Festival Reports

43th Hawaiʻi International Film Festival, 12 to 22 October, 2023

Mrudula Tuesday November 21, 2023


A still from the film IF ONLY I COULD HIBERNATE
A still from the film IF ONLY I COULD HIBERNATE

The 43rd Hawaiʻi International Film Festival (HIFF) took place in Honolulu from October 12 to 22, 2023. 

Recognized as the vanguard forum of international cinematic achievement in the Asia-Pacific region, HIFF 2023 opened with Taika Waititi's comedy feature NEXT GOAL WINS (USA, 2023), along with feature documentary UNCLE BULLY's SURF SKOOL (2023, Hawaiʻi), they served as HIFF 43's two "Opening Night Films." Legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki's new animated feature THE BOY AND THE HERON (2023, Japan) was this year's Closing Night Film. 

Spotlighting exceptional works and discovering new talent, the NETPAC Award at HIFF honors one Asian Pacific title that is the first or second feature from the filmmaker(s). This year, the HIFF NETPAC Jury was composed of Gemma Cubero del Barrio (documentary filmmaker/producer, Talcual Films), Yuka Sakano (Executive Director, Kawakita Memorial Film Institute, Tokyo), and jury chairperson George Chun Han Wang (Professor, ACM: The School of Cinematic Arts, University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa, and NETPAC/USA Treasurer). 

Film Poster IOICH  

George Chun Han Wang and Gemma Cubero del Barrio announce the NETPAC Award winner at the HIFF 43 Awards Gala on October 22, 2023
George Chun Han Wang and Gemma Cubero del Barrio announce the NETPAC Award winner at the HIFF 43 Awards Gala on October 22, 2023

On October 17th, a brunch honoring the NETPAC jury was held at the Waihonua Clubroom. The event was hosted by NETPAC/USA president Vilsoni Hereniko and NETPAC Advisory Council member Jeannette Paulson Hereniko, and was attended by filmmakers and festival guests including actress Amy Hill, HIFF Artistic Director Anderson Le, and HIFF Executive Director Beckie Stocchetti. 

The HIFF NETPAC jury reviewed 8 feature films nominated by the festival this year. They are: CORD OF LIFE (China), A GIRL OUT OF THE COUNTRY (Taiwan), MY HEAVENLY CITY (Taiwan), ORPA (Indonesia, Papua), IF ONLY I COULD HIBERNATE (Mongolia), WHICH COLOR? (India), INSIDE THE YELLOW COCOON SHELL (Vietnam), and YOU & ME & ME (Thailand).

At the deliberation meeting that took place at the Halekulani Hotel on October 19 from 9:30 to 11:30am, the NETPAC jury selected IF ONLY I COULD HIBERNATE from Mongolia as this year's NETPAC Award winner at HIFF. An uplifting tale of survival and hope, IF ONLY I COULD HIBERNATE is the feature debut of Mongolian filmmaker Zoljargal Purevdash. Inspired by her own life experience of growing up in the impoverished yurt district in Ulaanbaatar, Purevdash's refreshing coming-of-age tale of a teenage boy’s arduous journey to keep his family warm while pursuing an alternative future through the promises of a better education, is also a gentle but unambiguous criticism of her fast-industrializing homeland's toxic air pollution that is taking a heavy toll on the vulnerable populations simply trying to keep themselves warm in the harsh winter months. 

George Chun Han Wang and Gemma Cubero del Barrio announced the NETPAC Award winner at HIFF 43's Awards Gala, held on Sunday October 22, 2023 at the Halekulani Hotel. IF ONLY I COULD HIBERNATE director Zoljargal Purevdash graciously accepted the award through a pre-recorded video speech. 

Other awards presented at the Gala include: HIFF Halekulani Maverick Award for Korean actor/producer Don Lee; HIFF Halekulani Vanguard Award for Japanese actress Sakura Ando; and HIFF Leanne K. Ferrer Pasifika Trailblazer Award for New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis. As HIFF 43 concluded on the island of Oʻahu, the festival continued through November 5, 2023, with screenings on neighbor Islands including Hawaʻi Island (Big Island), Kauaʻi, Lanai and Maui. 

Vilsoni Hereniko, Gemma Cubero del Barrio, Jeannette Paulson Hereniko, Anderson Le, Beckie Stocchetti, George Chun Han Wang, and Yuko Sakano at the HIFF 43 NETPAC/USA Brunch on October 17, 2023
Vilsoni Hereniko, Gemma Cubero del Barrio, Jeannette Paulson Hereniko, Anderson Le, Beckie Stocchetti, George Chun Han Wang, and Yuko Sakano at the HIFF 43 NETPAC/USA Brunch on October 17, 2023

George Chun Han Wang (NETPAC/USA)

Jury Members:

George Chun Han Wang (USA) (Jury Chairperson)

Gemma Cubero del Barrio (USA)

Yuka Sakano (Japan)


(Mongolia, 2023, 96 minutes, Colour)

Directed by Zoljargal Purevdash (Mongolia)


"for its insightful and cinematic portrayal of a teenage boy’s arduous journey to keep his family warm, while pursuing an alternative future through the promises of a better education."

Brief Synopsis:

A poor but prideful teenage boy Ulzii determines to win a Physics competition for a scholarship, but his illiterate mother finds a job in the countryside and leaves him with his siblings in the middle of the winter.

Cinemalaya: Unearthing fresh talent and on the cusp of a milestone  

Mrudula Saturday October 14, 2023

Cinemalaya is unlike any other festival, at least its feature competition section is. Usually, in film festivals, international or otherwise, entries are called for and programmers choose a certain number from among them using various criteria such as quality, theme(s) of the festival, representation of a wide base of nations, number of slots available, and so on. Some festivals don’t call for entries and get their content curated through experienced curators. But at Cinemalaya, held every year in the Filipino capital of Manila, the feature film competition comprises ten films made by young Filipino filmmakers who are chosen two years in advance, mentored and funded to make their films – with the end products competing exactly two years later.

The 19th edition of Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, as it is officially called, was no different. Held during August 4-13, it screened ten films whose directors were picked up a two years ago from nearly 200 screenplay entries received, shortlisted to top 15 and then further pruned to top 10. The two juries – the main Competition jury and the NETPAC jury – watched these ten films, as well as ten short films that were chosen from entries received through an open call, to choose the winners in various categories. The NETPAC awards only the best film award in both feature and short categories, while the main jury has a wide range of categories to decide. The festival also screens a selection of Asian films – both feature-length and short – in non-competitive sections (Visions of Asia comprising NETPAC award-winning films from other festivals, Dokyu comprising a curated package of documentaries, and several special screening packages of short films including one curated by Lorna Tee of The Asian Film Network Alliance) but the excitement clearly is around the competition films as the festival every year has been unearthing fresh talent, some of whom have gone on to become flagbearers of Filipino cinema in both independent and mainstream spaces over the years.

