What seemed possible in early autumn ultimately had to give way to the dreary reality: Last year's NETPAC online jury was supposed to be working live in theatres this year, at the 25th Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn, but the pandemic was stronger. Ultimately, the NETPAC competition had to be cancelled because the arrival of the Asian members would have been too complicated. Asian cinema is traditionally strongly represented in Tallinn. This year too, many Asian films were shown, six of them were in the Official Competition – none of them, however, could win a prize even though they were very warmly received by the audiences and festival delegates.
With Herd Immunity, the Kazakh frequent filmmaker Adilkhan Yerzhanov, who had won the NETPAC Award last year with Ulbolsyn, tried his hand at a satirical approach to the topic of Covid-19, almost as a quick shot, but without really succeeding. Jun Robles Lana, who was named Best Director in Tallinn in 2019, returned with Big Night, a pitch-black comedy about the so-called “War on Drugs” proclaimed by Philippine President Duterte. From Iran came Abed Abest's Killing the Eunuch Khan, a colorful, allegorical piece of art about a mysterious house hit by a bomb during the Iran - Iraq war. The longer the film lasts, the more reality and fantasy mix. Make the Devil Laugh is the second film by the Japanese brothers Mino Ryuichi (director) and Mino Kazuhiko (screenwriter), who caused a stir in 2018 with Ronin Farm: A man who killed his father to protect his mother and sister from his outbursts of violence must defend himself against the stamping by society while he is in a halfway house. The Kazakh film Mukagali by Bolat Kalymbetov recounts the life of writer Mukagali Makataev, who only became known after his death in 1976, but is now considered a legendary poet of Kazakh literature. Finally, Yanagawa, Zhang Lu's latest film, tells the story of two very different brothers traveling from Beijing to Yanagawa in Japan. They meet a girl with whom they were both once in love and who disappeared one day without saying goodbye.
In the series "Rebels with a Cause" there were four Asian films: Zhang Luoping presented his promising second film Habitat. Although the plot about a teacher in a somewhat run-down industrial city, who, against all the resistance of her neighbors and the authorities, does not want to accept that her husband died in a fire in a factory, is sometimes a bit confusing, the elegance of the staging convinces all along the line. Unprecedented by Kudo Masâki from Japan – like Herd Immunity – tried to make a statement about Covid-19 and the impact of the pandemic on young people, but did not fully succeed. 1000 Dreams, the new film by renowned Kyrgyz director Marat Sarulu, gets lost – like its protagonist – in a dream world with beautiful images, and Love Is a Dog from Hell (Philippines) is another of Khavn's wild fantasies.
Eight Asian films, most of which had already been successfully shown at other festivals, were featured in the "Current Waves" series, above all One Second by Master Zhang Yimou, the Japanese Oscar nominee Drive My Car by Hamaguchi Ryûsuke and the refreshing comedy Hit the Road by Iranian director Panah Panahi. Mostofa Sarwar Farooki from Bangladesh presented his drama No Land's Man about a notorious liar. In the Israeli film Cinema Sabaya by Orit Fouk Red women learn to document their own lives with a camera, and in When Pomegranate's Howl by Granaz Moussavi (Afghanistan), it's a nine-year-old boy who wants to make a big Hollywood action movie with his friends to escape the dreary reality. A New Old Play by Qiu Jiongjiong (China/Hong Kong) tells 50 years of turbulent Chinese history through the life of a clown in a renowned theater troupe. Korean director Hong Sung-eun’s Aloners portrays a young woman who has dedicated herself to the current trend of voluntary isolation and "life in a mobile phone".
Three Asian debut films screened in the First Feature Competition, including the very ambitious Who Is Sleeping In Silver Grey? by Liao Zhao, remarkable especially because of the exquisite black and white images of the Austrian camera team Xiaosu Han / Andreas Thalhammer. Dozens of Norths is the feature-length debut of famous Japanese animation artist Yamamura Kōji. The Cloud & the Man by Abhinandan Banerjee (India) tells the story of a lonely man in the big city who notices that a cloud seems to follow him all the time. His life takes an unexpected direction.
Perhaps the most successful Asian film was shown in the Youth Competition. The Indian - American contribution The Tenant by Sushrut Jain tells simply but poignantly about the touchingly impetuous affection of a 13-year-old boy in Mumbai for an attractive new neighbor, whose supposedly "dark past" excites the spiteful house community (and above all the secretly drooling old men of the apartment block). 18 KHz by Farkhat Sharipov tells the story of a group of Kazakh teenagers in their impetuous search for freedom, and Adam Kalderon's The Swimmer (Israel) tells of the growing attraction between two young swimmers who are actually competitors for an Olympic ticket.
In the series Doc@PÖFF, Jessica Kingdon's documentary Ascension dealt with China, but drew rather banal insights from the fact that there are now influencers, Internet stars and decadent super-rich in the People's Republic who once again keep servants just like in the feudal era. Last but not least, Edwin's Locarno winning film Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash, provided the best of entertainment in the "Midnight Shivers” series.
- In this edition of Black Night Film Festival NETPAC jury was not composed due to any Asian Member living in Europe was not able to participate. But our member from Austria, Andreas Ungerboeck personally participated as a delegate.
-- By Andreas Ungerböck -- Edited by Raman Chawla Website: poff.ee