In 2008 Silk Screen Asian Film Festival was an even larger success. Film attendance increased early 50% from 2000 to almost 3000. Youth attendees (ages 12-26) substantially increased from previous years. The 25 films shown from May 9-18, 2008 included award winning selections from: Toronto International, San Francisco International, Asia Pacific, Cannes, Berlin International, Sundance, Los Angeles and San Francisco Asian-American Film Festivals.
New addition to the festival was the screening of Anime Film “5 Centimeters Per Second,” by highly popular Makoto Shinkai. Silk Screen also introduced the RAGS Audience Choice Award presented to Richie Mehta for “Amal.” Q&A sessions with filmmakers during the 2008 festival had great support. Filmmakers came to Pittsburgh from India, California, New York City and Canada for both opening and closing weekends. Silk Screen Festival hopes this opportunity will increase the potential for on-going filmmaking, sight scouting, recruitment of staff and development of relationships with Pittsburgh’s growing film industry.
5 Centimeters per Second, Japan, 2007, 62 min
Filmmaker: Makato Shinkai
Winner of Best Animated Feature Film at the 2007 Asia Pacific Screen Awards. The highly popular anime filmmaker Makoto Shinkai chose to make the film in 3 segments. Ultimately, the film concentrates on moving on from past connections rather than living in the past, and about finding a way to become happy in the present rather than pining for what is lost. You will not find another anime director better than Shinkai at using just the right combination of lines and visuals, to make such stories work.
Amal, India, 2007, 101 min
Director: Ritchie Mehta
Official Selection – Toronto International Film Festival. Amal paints a multi-layered portrait of contemporary India. The life of a rickshaw-driver (Rupinder Nagra) is forever altered when an eccentric tycoon decides to bequeath him his fortune. Director Ritchie Mehta depicts the rarest of heroes, one whose spirit leaves an indelible impact. Filmed in New Delhi, this modern fable asks the question of what success means and sends the message that the poorest of men are sometimes the richest.
Before the Rains, India, 2007, 98 min
Director: Santosh Sivan
Mira Nair calls this film “unforgettable … a hothouse of sensuality, empire, class and guilt.” T.K. (Rahul Bose) finds himself torn between his ambitions for the future and his loyalty to the past, when the villagers learn of an affair between his British boss (Linus Roache) and a village woman (Nandita Das). Acclaimed Indian director Santosh Sivan’s film is set in southwestern India in 1937. A Merchant Ivory Production.
Chop Shop, USA, 84 min
Director: Ramin Bharani
Ramin Bahrani’s (Man Push Cart) newest film comes to SILK SCREEN from the Cannes, Berlin and Toronto film festivals. Intimate, heartbreaking, yet ultimately hopeful, Chop Shop is the portrait of young Alejandro and his sister who navigate a difficult, chaotic life in the industrial area of Queens known as the Iron Triangle. The story carries universal themes of survival and sibling love. Filled with strong and unique characters, Chop Shop reveals a New York City never before depicted in cinema.
Dark Matter, China, 2007, 98 min
Director: Chen Shi-Zheng
Winner of the Alfred P. Sloan prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Director Chen Shi-Zheng’s film showcases Meryl Streep and Aidan Quinn. Inspired by actual events, Dark Matter explores the world of Liu Xing (Chinese for “Shooting Star”), a Chinese cosmology student pursuing a Ph.D. in the United States in the early 1990s. Despite his ambition, Liu Xing remains unable to navigate academic politics. As such, he is marginalized and eventually loses his way.
The Edge of Heaven, Turkey, 2007, 116 min
Director: Fatih Akin
Features Hanna Schygulla. Fatih Akin’s superb drama centers on two pairs of mothers and their daughters, and one father-son pair. In a small German family, friction is caused between the retired widower Ali and his son Nejat when Ari makes an unorthodox offer to a Turkish prostitute named Yeter. The father begins to care for Yeter, which upsets Nejat until he learns that Yeter spends all her earnings on her daughter’s education in Turkey.
A Gentle Breeze in the Village
Director: Nobuhiro Yamashita
Set in Japan’s scenic countryside, a rural schoolgirl is smitten by a new handsome arrival from Tokyo. Director Nobuhiro Yamashita’s tale of adolescent love avoids the overly sentimental or didactic social commentary of many first-love stories. Based on Fusako Kuramochi’s popular manga tale.
Getting Home, China, 2007, 97 min
Director: Zhang Yang
Based on a true story. In Zhang Yang’s quasi-philosophical road comedy, working-class stiff Zhao (the famous Chinese comedian Zhao Benshan) is shocked when his drinking buddy and co-worker drops dead during a routine night out. Zhoa owes it to his long-time friend to transport his corpse to its final resting place. Director Zhang Yang also made the critically acclaimed Shower.
Half Moon, Iran, 2007, 110 min
Director: Bahman Ghobadi
Kurdish-Iranian writer and director Bahman Ghobadi tells the journey of Mamo, renowned old musician whose musical group has been granted permission to perform a concert in Iraqi Kurdistan. They drive a school bus across a majestic landscape, which brings together Mamo’s ten musical adult sons. The persistent Mamo guides everyone toward adventure, emotion and magic.
The Home Song Stories, Australia/Singapore, 2007, 103 min
Director: Tony Ayres
Glamorous Hong Kong nightclub singer, Rose Hong struggles to survive in Australia with her two children. Based on real events, this is director Tony Ayres’ epic tale of love, betrayal and hidden secrets that spans continents and decades. Joan Chen’s performance as Rose is spectacular.