Utpal Borpujari of the NETPAC jury is presenting NETPAC awards at the Cinemayala Festival
Utpal Borpujari of the NETPAC jury is presenting NETPAC awards at the Cinemayala Festival

This year too was not different. The selection of the feature and shorts comprised a wide variety of filmmaking visions, and every film was different from the other in terms of visualization, treatment and overall design. Uniquely for Cinemalaya, this year saw the first-ever selection of animation and documentary films in the full-length feature competition, marking a step forward for the festival in terms of widening its scope and opening a new window of opportunity for young filmmakers focusing on these two genres. 

The feature competition comprised quite a few strong films, and the wide range of award winners reflect that fact. One of the most-striking film of the festival was “Iti Mapukpukaw” (The Missing), directed by Carl Joseph E. Papa, which swept the best film award in both main competition and NETPAC sections. Software engineer’s Papa’s animation film effectively utilized the rotoscoping technology to convert real-life footages into animation, creating not only stunning imagery but also using it as a tool to create symbolic layers to its storytelling. The film wowed audiences with its subtle nuances while dealing with several important issues, and the fine acting by its cast added extra zing to it. Subsequently, the film has been selected as the official entry of the Philippines in the Best International Feature category at the 2024 Academy Awards.

Another film that left a powerful impression was Dustin Celestino’s “Ang Duyan Ng Magiting” (The Cradle of the Brave). A no-holds-barred political story, the film’s strong dialogues and overall energy could overbear its weakness of being structured like a stage play across multiple sets. In the immediate context of the recent political history of the Philippines, it’s an important film, but lack of clear references to the timeline of the story might alienate international viewers from the very same context. But nevertheless, it stood out as a courageous film. Another courageous film thematically was Gian Arre’s “Tether”, which could attract viewers with its intertwining of obsessive love with a biological miracle, taking it to nearly-shocking levels. Its lead actress Jorrybell Agoto (who also features in Kevin Mayuga’s high-energy “When This is All Over” set during the Pandemic times) is a face to look out for in Filipino cinema for sure, and it might not be a surprise if she becomes an international breakout star in the future. And Arre too is a voice to watch out for.

The overall line-up in the competition, including the first-ever documentary “Maria” (Dir: Sheryl Rose M. Andes), an investigative, political film on wanton killings during former President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against drugs, coming-of-age teenage drama “Rookie” (Dir: Samantha Lee & Natts Jadaone), Japan- Philippines love story “Gitling” (Sugarland, Dir: Jopy Arnaldo), nostalgia-themed “Huiling Palabas” (Fin, Dir: Ryan Espiosa Machado) and “Bulawan Nga Usa” (Golden Deer, Dir: Kenneth De La Cruz) and “As If It’s True” (Dir: John Rogers) on the roller-coaster lives of a social media influencer and her untalented boyfriend, was quite interesting in terms thematic and linguistic diversity.  But it is not to say that all the films were perfect cinema, and a few of them would have surely benefitted from further fine-tuning of the screenplays.

In the shorts competition too, a couple of films stood out distinctly from others because of  innovative treatment (specially the NETPAC award-winner “Hinakdal/Condemned”, Dir: Arvin Belarmino) or simple-yet-heartfelt storytelling (the main Competition award-winning “Sibuyas Ni Perfecto/Perfecto’s Onion”, Dir: Januar Yap). One would eagerly wait for quite a few of the shorts directors to come up with their full-length features in the coming years.

Next year, it would be 20 years since Cinemalaya had started. And like every year, the 10 finalists of the 2024 edition of Cinemalaya were presented on stage during the Awards night on August 13. These 10, who were chosen in 2022 and have undergone the Lab & mentoring process during 2023, have exactly a year to film their projects and showcase them in the Competition section in 2024. Cinemalaya is, very encouragingly, a good example of public-private partnership – a joint venture of the Cinemalaya Foundation, Inc., and government-owned Cultural Center of the Philippines. Starting with the 2023 batch, whose films competed this year, each of the chosen films are getting financial grants of Two Million Pesos – which come from equal contributions of One Million Pesos each from the Cultural Centre of the Philippines and the Film Development Council of the Philippines. Cinemalaya has, over the years, unearthed several generations of new cinematic voices, and this year was no different. The only dampener perhaps was that the usual venue, the grand Cultural Center of the Philippines, is undergoing a massive renovation, forcing the festival to temporarily shift for the next couple of years to the nearby and equally-grand Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), which is not exactly equipped to be a perfect film screening facility.


By Utpal Borpujari

(The author served as the chairman of the NETPAC jury at the 19th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, Manila, August 4-13, 2023)


Mrudula Saturday October 14, 2023

The Kazan International Muslim Film Festival was held from 5 – 9 September 2023 in the beautiful capital of Tatarstan where Slavic and Islamic cultures meet. The festival is organized by the Government of Russia, The Rais of Tatarstan in partnership with the strategic vision group ‘Russia – Islamic World’ with the motto, ‘Through the Dialogue of Cultures – to the Culture of Dialogue’.

The festival offered a wide selection of feature films and documentaries in the following sections: Competition which included the full length and short features, full-length and short documentaries and a selection of films from Tatarstan. The Chairman of the International Jury was the eminent Senegalese director, Moussa Toure. The non-competition programme included films from the Turkic World, Ethnic Cinema, a retrospective of Andrei Konchalovsky’s films. A pre-recorded address by Konchalovsky was screened (since he could not be present) at the gala opening in which he stressed the importance of cinema (and the other arts) as a form of cognition of the world, which was different from, but as important as the knowledge given by science. The opening film was Two Captains by Bair Uladaev (Buryatia, 2023)

The 100th anniversary of Cinema in Tatarstan was celebrated with an exhibition and screenings of films. The highlight was a programme at the Kazan Kremlin in which live jazz music was played to accompany excerpts from the first silent Tatar film, the historical Bulat Batyr (1928). There was also a section of films for children entitled ‘Visiting Childhood’. Days of Turkish, Syrian, Chinese, Greek and Georgian Cinemas were also presented. Student films from VGIK were showcased. Emir Kusturica was the Guest of Honour at the festival with a screening of his 2016 film, On the Milky Way.

