The 8th edition of the Asian Film Festival Barcelona (AFFBCN) had an extensive programme of films, meetings, conferences and seminars that were intended to contribute to the knowledge of cinematographies which are not usually present in commercial circuits. As with the preceding editions, this festival included around 100 feature films covering a vast territorial expanse - from Central Asia to South - East Asia and the Asia - Pacific region - through which we can explore productions of more than twenty-five countries: Iran, the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan), Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, Macao, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and the Asia - Pacific (Australia and New Zealand). Understanding that every landscape is culturally mediated, diversity becomes a challenge for the spectators, who are offered the tools to discover what the cinema from each of these aforementioned countries provides. The hundred plus films presented this year were produced between 2018 and 2020 and allocated over the following sections: Official, Official Panorama, Discoveries, NETPAC and Special, all of them competitive. It is the auteur films, where drama predominates as the quintessential genre, which characterises this festival.
AFFBCN was held both physically and online. Its on-site activity began on from Monday, 23 November after the Government of the Generalitat de Catalunya announced the reopening of cinemas with a 50% capacity in a first phase.
Institut Français programmed eight AFFBCN films, from November 23 to December 1 at its headquarters on Carrer de Moià, and Filmoteca de Catalunya held a Kinuyo Tanaka retrospective with five films (four double sessions plus one), from November 24 to 29 in Plaça de Salvador Seguí.
Cinemes Girona launched the screening of 38 feature films from December 2 to 8. In its online format, AFFBCN continued its screenings in the virtual theater of CineBaix, until November 22, as well as on the FILMIN online cinema platform, which extended its programme up to 29 November.
The NETPAC Jury was composed of Josefina Sensada (Spain), Javier Martín Domínguez (Spain) and Qazi Abdur Rahim (Jury Chairperson, India). After reviewing the 20 nominated films from the festival's NETPAC Section, the jury deliberated through a ZOOM conference where they selected Kazakhstan filmmaker Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s feature A Dark Dark Man as this year’s NETPAC Award winner.
“When a child is murdered in Aul, detective Bezkat, true to his style, tries to close the investigation as quickly as possible: after all, they have already arrested a possible culprit. However, when a young journalist, recently arrived from the city, starts to question the methodology of the veteran detective, everything will start to fall apart. Bezkat will be facing, for the first time in his long career, a real investigation.”
Kazakh director and screenwriter Adilkhan Yerzhanov is a member of the European Film Academy and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA). Yerzhanov has participated twice in the Cannes International Film Festival with The Owners (2014), which was considered one of the best Asian films by the Busan International Festival (2015) and The Gentle Indifference of the World (2018). He also received the Best Director award at APSA for his latest film, A Dark Dark Man (2019).
Twenty films from twenty countries nominated for the NETPAC Award collectively formed a thrilling visual journey across countries from Japan to the Caucasus.
In addition to A Dark Dark Man, some of the other films honoured were Balloon (dir. Pema Tseden) as Best Asian Film, Jeon Gye Soon (South Korea) as Best Director for Vertigo, while the Best Script award went to Hamidreza Babbeygi for African Violet.
The present edition of AFFBCN ended on 8 December with a very surrealistic feeling that upcoming festivals would surely go through tough times, given the uncertainties of the virus and the decisions of the authorities.
The NETPAC jury wishes to acknowledge and thank AFFBCN Director Menene Gras Balaguer and assistant Rodrigo Escamilla for their coordination and guidance.
-- Qazi Abdur Rahim (India/Spain) – Chairperson, NETPAC Jury
-- Edited by Latika Padgaonkar