Most of the films in the Korean and International sections were rooted in their socio-cultural environs and expressing a deep human concern for a wide range of issues, from gang rape to parenting problems, from new-age romantic tangles to funeral rituals. One of them was even an interesting attempt at animation and four of them were experimental documentaries. Most of them used modern digital technology to produce works which were equally proficient at a technical standard. Most films displayed a high level of proficiency and excellence along with the ability to script and tell a good story at the same time. A good story gets better when the formal concerns of composition, color, lighting and editing are given due attention. And then it becomes the best when it manages to tug at our hearts and make the audience feel that ‘wow’ experience!
Out of the 59 short films selected by the Busan Festival authorities for consideration by NETPAC, 9 of them were from the neighboring Asia Pacific regions. Some of the noteworthy films were:
1.Georgia: This film named after the typeface, by Jayil Pak was given the best short film award for its powerful comment on the menace of gang rape made worse by an insensitive judiciary system. Like in ‘Rashomon’, the father of the victim, a young girl wanting to pursue typographic design, speaks to the audience about the cold-blooded authorities who keep quiet knowing that the rapists belong to the affluent class. Quite like the title of the film, words seem to have different meanings based on the typeface being used.
2.After The Rain by Song Hyeonju: A delightful yet realistic story about millennials dealing with the complexities of modern day romance. Aided by some creative photography and energetic music it narrates how a young ‘no-nonsense’ woman takes on her boyfriend’s adolescent behavior and gives him a piece of her mind on what is ‘appropriate’ in public.
3.Before The Summer by Kim Soyoung speaks about what it take to be a Korean in Japan. Although it’s a bit heavy on wordy conversations, it captures the coming together of an estranged grandmother and her granddaughter in a charming manner. The landscape and compositions provide a touch of Ozu along with some excellent performances as the twosome reconcile the differences between them.
4.Monsters Never Know by Yang Ming: This quaint film about remote China was an equally strong contender for the award. It works partly at the level of metaphor making the viewer deconstruct the narrative of a young man tied up in ropes and being kidnapped. After a brief attempt to escape he is caught and handed over to a monk at a monastery. With some more context it could have scored a goal!
And then there were films like ‘Carnivore’, set in an Arabic nation. The film by Amir Hossein, tries to see the lives of people who make a living scooping out dead bodies from a dirty backwater. It’s grim atmosphere and inconclusive narration give it a slight poetic touch. There was ‘Al Sit’ by Susannah Mirgham telling us a story in a remote Sudanese village and narrates the story of a young bachelor wanting to marry an unwilling girl. They however need the permission from an old ritualistic old woman. ‘We Bloom’ by Kim Yulhee also works well up to a point exploring the connections between sound/ image and time. A blind boy playing music while his friend reads books intersect to create an unusual climax with the blind boy watching a video on a black screen. Finally, the film ‘A Christmas present’ has a good sentimental story with realistic performances and interesting cinematography but it is just too dependent on verbal conversations.
The Jury deliberations were most cordial and conducted online over Zoom. We decided that while giving the award it would not be about discriminating between good or bad films. For a film to be judged in a competition section, it must show promise of how much the filmmaker is willing to push his or her ideas to the cinematic edge. They must communicate with the creative possibilities of cinema and move their grammar away from theatre and literariness. And after a good hour of discussion, we decided that the award must go to ‘Georgia’.
--Hariharan Krishnan (India) – Chairperson, NETPAC Jury