NETPAC Jury members at Kazan International Festival: Sergei Kapterev, Rashmi Doraiswamy, Ildar Yagafarov (From Left to Right)
NETPAC Jury members at Kazan International Festival: Sergei Kapterev, Rashmi Doraiswamy, Ildar Yagafarov (From Left to Right)

Films in Competition

The film awarded by the NETPAC Jury, Ada (Russia, 2023), a feature debut by Stanislav Svetlov, took a refreshingly new look at the coming of age of a young girl in a small hamlet nestled in nature on the banks of the Oka River, a tributary of the Volga. Twelve-year old Ada is loved by the community she lives in and warmly welcomed wherever she goes, by fishermen, by teachers…. The opening sequences that ‘locate’ this hamlet and Ada and the elders she meets are masterful in their pacing and rhythm that allows us to experience the temporality of that space. The high shots of the lush forest, that are repeated through the film give us a feel of life untouched by the high rises of modernity. This idyll is real, though. Ada draws and leaves her scratched drawings as imprints of her having been in those places. In the postbox Ada posts letters without any address to her absent and unknown father. Ada lives with her single mother who loves and supports her. Their relationship is very warm and tender, without both of them losing their independence. Her mother plans on making her relationship with Eduard, a teacher in the local school, permanent. Ada herself is fascinated by Viktor, one of the boys at school. The only ‘conflicts’ in the narrative is Ada inadvertently seeing a moment of intimacy between her stepfather-to-be and his colleague, or that between Viktor and his alcoholic grandfather. The rites of passage - of growing up, first make up, first love, first menstruation, first ‘betrayal’ - are captured in a style that is elegiac and elegant.

The Syrian film, The Road (2022), a different kind of a ‘coming-of-age’ film. A child has been labelled as ‘stupid’ by the school administration. The grandfather who receives this letter decides to teach his grandson himself in a very novel way. He makes him sit on a chair in front of his house and asks him to carefully note down whatever he sees happening on the road. By correcting his grandchild’s spelling, grammar and descriptions, the grandfather enhances his abilities to observe, understand and note down the events that transpire on the road of life. Warring groups that vow to finish off each other and grow more menacing with passing years, carrying more sticks and other weapons, bruised and limping, with old and new members but show no signs of giving up or of reconciliation; a motherly figure who brings in milk for the child, but constantly repeats that the milk can must not be washed; a man who has undergone abdominal surgery and curses the doctor because he cannot help the loud farts, but who later gets cured; a young girl from the boy’s school who goes around distributing traditional bread; the child’s father who occasionally visits and a poet who recites poetry about the times they live in…. these are some of the people who pass by on the road, providing invaluable lessons of life to the boy, making him grow up into an intelligent and capable young man. The director Abdellatif Abdelhamid, who is a VGIK alumni, tells the story of this unconventional education with humour.

Our Home (India, 2022) by Mayanglabam Romi Meitei is about the life of a boy and his family in an isolated fishing community on Loktak Lake in northeast India. The boy goes to school by swimming across the lake every day, carefully putting his uniform and bag in a plastic bag, so as not to wet them. When the family is evicted by the government and the new forces of development take over this village, the precarious existence of the child and his family is further threatened.

The Grand Prize of the International Jury was won by No Prior Appointment (Iran, 2022, directed by Behrouz Shoaibi). It traces the journey back home of a woman who has settled in Germany with her mother. Both are divorced. She learns of her estranged father’s death and returns to Iran to find he has left her a grave in his will. Intrigued and enraged by this ‘property’ she has inherited, she and her young autistic son embark on a journey of self -discovery, healing, and maybe, even love. Fortune, the much-awarded Tajik film (2022, directed by Muhiddin Muzafar)) was also part of the competition section. Set in the period just before the fall of the Soviet Union, it tells the story of friendship between two men, whose long association sours because of a lottery that ‘betters’ the financial situation of one of them. The changing values of the transition period is also depicted in the son of the ‘car owner’ (who keeps calling him on the landline and whom the spectators never see) giving up his training as an opera singer to become a taxi driver in Moscow because this is the job that will get him more money. The other son is corrupt. One of the friends is jailed, but he does not implicate his friend; the other dies unable to bear the stress of living in new times with strange values. The car that had been the bone of contention gets sold and its parts taken out. As this ‘hollowed out’ skeleton of the car is wheeled out on a cart, the dead body of the friend is brought home.

Shorts and Documentaries

The short feature section, Zainab Yunus’ Devotion (Pakistan, 2023) has the director playing the lead role of a young woman who wishes to leave her hometown, Quetta, because she has been offered a job she covets in the media industry in another city. On the day before she leaves her old father takes her around showing her aspects of life she had not paid much attention to and the landscape. ‘When we stay in a city, we become a part of the city’s voice’, says the father, ‘The city will be loyal to you’. The old man’s son has gone missing and he hopes to hear the  missing boy’s voice in the hum of the city’s noises.  The daughter, whose documentary on schools in her hometown makes a mark, decides to stay back in her city. My Life is for You (Tunisia, 2022, directed by Nasreddine Ragam) is about a young plastic bottle ragpicker who, thanks to the encouragement of her teacher, becomes a well-known oncologist who can repay her debt to her teacher when he is ill. Aigul Ablasanova’s The Manning Up (Kyrgyzstan, 2022) deals with domestic abuse and the difficult life of a woman trying to make ends meet with an alcoholic husband.

Two films in the short documentary section stood out for their evocative use of the landscape. Dmitry Semibratov’s Chechnya and the World (Russia, 2022) dealt with the unusual theme of how the war had affected animals who had left their environs but who were now returning to their old habitat thanks to the efforts of forest officers who were animal experts. Among them is a woman too who fearlessly scours the forests and tracks the movement of the animals. The war had caused the chirping of birds to cease,  the migration of animals to Dagestan and other places due to the bombs, and animals who were unable move because they had no legs. As one forester puts it, ‘In comparison to what nature gives us, we give very little in return’. Another moving short documentary on violence was The Land of Buried Women (Kurdistan-Iraq, 2023). An old grave-keeper, who is a gardener as well tends the unnamed graves of women who have died violent deaths due to honour killings, etc. As he remarks, the women are impatient in their loneliness for even their identity is only known to the municipality. He grows plants and trees in this lonely graveyard.

Among the long documentaries Isitas (Iran, 2021, directed by Alireza Dehghan) depicts the oldest adobe city by narrating the history of civilization through the elements (wind, water, earth and fire). A poetic documentary, it underlines the multicultural embeddings of human culture and the need to preserve this heritage. Sachin Ghimire’s Into the Mist (Nepal, 2023) traces the life and work of a well-known Nepali anthropologist, Professor Dor Bahadur Bista, whose research on tribes in Nepal was highly regarded internationally. He disappeared in 1996 and was never found. The film also looks into what might have been the causes for his disappearance. It uses tribal folk songs very evocatively.

Image from the movie Ada, the film that won the NETPAC Award
Image from the movie Ada, the film that won the NETPAC Award

Films from the Islamic and Turkic World

The section, ‘Russia- Islamic World’ had films from Indonesia, Bangladesh and many other countries. Of interest was Knots, a debut feature by Oleg Khamokov (Russia, 2023) in the Kabardian language from the Caucasus. It depicts the growing estrangement between a trucker and the woman he has married and the home they have built that has turned into a symbol of power rather than love.

In the non-competition section entitled ‘Turkic World’, two films from Kazakhstan captured landscape on a magnificent scale:  Storm by Sabit Kurmanbekov (2021) and Steppe by Maksim Akbarov (2022). Steppe tells the story of officers whose job is to protect wildlife. And older officer is training a younger one. Life on the steppe is arduous and there are those who live off poaching and other illegal activities as well as those who help others.

