It was quite a mix bag from the eight nominated films, with genre films like Enemy at the Dead End (South Korea), a tight and confined revenge thriller, comedy by Malaysian controversial rapper Namewee, Nasi Lemak 2.0 which breaks the box office collections in Malaysia, to pseudo-drama documentary by Midi Z, Return to Burma (Taiwan), documentary Hometown Boy (Taiwan) by Yao Hung-I and from Sri Lanka, Vimukthi’s Chatrak. Most of the works share and threads almost similar themes and subjects back in their own country.
And the other three, which I would like to, delve in a bit more including the recipient of the NETPAC award.
First, Madame X from Indonesia by first time feature director Lucky Kuswandi, star Indonesian comedian Amink and a surprise cameo by filmmaker Joko Anwar in a hilarious supporting role as a transvestite hairdresser. Who said filmmakers can’t have fun? Movie produced by another fellow filmmaker Nia Dinata. It’s amazing to see the effort of the filmmakers contributing and supporting new and young directors. As described by the director before the screening the movie is trashy, campy and fun. Yes, the movie is trashy, campy and fun all in a good way. The movie manages to tackle a sensitive issue in the country or in the South East Asia region, transgender and homosexual rights with the comedy superhero genre, set upon a very realistic backdrop which audiences from the neighboring country would recognizes. Madame X may be the most memorable super hero that has ever come out from the region.
Slapstick Brother a second feature by Shinagawa Hiroshi about a manzai (Japanese stand up comedy) duo comedy team and its struggles to achieve stardom. It’s a well-made feel good comedy and drama, may not be up to par compare to the classic Welcome Back Mr. Mac Donald, but it still manages to holds onto itself. Both films dealt with stories about people who do what they love, in Mr. Mac Donald, characters working in radio plays and in Slapstick Brother, standup comedy. But it’s also how the director manages to incorporate manzai style comedy sequences within the scenes of the movie. For example a scene in the kitchen of Tobio when the two debt collectors come to seeks him and Tobio’s new partner Ryuhei were defending him, it’s execute like a manzai standup comedy. The blocking, timing and repeating of a key word (which is all part of manzai) works perfectly. Slapstick Brother is a good work to remind the international audiences that Japanese films can still be fun, humorous and touching.
And finally Dain Said’s Bunohan, his second feature which eventually is a family drama set in the village of Bunohan. The directions are bold and strong. The shots and editing is an evidence of the director’s control of the medium and the subject and the characters. But even though set in a small un-developed village, the issues brought upon by the film resembles the larger issues the country is facing, corruption, assassination and land grabs. And betrayal is part of the game. The most irony part of the film is we see the inhabitants of the land plotting, scheming and fighting for the deeds and ownership of the land. And in the end the land ends up owning the inhabitants. As the director said the film was shaped and created by the landscape. In this movie the swamps, marshes, beach are not going to be exotic and beautiful like how other films usually portray them, in Bunohan they are alive and filled with dark stories and spirits. Bunohan in my opinion is one of the better films that have ever come out from Malaysia.
Festival Report by: James Lee (Malaysia)