rice flour, sugar and soy sauce.

Foodlore: He Serves Fish, She Eats Flower (2019, dir. Phan Dang Di)

Last but not least, Tasty Cinema features two one-hour-long episodes of Foodlore, an eight-part HBO series inspired by the success of Folklore that was one of the festival highlights during 12th Five Flavours. Foodlore: He Serves Fish, She Eats Flower (2019, dir. Phan Dang Di) tells the story of Thang, a young and ambitious cook working in one of the restaurants filling the small streets of Ho Chi Minh with delicious aromas. His standards are very high, but there is one client whose approval is particularly important to him. In Foodlore: The Caterer (2019) Pen-ek Ratanaruang playfully explores intercultural misunderstandings and the topic of Westerners in Thailand, an endless source of anecdotes. The episode revolves around an American actor on the set of a Thai horror movie. He cannot stand the heat and looks suspiciously at the meals served to the crew. Pen-ek Ratanaruang creates his own universe, The Caterer being a sort of behind-the-scenes to Folklore: POB, the episode he developed for the previous HBO series. Making-off convention of Foodlore: The Caterer bends the boundary between fiction and reality, but also becomes a fascinating insight into the realities on the set of transnational co-productions.

Foodlore: The Caterer (2019, dir. Pen-ek Ratanaruang)

Five Flavours faced similar problems to the ones that all the festivals around the world had to. However, due to travel restrictions the team also had to completely shift direction in which the festival was going. The initiatives to form a transnational alliance with parallel events in Europe specializing in Asian cinema (NAFFE, Erasmus program) have to be put on hold temporarily. Now, although focusing mostly on local and national audiences, Five Flavours does not exclude expats and non-Polish speakers – all the films will have subtitles in both Polish and English! It is great news, since sometimes festival organizers assume that, due to geoblock, the films should be subtitled in the national language. It is impossible to predict what the near future might bring. However, at least when it comes to online film festivals, Five Flavours seems to have found a solution.

All the films will be available on the festival’s VOD platform and Asian VR through a special application.

Full 2020 Five Flavours online line up:

New Asian Cinema

Beauty Water (2020, dir. Cho Kyung-hun)
Wisdom Tooth (2019, dir. Liang Ming)
Boluomi (2019, dir. Lau Kek Huat, Vera Chen)
Daughters (2020, dir. Hajime Tsuda)
Under the Open Sky (2020, dir. Miwa Nishikawa)
Verdict (2019, dir. Raymund Ribay Gutierrez)
Sometime, Sometime (2020, dir. Jacky Yeap Swee Leong)
Rom (2019, dir. Tran Thanh Huy)
Impetigore (2019, dir. Joko Anwar)
Jallikattu (2020, dir. Lijo Jose Pellissery)
Geran (2020, dir. Areel Abu Bakar)

Tasty Cinema

Bento Harassment (2019, dir. Rempei Tsukamoto)
Bittersweet (2016, dir. Shogo Kusano)
Foodlore: He Serves Fish, She Eats Flower (2019, dir. Phan Dang Di)
Foodlore: The Caterer (2019, dir. Pen-ek Ratanaruang)
Kamome Diner (2006, dir. Naoko Ogigami)
Little Forest (2018, dir. Yim Soon-rye)
Not My Mother’s Baking (2020, Remi M Sali)
The Tale of Samurai Cooking (2013, dir. Yuzu Asahara)

Polish Flavours

The Taste of Pho (2019, dir. Mariko Bobrik)

Asian Cinerama

Gully Boy (2019, dir. Zoya Akhtar)
Gundala (2019, dir. Joko Anwar)
Kim Ji-young: Born 1982 (2019, dir. Kim Do-young)
My Prince Edward (2019, dir. Norris Wong)
One Night (2019, dir. Kazuya Shiraishi)
Suk Suk (2019, dir. Ray Yeung)

Asian VR

Black Bag (2019, dir. Qing Shao)
Bloodless (2017, dir. Gina Kim)
Geimu (2020, dir. Dorian Goto Stone)
Rain Fruits (2020, dir. Song Youngyoon, Lee Sngmoo, Sergio Bromberg, Jeon Hyejin, Kim Jinhyung, Kim Hwaeun)
Replacements (2020, dir. Jonathan Hagard)
SIM: The Blind (2020, dir. Cooper Yoo Sanghyun)
Tag Along VR (2018, dir. Cheng Pu-yuan)
Your Spiritual Temple Sucks (2017, dir. John Hsu)

Parasites

A Hard Day (2014, dir. Kim Seong-hun)
Beasts Clawing at Straws (2020, dir. Kim Yong-hoon)
Dust and Ashes (2019, dir. Park Hee-kwon)
Loser’s Adventure (2018, dir. Ko Bong-soo)
Lucky Chan-sil (2019, dir. Kim Cho-hee)
Microhabitat (2017, dir. Jeon Go-woon)
Rain Fruits (2020, dir. Song Youngyoon, Lee Sngmoo, Sergio Bromberg, Jeon Hyejin, Kim Jinhyung, Kim Hwaeun)

Journey to Asia

Hotel Salvation (2016, dir. Shubhashish Bhutiani)
Mekong 2030 (2020, dir. Kulikar Sotho, Anysay Keola, Sai Naw Kham, Anocha Suwichakornpong, Pham Ngoc Lân)
Mermaid Unlimited (2017, dir. O Muei)
Ohong Village (2019, dir. Lim Lung-yin)
Sea Serpent (2017, dir. Joseph Laban)
The Takatsu River (2019, dir. Yoshinari Nishikori)

Hong Kong Now

A Witness Out of the Blue (2020, dir. Fung Chih-chiang)
Apart (2020, dir. Chan Chitman)
Lost in the Fumes (2017, dir. Lam Tze Wing Nora)
Memories to Choke On, Drinks to Wash Them Down (2020, dir. Kate Reilly, Leung Ming-kai)
Trivisa (2016, dir. Frank Hui, Jevons Au, Vicky Wong)

14th Five Flavours Asian Film Festival runs from November 25 to December 6 online. Check out more info on festival passes, the programme, Five Flavours FB and Instagram for latest updates!

About the author

Maja KorbeckaMaja Korbecka Maja Korbecka
Edward Yang’s Confucian Confusion and Lou Ye’s Suzhou River seem to exert a mysterious influence on her life. Sinophone cinema lover, currently works as Five Flavours Film Festival film programmer, writer and Chinese translator.
Read all posts by Maja Korbecka

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