Well-known Kyrgyz director’s swan song Thousand Dreams (2021) also featured in this section. Sarulu, who passed away in March this year has left behind a body of poetic and ruminative works. This last film is about a young couple, a painter and his girlfriend, their estrangement and her return to bourgeois life because he ‘is a loser’. The story is simple: love, loss and disappearance into another world. The real narrative is in the very images Sarulu has called forth for himself and us. “Your new home is the night and stars; Your new soul is the wind and the stream; A little more and you will be out of the reach of the eyes of this world”, says Maria, a spectral being, who, it seems, has come ‘from the inner sea’.  The protagonist tells the story of Wu Tao Tsu, the Chinese painter, who drew a beautiful landscape on the order of the emperor and disappeared into it, away from the emperor. Marat Sarulu in this film has created images of dappled light over layers of more dappled light and shade. The rich contrast of black and white that turns into muted colour every once in a while is ideal for the play of light and shade. The film is about disappearance into a world that is away from the gaze of this one. The disappearance could be into the virtual one of lines on the computer accompanied by the distinctive crackling of electricity sounds, or the play of layered shadows, or the matted light through lit candles in movement. Modernity is present in the light traces of fast-moving trains and vehicles, or the fuzzy images seen through the windows of multi-storeyed buildings. There are the ruins of modernity, too, however, shown to us first by Tarkovsky in Stalker and seen here in abandoned industrial landscapes, empty train compartments, a run-down jeep, huge ducts of deserted factories, an old computer…. Geological images of nature are captured, too: ponds, mountains, rivers, birds, fragile bridges. Sarulu seems to be figuring his own exit ‘beyond the gaze of this world’, bidding adieu through ephemeral images that are real and virtual, of this world and of the cosmos.

An image from Marat Satulu's film1000 Dreams
An image from Marat Satulu's film1000 Dreams

The festival had an impressive fare of films. There were talks on industries and films (including one by Sergei Kapterev, the well-known film historian and NETPAC jury member), meetings with directors and a general spirit of bonhomie throughout the festival. The festival deserves to grow and expand, since it is showcasing films from lesser known regions of Russia as well films from abroad focusing on works from Muslim countries.


Written by: Dr Rashmi Doraiswamy. She is a Professor at the Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. She was honorary editor (Assistant, Deputy and the Executive) of the world’s first publication on Asian films Cinemaya – The Asian Film Quarterly for many years since its inception in 1988.


24th Jeonju International Film Festival – Korea

Mrudula Wednesday August 2, 2023

Jeonju International Film Festival, which is held in Jeonju city of the Republic of Korea since 2000, is considered one of the important festivals of Asia. This year, the 24th festival is hosted by Jeonju City Hall and mayor Woo Beom-Ki, who is also the president of the festival. 

The festival was celebrated as a holiday with enthusiasm by all city residents. It was quite possible to see people, mostly young ones, carrying the accessories of the festival on the streets. In cinemas where the festival films were screening, the exact cinema halls were always full in all screenings. After the screenings, there were discussions and the audience were asking questions to the authors.

NETPAC Jury at the opening ceremony
NETPAC Jury at the opening ceremony

This year the festival was held under the motto of "Beyond the frame". As festival directors Min Sungwook and Jung Junho said in the opening ceremony, the main goal of the Jeonju Film Festival is to give a platform to films that break the usual frames, offer new visual solutions, new narratives and new film characters that offer original approaches.

Jeonju International Film Festival consists of 15 different competitive and non-competitive sections, such as “International Competition”, “Korean competition”, “Korean Competition for shorts”, “Frontline”, “Expanded films”, “World cinema”  (mainly, classical films are screened), “Masters” and etc. In addition, there are awards established by the festival's sponsors, as well as a special NETPAC award. (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) 

The NETPAC jury, consisting of three film critics including me reviewed 11 full-length feature and documentary films produced in Asian countries (China, Japan, Korea, Iran, Mongolia, etc.) during four days and among them, we awarded the Japanese film "Stonewalling" (directed by Ji Huang, Ryuji Otsuka), which stood out for its interesting and extraordinary narrative, visual solution, dramatic structure and topicality, with layers and courage, attracted our attention more than others.

The film “Stonewalling”, is the story of a young Lynn (Honggui Yao) who suddenly finds out about her pregnancy. She is at the beginning of her life, studying and giving birth to a child mean for her the rejection opportunity to have a normal future. Since only one child per family is allowed in China, the girl wants to leave the only chance of being a mother at a more favorable time.

The authors start the story from a very simple and ordinary point, but then the storyline branches out and many different layers are revealed, like social, psychological, spiritual, and others. As a result, the audience gets acquainted with the environment in which the young woman lives, her anxieties, relationships with loved ones and understands her attitude towards her unborn child. The authors in no way blame their protagonist, no one at all. They just show the reality in which she lives. The open ending leaves interpretation up to the audience and forces him to reflect on what he saw on screen for 148 minutes.The film “Stonewalling” shows the development of Chinese capitalism and it takes courage for a Chinese director to make a film about it.

Image from the movie Stonewalling
Image from the movie Stonewalling

“Stonewalling” is the third film by the husband-and-wife directors. Previously, the film was the winner in three categories (“Young cinema Chinese competition”, Best Actress-Chinese and FIPRESCI Prize) in Hong Kong International Film Festival, in one category in Venice Film festival (nominee GDA director’s award), a nominee Grand Prize in Tokyo FilmeX.    

By Aygun Aslanli (Azerbaijan)



Ms. Aygun Aslanli (Azerbaijan) – Chairperson, NETPAC Jury

Mr. Kim Hyung Seok (Korea)

Mr. Choi Yoon (Korea)

42nd Hawaiʻi International Film Festival: November 3- 27, 2022

Mrudula Monday February 6, 2023
Producer Kerry Warkia of KĀINGA accepts the NETPAC Award from HIFF Executive Director Beckie Stocketti, with   Pacific Islander in Communication Executive Director Cheryl Hirasa
Producer Kerry Warkia of KĀINGA accepts the NETPAC Award from HIFF Executive Director Beckie Stocketti, with Pacific Islander in Communication Executive Director Cheryl Hirasa

The 42nd annual Hawaiʻi International Film Festival (“HIFF”) presented by Halekulani took place November 3- 27, 2022 with a multitude of film screenings, events, and programs, and the honoring of invited filmmakers that included “102 features, 124 shorts, and seven nominated film programs. Among the lineup were 111 Hawai‘i premieres, 69 world premieres, 14 U.S. premieres, 10 North American premieres and 7 international premieres from 37 countries.”  This festival, HIFF honored accomplished filmmakers with awards that included a total of $21,500 in cash prizes; (info provided by HIFF). 