Mithya, India, 2008, 110 min
Director: Rajat Kapoor
In this comic Bollywood thriller, director Rajat Kapoor introduces us to aspiring actor VK, who moves to Mumbai to make it big just like, well, every other aspiring actor. When fate makes him a pawn in a master game plan of the underworld, he unknowingly gets drawn into a whirlpool of events that will determine his future. Money, conspiracy, deceit, betrayal, lies–the stuff that the Mumbai underworld is made of. VK is about to reluctantly taste all of it, and then some.
Never Forever, South Korea, 2007, 102 min
Director: Gina Kim
Never Forever is director Gina Kim’s bold portrayal of woman’s desire–a love story that explores the possibility of one woman’s self awareness discovered through passion. Set in New York, this melodrama features the unlikely pair of a Caucasian housewife Sophie (Vera Farmiga) and Jihah (Jung-woo Ha), a Korean immigrant.
Option 3, USA, 2008, 72 min
Director: Richard Wong
Fresh from its premiere at the 2008 San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival, the movie is a meditation on lost love, but in the form of an urban thriller. Richard Wong’s cinematic nightmare lacks conventional narrative logic and oscillates from Kafkaesque thriller to genre parody. Wong uniquely explores the indeed-scary nature of love and loss, taking audiences on a trip that is simultaneously dark, puzzling, clever and whimsical.
Owl and the Sparrow, Vietnam, 2007, 98 min
Director: Stephane Gauger
Winner of the “Best Narrative Feature,” San Francisco Asian American Film Festival and “Audience Award Best Narrative Feature,” Los Angeles Film Festival. A beautiful flight attendant looking for love. A lonely zookeeper hiding from a changing society. A little orphan girl selling roses on the streets of Saigon, relying on the kindness of strangers to survive. A captivating performance by 10-year old newcomer Pham Thi Han. A sweet story directed by Stephane Gauger that leaves audiences smiling.
Ping Pong Playa, USA, 2007, 90 min
Director: Jessica Yu
The hilarious first narrative feature film from academy-award winning documentary filmmaker Jessica Yu. A young slacker Chinese-American, born into a family of ping pong champions, clings to his pipe dream of a career in the NBA. After his parents are injured in an accident, he is forced to relinquish his hoop dreams to defend his family’s ping pong dynasty.
Ploy, Thailand, 2007, 105 min
Director: Pen-Ek Ratanruang
Director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s psychological drama wherein three strangers are locked inside one hotel room. It starts with subtle suspicions and builds up to jealousy, as the appearance of a young woman triggers devastating consequences for a married couple.
Santa Mesa, USA/Philippines, 2008, 85 min
Director: Ron Morales
Beautifully filmed coming-of-age tale of a young Filipino-American who must return home after the death of a loved one. Santa Mesa’s convincing performances captures the beauty and awkwardness of cultural isolation and teen angst amidst the tender sadness of losing a beloved family member. Filmmaker Ron Morales makes a striking feature debut.
Takva: A Man’s Fear of God, Turkey, 2006, 96 min
Director: Özer Kiziltan
A man of faith is rewarded for his devotion, only to find his beliefs challenged by his new prosperity in this drama from Turkish filmmaker Özer Kiziltan. The film received its North American premiere at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival.
Tie a Yellow Ribbon, USA, 2007, 87 min
Director: Joy Deitrich
In her first feature film, director Joy Deitrich paints a nuanced portrait of a female Korean adoptee who must confront her damaged past. Estranged from her family due to a childhood indiscretion with her white brother, Jenny Mason seeks to regain a sense of home by exploring ties with the Asian Americans she meets in her new apartment building, until suddenly, her brother shows up at the door, stirring up long lost feelings that she has tried to bury.
Tuya’s Marriage, China, 2006, 96 min
Director: Wang Quan An
Quirky desert romantic comedy set in Mongolia provides a fresh twist to an ageless story: a woman’s search for a reliable man who can support her. The story is nothing if not reality-based, yet clever and irreverent, elegantly shot, beautifully directed by Wang Quan An with fine performances by some actors who have never been in front of a camera before. Winner of the 2007 Golden Berlin Bear.
Valu, India, 2008, 126 min
Director: Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni
A wild bull, a forest officer, and a small Maharashtra village make up the trinity of characters in this first feature film by Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni, whose actors exude a blend of rural innocence, straight-forwardness and humor; this mix keeps viewers glued to their seats. Valu is funny, entertaining and thought-provoking with a fable-like quality.
Japanese Nikkatsu Action Cinema, At the Andy Warhol Museum
A Colt is My Passport (1967)
In this brilliantly stylish and noir-inspired film, Jo Shishido plays a cool-headed killer desperate to get out of town after pulling off a hit with his partner. With rival gang members in pursuit, they improvise an escape but are first forced into a deadly confrontation; the cinematically mind-bending “high-noon” face-off scene between man and car is not to be missed.
The Warped Ones (1960)
The Warped Ones is exactly that: warped, and a fine example of the typical sixties Japanese pop-film, blending the best of French New Wave (hand-held camera sequences that would make Godard dizzy, cool-jazz score, and moody, young characters) with the Japanese exploitation cinema (violence, sex and rape).
Glass Johnny: Look Like a Beast (1962)
Jo Shishido [A Colt is my Passport] stars in this Kurahara-directed melodrama whose influence can be traced to Federico Fellini’s La Strada. Shishido exudes a larger-than-life charisma and swagger in this tale of low-lifes scrambling to survive on the ragged edge of nowhere. Animator Hayao Miyazaki later used the female lead Izumi Ashikawa as a model for his anime heroines.
Plains Wanderer (1960)
If you haven’t seen a guitar-strumming crooning Japanese cowboy donning a black-tassled leather jacket and red neckerchief play the male lead in a while, now is your perfect opportunity. Akira Kobayashi plays the drifter-cowboy.