The well attended festival opened with a celebration of Hawaiʻi cinema by featuring outdoor community-based screenings at Bishop Museum of two feature films, THE WIND AND THE RECKONING and THE STORY OF EVERYTHING.  Such locally-produced films had a growing presence in this year’s festival with the collection of notably strong nominated films in the Made in Hawaiʻi award categories.  This year’s HIFF Made in Hawaiʻi films are eligible to be submitted for Academy Award considerations.  These awards were won by: THE WIND AND THE RECKONING (directed by David L. Cunningham) for Best Made in Hawai‘i Feature and INHERITANCE (directed by Erin Lau) for Best Made in Hawai‘i Short.

MAKAWALU crew at the HIFF panel event with HIFF Executive Director Beckie Stocketti with Kerry Warkia, Kiel McNaughton, Producers of KĀINGA
MAKAWALU crew at the HIFF panel event with HIFF Executive Director Beckie Stocketti with Kerry Warkia, Kiel McNaughton, Producers of KĀINGA

Other HIFF awards were presented to: THE RED SUITCASE (directed by Cyrus Neshvad) for HIFF Best Short Film Award, BAD AXE (directed by David Siev) for Kau Ka Hōkū Grand Jury Award Winner, and WHINA (directed by James Napier Robertson, Paula Whetu Jones) for the Pasifika Award.

This year, the NETPAC Award was presented to KĀINGA, directed by Ghazaleh Golbakhsh, Nahyeon Lee, Angeline Loo, HASH (Hash Perambalam), Asuka Sylvie, Yamin Tun, Julie Zhu, Michelle Ang; produced by Kerry Warkia, Kiel McNaughton, Shuchi Kothari.  Producers Warkia and McNaighton were in attendance to accept the award.  KĀINGA, is an impressive omnibus film which brought together the work of underrepresented Asian filmmakers with eight diverse stories of Asians assimilating in Aotearoa New Zealand through five decades. The jury shared, “Not only were we impressed by the seamless flow of the unique stories across time, we were touched by the magic that each of the stories brings and recognize the way this form of anthology film reflects the communal nature of native cultures – some of our strongest works come through collective action.”  

The other notable, eclectic array of films that were eligible and considered for the NETPAC award at HIFF 2022 are:

GAGA (directed by Laha Mebow, the first female indigenous director in Taiwan),  LEONOR WILL NEVER DIE (directed by Martika Ramirez Escobar, Philippines),  NEXT SOHEE (directed by Jung Ju-ri, S. Korea), ONE AND FOUR (directed by first-time Tibetan director Jigme Trinley),  PLAN 75 (directed by Chie Hayakawa, Japan),  and, WE ARE STILL HERE (an omnibus film directed by Beck Cole, Dena Curtis, Tracey Rigney, Danielle MacLean, Tim Worrall, Renae Maihi, Miki Magasiva, Mario Gaoa, Richard Curtis, Chantelle Burgoyne, Australia, New Zealand.)

The 2022 NETPAC Jurors included: ​​Elizabeth Daley, former dean of the University of Southern California School (USC) of Cinematic Arts for 30 years, currently the executive director of the USC Institute for Multimedia Literacy; Vilsoni Hereniko, filmmaker, professor at the Academy for Creative Media, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa; Anne Misawa, filmmaker, professor at the Academy for Creative Media, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.  

HIFF Audience Awards were voted on by enthused audience members and went to:

DEALING WITH DAD (directed by Tom Huang) for the Narrative Feature Audience Award, THROUGH THE DOGGY DOOR (directed by Joe Alani) for the Documentary Feature Audience Award, E MĀLAMA PONO, WILLY BOY (directed by Scott Kekama Amona) for the Short Film Audience Award, and AGENT ROVER (directed by Gino Caruso) for the Student Short Film Audience Award.

Still from the film, KĀINGA
Still from the film, KĀINGA

For a full list of awardees and more details, please refer to the HIFF site-- https://hiff.org/hiff42-announces-jury-award-winners-honorees/

HIFF highlights included, but not limited to: BROKER, Cannes premiered film, directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda (MABOROSI, SHOPLIFTERS) and his attendance at the festival to accept the Halekulani Vision in Film Award; the attendance of Jung Woo-Sung, actor (of many iconic Korean films) and director of A MAN OF REASON honored with the Halekulani Golden Maile for Career Achievement Award; attendance of Auliʻi Cravalho (lead in the animated MOANA and recipient of the HIFF Halekulani Vangaurd Award) at the HIFF Future Filmmaker event; the PASIFIKA FILMMAKING: IN CONVERSATION WITH KĀINGA & MAKAWALU Filmmakers with producers Kerry Warkia (the recipient of the Leanne K. Ferrer Trailblazer Award) and Kiel McNaughton, (WARU, VAI); the Spotlight of Hong Kong Honoree event to highlight Actress Josie Ho, featured in her doc FINDING BLISS: FIRE AND ICE; the New American’s Perspective’s program industry panel with Deborah Chow (OBI-WAN KENOBI), Laurent Barthelemy (FINDING SATOSHI), Ellie Foumbi (OUR FATHER, THE DEVIL), Nardeep Khurmi (LAND OF GOLD), and Rena Owen (WHINA), amongst many other HIFF screenings, special events and industry panels.

NETPAC jury: Vilsoni Hereniko, Elizabeth Daley, Anne Misawa
NETPAC jury: Vilsoni Hereniko, Elizabeth Daley, Anne Misawa

The 42nd HIFF had an extremely strong educational component to its festival. This year, HIFF had several educational programs including a HIFF Online Creators & Critics Immersive which selected local emerging creators and critics to learn from industry mentors such as David Chen (host and producer of podcasts), Patrick Willems (filmmaker and video essayist), Taylor Ramos & Tony Zhou, (Vancouver-based filmmaking partnership), and Kirsten Stevens & Duncan Caillard, (researchers and film programmers).  HIFF Education programs also promoted the work or emerging filmmakers and included a HIFF Youth Series, Future Filmmaker Series as well as a Guest Filmmaker Series in which invited accomplished filmmakers visited classrooms K-12 and a unique venture that involved Academy for Creative Media, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa students in a “HIFFternship” with the HIFF organization during the planning and event activities of the film festival.

Prof. Anne Misawa (Hawaii/USA) – Chairperson of NETPAC Jury

Other jury members:

Ms. Elizabeth Daley (USA) & Vilsoni Hereniko (President, NETPAC / USA)

The 27th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK)

Mrudula Monday January 16, 2023

The 27th IFFK was held in Trivandrum from 9th December to 16th December 2022. It was an amazing feat, accomplished so successfully by the organizers and the newly appointed Artistic Director, Deepika Susleean.  Amazing as both the 26th and 27th editions of IFFK were held in the same year - 2022.

On the right: NETPAC Jury members  Indu Shrikent, Dr. Nina Kochelyaeva and Jayasree Bhattacharyya. On the left: NETPAC Jury with veteran filmmaker Béla Tarr.
On the right: NETPAC Jury members Indu Shrikent, Dr. Nina Kochelyaeva and Jayasree Bhattacharyya. On the left: NETPAC Jury with veteran filmmaker Béla Tarr.

Kudos to Deepika who in a span of 4 months was able to put together a robust programme of nearly 200 outstanding films, inviting several film personalities, and hosting interesting panel discussions and events to enthrall the 15 thousand delegates.  She gave a great deal of importance to restoration of films and the restored ‘Silent’ films presented with live music by Johnny Best generated a lot of interest. 

The legendary Hungarian director, Bela Tarr delivered the Aravindan Memorial Lecture, it was wonderful to be in the presence of this filmmaker extraordinaire. Bela Tarr was also the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Iranian filmmaker and women’s right activist, Mahnaz Mohammad was conferred the ‘Spirit of Cinema’ award. Mahnaz had been arrested several times in Iran, the last time while demanding justice for Amini. She could not be present as her passport was expiring so she sent a lock of her hair with her acceptance speech, this gesture was very effective and dramatic at the Opening Ceremony. 

Serbia was Country in Focus and Emir Kusturica was honored with his films in the section ‘Chaos and Control: Films of Emir Kusturica’. 

The other special sections were ‘The Surreal Cinema of Allejandro Jodorowsky’; ‘Retrospective of Paul Schrader’; 50 years of ‘Swayamvaram’ by Adoor Gopalakrishnan; Restored Classics; and ‘Light & Shadows of F.W. Murnau’ among others. The festival opened with the heartwarming film Tori and Lokita by Dardenne brothers. The Best film Award went to Utama, a gem, by Alejandro Laoayza Grisi from Bolivia.

Still from the NETPAC Award winner movie Alam
Still from the NETPAC Award winner movie Alam


Some outstanding films by Asian filmmakers were presented in the Auteur Odes section. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Broker; Call of God, the last film by the hero of IFFK, Kim Ki-duk; No Bears by Jafar Panahi; the roller coaster adventures of Giwar ‘Xatar’ Hajabi in the biopic, Rheingold by Fatih Akin; two films by the prolific Korean filmmaker Hong Sang Soo, The Novelist’s Film (winner of the Silver Bear Grand Jury Award, Berlinale 2022) and Walk Up; Lav Diaz’s When the Waves are Gone. The award winning film Kerr by Tayfun Pirselmoglu was a visual delight, each frame a painting. It is the first time that the director adapted one of his own books which he had written in 2014. It won the Best Director award. Another film which needs to be commended is A Place of Our Own (Ek Jagah Apni) by Ektara Collective. Aa strong film about two trans gender women, the challenges they face as they struggle to be accepted by society, which will not let go of the strong stigma it holds against therm. Manisha Soni and Muskan (lead actors) of the film received Special Mention from the main Jury for their natural and powerful acting, and a Special Mention from FFSI Jury.

The films for the NETPAC jury were eclectic and diverse representing their respective regions with vivid descriptions of the problems people face in daily life, about migration and relationships. Out of the 10 films in the Asian Competition, six were debut, some films in the Malayalam Cinema today were also debut films. In total there were 24 films to judge and that is a large number for any jury! 

A still from the NETPAC Award winning movie Alam
A still from the NETPAC Award winning movie Alam


Our jury gave the NETPAC award to Alam Firas Khoury’s debut film.  The film about the coming of age and political awakening of the Palestinian protagonist living in Israel, is extremely well acted by Mahmood Bakri. Alam was also awarded the Best Debut Director by the main Jury.

The NETPAC Special Mention went to Our Home (Eikhoigi Yum). A family living on the picturesque Loktak Lake in Manipur and barely surviving on fishing is given an eviction notice by the Government. The repercussions of this notice on the family and their livelihood have been captured realistically by the director as he highlights the disasters of globalisation. Our Home also won the FIPRESCI Award, International Competition Section.

The movie Declaration won the NETPAC Award for the best Malayalam Film
The movie Declaration won the NETPAC Award for the best Malayalam Film


We awarded Declaration (Ariyippu) the Best Malayalam Film award. The trials and tribulations of a family from Kerala working in a factory in North India. The film makes a powerful statement about the plight of women both at work and at home and migration per se.

Our difficult task of seeing 24 films was made easy by the wonderful hospitality extended by the IFFK team! Nina and Jayasree will join me in saying that being on the NETPAC Jury at the 27th IFFK was an exhilarating experience!


Written by Indu Shrikent (India) – Chairperson NETPAC Jury
Other Jury Members:
Dr. Nina Kochelyaeva (Russian Federation) – NETPAC Member
Jayasree Bhattacharyya (India)

28th Kolkata International Film Festival: 15 – 22 December 2022

Mrudula Monday January 2, 2023

Light, sound, colour, action defined the 28th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF). Serpentine queues outside cinema halls, talk shows, press conferences, exhibitions, master classes - a city come alive with eager, thronging crowds everywhere, with enormous KIFF posters, and, not the least, with Christmas exuberance, Kolkata displayed a delightful year-end extravaganza.

A star-studded opening ceremony on 15 December 2022 evening brought together high-level politicians, government officials, artists and festival guests: the Governor of West Bengal, Dr C V Ananda Bose, Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee, and Bollywood big-wigs Amitabh and Jaya Bahchchan, Rani Mukherjee, Shatrughan Sinha and Shah Rukh Khan – all were in their element, exuding friendship and goodwill – and reflection too, on the current climate. In his speech as Chief Guest, Amitabh Bachchan said questions were being raised on civil liberties and freedom of expression. “Let us demolish the differences that divide us…let us build a monolith in our diversity.” Shah Rukh Khan spoke of cinema as a narrative that brings to the fore humanity’s capacity for compassion and brotherhood. Well-known filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt also mentioned the importance of inclusivity – to the large audience’s enthusiastic applause.

From left to right: Italo Spinelli, Dr. Latika Padgaonkar and Supriya Suri
From left to right: Italo Spinelli, Dr. Latika Padgaonkar and Supriya Suri


The opening ceremony was followed by the screening of a 1973 Amitabh-Jaya film, Abhiman, directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee.

A total of 183 films from 42 countries were screened at ten halls spread across the city. These included 130 features and 52 shorts and documentaries. The national and international competitions had 14 films each, while 8 were in the NETPAC competition, 20 in the short film and 10 in the documentary competitions.

Two major exhibitions held at two venues drew capacity crowds: “Amitabh Bachchan: A Living Legend” (with a retrospective of his films) and “Jean-Luc Godard: The ‘Immortal’ Object of Art” (Godard was a pioneer of the French New Wave). Both were superbly curated with an excellent choice of image and text, explaining why and how these two cinema champions defined their times and the cinemas of their countries.

And there was more to savour: centenary tributes paid to directors Alain Resnais (France), Pier Paolo Pasolini (Italy), Michael Cacoyannis (Greek-Cypriot) and Hrishikesh Mukherjee, K Asif, and Asit Sen (India); actress Bharati Devi, sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan and actor Dilip Kumar. Not to forget the special tributes to director Tarun Majumdar, actors Angela Lansbury and Pradeep Mukherjee, and to the famous santoor player Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma. And the crowning glory (one can call it that, given that FIFA matches were being held then) – to celebrate  the spirit of sportsmanship – KIFF plans to introduce a “Game On” section next year, dedicated to youth and sports.

Shaji N Karun’s Masterclass on “Visual Metaphors and Moving Images” and Sudeep Chatterjee’s “How an Idea is transformed into an Image in Filmmaking” were thoughtful meditations on issues that don’t always take centre-stage, yet can define the texture of a film.

Sudhir Mishra minced no words in his Satyajit Ray Memorial Lecture on “Understanding Cinema in Changing Times”. His emphasis was on conversation and the audience. “New-age cinema is not just the responsibility of the filmmaker. The audience needs to be loyal as well,” he stated. Referring to Satyajit Ray, he highlighted not just the director’s brilliant way of telling a story, but also the devoted viewers of Kolkata who were devoid of prejudice. “It might be interesting,” he said, to ponder on “what Ray’s condition might have been if he were to pitch Pather Panchali to an OTT production house today. On the one hand, he might have been asked for his biodata and a box-office analysis, on the other hand he might have acquired funds much faster. It is only if the audience’s debilitating addiction to fast-action, high-adrenaline thrillers can be controlled, that that cinema which expands sensibilities can be brought to the forefront.”

Two out-of-competition films – Jafar Panahi’s No Bears (Iran) and Saim Sadiq’s Joyland (Pakistan) – brought in bustling crowds. The former film is shot in a village near the Turkish border where Panahi is directing a film via skype; the latter tells of patriarchy in Pakistan and moves towards a transgender theme.

Poster of Jafar Panahi's "No Bears"
Poster of Jafar Panahi's "No Bears"


There was plenty for everyone at KIFF. Take your pick. And Cine Addas where you could attend talks with popular stars were an added attraction. What with the swirling crowds and the immense, artistically conceived hoardings and posters (particularly the one with Charlie Chaplin sitting alongside Satyajit Ray’s young Apu chewing on sugarcane), KIFF certainly blended a twinge of nostalgia with an awareness of pressing matters in today’s cinema.


International Competition :

Innovation in Moving Images (IMI) -

Upon Entry  by Alejandro Rojas and Juan Sebastian Vasquez (Spain) and

The Golden Wings of Watercocks (Kura Pokkhir Shunye Ura) by Muhammad Quayum (Bangladesh)

Best Director-

Ernesto Ardito and Virna Molina for Hitler’s Witch (La Bruja de Hitler) (Argentina)

Special Jury Mention- 

Silent Glory (Shokouhe Khamoush), by Nahid Hassanzadeh (Iran)


Indian Competition :

Best Film-

Muthayya (Muthaya), by Bhaskar Maurya 

Best Director-

Deepankar Prakash for Naanera 

Special Jury Mention- 

Chhaad (The Terrace) by Indrani  and Sikaisal (If Only the Trees Could Talk) by Bobby Sarma Baruah 

Asian Select NETPAC Award-

Dov (Fortune) by Muhiddin Muzaffar (Tajikistan)

Indian Documentary Films

Nybreum (The Unsettled Shade) by Neha ‘Bhavibi’ Sharma

Indian Short Films

Mein, Mehmood (I Am Mehmood) by Prataya Saha

Special Jury Mention

Xunyota (Void) by Nabapan Deka and The Divine Touch  (Haater Sporsho) by Prosenjit Choudhury

------------- Written by Dr. Latika Padgaonkar (India), Chairperson, NETPAC Jury

Other Jury Members:

Italo Spinelli (Italy)

Supriya Suri (India)

16th Eurasia International Film Festival, Kazakhstan (12-18 December 2022)

Mrudula Monday January 2, 2023

In its sixteenth edition, the Eurasia International Film Festival returned, after an absence of two years due to Covid, from Astana, the capital, to Almaty, its first headquarters. Everything was prepared quickly, in a very short time, and impeccable organization, in order to program films, invite guests, and present daily press conferences with filmmakers and guests from the world of cinema. Conferences not only conduct dialogues with directors about their films, but also discuss issues of National cinema like production and distribution.

The cinema of Kazakhstan is developing and imposing itself more and more on the international scene. Almost half of the annual production is subsidized by the state, represented by the Cinema Support Fund, under whose auspices the festival is also organized. The support was evident from the presence of the Minister of Culture at the opening ceremony and the Director of the Support Authority, which this year provided grants for the production of more than fifty long and short films.

The film industry in Kazakhstan has its origins in the production of documentaries in Alma-Ata (now Almaty) in the 1930s, developed to use as instruments for Soviet propaganda. The first Kazakh feature film, Amangeldy (1939), about the leader of the 1916 revolution, Amangeldy Imanov, was however the work of Lenfilm in Leningrad. Filmmaking in Kazakhstan was given a boost by the dislocations caused by World War II, as the main Soviet film studios, Mosfilm and Lenfilm, were both evacuated to Alma-Ata, where they combined with the Alma-Ata Film Studios to produce the “Central United Film Studio”. As a result, the Central United Film Studio, which continued working in Alma-Ata till 1944, produced 80 percent of all Soviet domestic feature films made during the war. Much of the great Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein's two part epic “Ivan the Terrible” was filmed in the Kazakh SSR. One of the major Soviet film schools, “the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography “(VGIK), was also temporarily relocated to Alma-Ata during the war. This film school became an alma-mater for the most notable Kazakh filmmakers of the 1980s, known as "the new wave". On January 6, 1961, the major Kazakh film company Alma-Ata Film Studios had its name changed to Kazakhfilm by the Ministry of the Culture of the Kazakh SSR.

From left to right: Sultan Usuvaliev, Aizhan Ksymbek (NETPAC Award winner), Nada Azhari Gillon and Dr. Sharofat Arabova
From left to right: Sultan Usuvaliev, Aizhan Ksymbek (NETPAC Award winner), Nada Azhari Gillon and Dr. Sharofat Arabova



National Competition

Therefore, there was a curiosity to learn more about Kazakhstan's cinema outside the framework of international festivals, movies that are shown in the country and are not "lucky" to be known globally. A competition has been devoted to the national cinema to choose the best film, director, actress and actor with two juries, one of which is international and the second is Asian (NETPAC). 15 fiction features produced in 2021-2022 (2 more were added from the International Competition for NETPAC Jury), some of them have already participated in international festivals. “The Poet by Darghan Amirbayev is the winner of the Tokyo Film Festival, “Scheme” played in Berlin, and “Life” by Amir Baygazin participated in Toronto. They are joined by successful films such as “Fire” by Aizhan Kassymbek, “Dos-Mukasan by Aidyn Sahaman, and others.

Poster of NETPAC Award winning movie “Fire” by Aizhan Kasymbek
Poster of NETPAC Award winning movie “Fire” by Aizhan Kasymbek


The programme was also a handshake for generations of great artists. The maître of the Kazakh New Wave Serik Aprymov (“Village”) meets with his young student Alisher Zhadigerov (“Otau”). Bolat Kalymbetov, rethinking the view of history and personality (“Mukagali”) encounters Yana Skopina, who presents her debut film (“The Summer Will End Soon”). The conditional world of the constructed society of Emir Baigazin (“Life”) sits next to the free-spirited, innovative and absurd situations of Eldar Shibanov (“Mountain Onion”). The reality of life depicted by Sharipa Yurazbayev “Red Pomegranate” echoes the family history of Aizhan Kasymbek (“Fire”) with a story of a little man in a big city who burns in a mad rhythm of life everyday. “Fire” won the NETPAC Award for showing that despite the burden of days, the fire of hearts is here.

This programme engages with questions about the issue of ethical, moral responsibility not of a person, but of society before the little man in a changing reality. Movies combine breathtaking visuals with a poetic depiction of life that make it difficult for any jury to choose the best.

Sharipa Yurazbayev's movie “Red Pomegranate”
Sharipa Yurazbayev's movie “Red Pomegranate”


International Competition

The 15 films participating in the international competition (from 2021-2022 productions) were mostly from the  former republics of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, such as the Czech Republic and Georgia (directing award is shared equally for “Brighton IV” by Levan Kogashvili and “Cold as Marble” by Asif Rustamov from Azerbaijan), Kyrgyzstan (Best Film Award for “This Is What I Remember” by Aktan Arim Kubat), Estonia, Ukraine and the Republic of Sakha Yakutia in northeastern Siberia (Special Mention for “Don't Bury Me Without Ivan” by Lyubov Borisova), which is one of the most important cultural exports From the post-Soviet Russian Federation, which despite its tiny population (less than a million) compared to its vast area, has managed to build a diverse, vibrant and prolific film industry. And since the festival dedicates itself as a cultural bridge between Europe and Asia, that is, between the West and the East, hence its name "Eurasia", it also screened films from Iceland, Turkey and Iran in its international competition (Acting Award for Navid Mohammadzadeh for his role in "Beyond the Wall" by Wahid Jalilund).

Written by Nada Azhari Gillon, (Syria/France), Chairperson, NETPAC Jury

Other members of the NETPAC Jury:

Dr. Sharofat Arabova (Tajikistan) & Sultan Usuvaliev (Kyrgyztan)


38th Warsaw International Film Festival

Mrudula Saturday November 12, 2022


A still from the award winning film Ademoka - Adilkhan Yerzhanov (Kazakhstan,France)
A still from the award winning film Ademoka - Adilkhan Yerzhanov (Kazakhstan,France)


The NETPAC Award Jury for the 38th Warsaw International Film Festival consisted of two members, Viera Langerova (Czech Republic) and Panagiotis Kotzathanasis (Greece), since the third member never appeared, for reasons we are not sure of. We watched the films in the two venues of the festival, Multikino and Atlantic, from the 14th to the 21st of October.

The competing films varied significantly, as they included both documentaries and fiction, and from regions that ranged from Palestine to Australia, and essentially, everything between. One Chinese film, “Where Nothing Grows” was pulled at the last minute from screening at the competition, for unknown reasons, although it had previously screened in Busan. The only country that was represented with more than one film was Japan, with “New Religion” and “The City”. 

The films eligible for the NETPAC prize were as follows: 

Carbon - Niobe Thompson (Australia,Canada)

Wait For Me - Sari Azoulay Turgeman (Israel)

Ademoka - Adilkhan Yerzhanov (Kazakhstan,France)

Till Love Do Us Part - Ran Li (China)

The City - Katsuki Kuroyanagi (Japan)

Fury - Shlomo Slutzky, Tomer Slutzky (Israel, Argentina) 

Trio - Battumur Dorj (Mongolia) 

New Religion - Keishi Kondo (Japan)

Mediterranean Fever - Maha Haj (France, Germany, Palestine, Cyprus)

New - Normal Jung Bum-shik (South Korea)

Feast - Brillante Ma Mendoza (Hong Kong SAR China, Philippines)

A number of movies left an impression, although for different reasons. Katsuki Kuroyanagi in “The City” tried to experiment with form and immersed his narrative in tension, in a title, though, that was quite difficult to follow. Keishi Kondo in “New Religion” tried to reinvigorate the J-horror genre by including symbolism and intense imagery. In “Trio”, Battumur Dorj tried to combine the issues people with Down Syndrome face with the ancient death rituals of the country that are gradually disappearing. In “New Normal”, Jung Bum-shik incorporated ironic and rather smart humor in order to make a number of pointed social comments. 

A still from the film Mediterranean Fever - Maha Haj (France, Germany, Palestine, Cyprus)
A still from the film Mediterranean Fever - Maha Haj (France, Germany, Palestine, Cyprus)


The two films that truly stood out for both of us, however, were Maha Haj’s “Mediterranean Fever” and Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s “Ademoka”. The first one because of its intelligent sense of humor that was highlighted through the differences of two quite different men who end up becoming friends, and for its impressive transition from comedy to drama and vice versa, including a rather shocking end. The latter, which got the award in the end, also featured a very smart and even self-deprecating sense of humor, but also exhibited an astonishing minimalism, particularly in the set design, which also became part of the narrative. The antithesis of the titular character (played by the director’s niece, while the woman who plays her mother is her actual mother) who barely speaks, and Ahab, who never stops talking, also worked excellently.  It is easy to say that “Ademoka” is a masterclass on how to shoot with no budget, even in lockdown circumstances.  Our citation, which had to be one sentence, was as follows: “For its intelligent satire and the rather artful visual and narrative approach rooted in local culture, we present the NETPAC award to Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s Ademoka’s Education” In general, and although our choice in the end was relatively easy, the selection was on a very high level, both in terms of quality and diversity.  To conclude with a personal comment, I have to say that it was a pleasure watching films in cinemas with the audience once again, particularly since the venues of the festival were top-notch. Hospitality was excellent, and the crew of employees and volunteers took care of our every need. In general, the whole thing was a very pleasant and rewarding experience, also because I got to know Viera. 

By Panagiotis Kotzathanasis (Greece) – NETPAC Member


Supriya Suri's Interview with Muhiddin Muzaffar

Director Muhiddin Muzaffar (1) 2 Min

1. I entered the cinema through the theatre. I was an actor in our local theatre called Kanibadam, named after Tuhfa Fozilova. After working for five years, I decided to do a theatre director course. I graduated with honors and became a director. We successfully staged performances at international festivals.


Featured Report

Show PHP error messages