Wed Nov 19,2008

From Turkey to Tokyo,  Diverse Segment Promises Undiscovered Gems at DIFF 2008

Cinema-lovers will find a new programming segment to satisfy their thirst for cutting-edge filmmaking in Cinema of AsiaAfrica, which provides an insight into cinema from several booming filmmaking territories.

Nashen Moodley, Director of the Asia Africa segment, said: “In this companion section to the AsiaAfrica Muhr competition, we wanted to demonstrate that there are burgeoning film industries and great filmmaking talent in Africa and Asia, and that interesting cinema is coming from unlikely places such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh.  This selection will hopefully inspire viewers to embark on a journey into new and fascinating landscapes.”

Fittingly, the documentary Peace Mission explores the Nigerian ‘home movie industry,’ the country’s second largest employer and the most popular source of films throughout Africa. One of the leading lights of the scene, Peace Aniyam-Fiberesima, founder of the African Movie Academy,  guides us around popular film locations throughout Lagos to meet with a collection of local personalities.

Na Hong-Jin’s Choo Gyeok Ja (The Chaser) depicts a pimp whose girls keep disappearing without clearing their debts. He suspects foul play, and he is the only one who believes Mi-jin, the latest victim, is still alive. With only 12 hours left to detain the serial killer without a warrant, Jung-ho’s hunt begins, searching for Mi-jin entrapped in a place nobody knows.

Two masterful tales of familial tension add drama to the segment. In master Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Uc Maymun (Three Monkeys), fraught with devilish deception, Servet, a wealthy Turkish politician, causes a fatal hit-and-run car accident and bribes his driver Eyup to take the jail term. He then begins an affair with Eyup’s wife, accumulating tensions that are almost too much to bear. From Japan, Tokyo Sonata follows Ryuhei Sasaki, who is sacked from his job. His personal code of honour will not allow him to admit it to his wife and children, and he constructs an elaborate façade of normality, as the family falls apart.

Set in the wilds of Pakistan’s North West frontier province, Son Of A Lion centres around the bright, inquisitive 11-year old Niaz,  whose gunsmith father expects Niaz to learn his craft. But the young boy wishes to attend the village school. Directed by Australian-born Benjamin Gilmour, who spent much of the filming in disguise to avoid attention, the film is remarkable for the raw, natural beauty of the region and the authenticity provided by the cast of real villagers.

Morality and family life concern Oscar-winning director Majid Majidi, whose Avaze Gonjeshk-Ha (The Song of Sparrows), chosen asthe segments Gala, depicts Karim, who works at an ostrich farm outside of Tehran.  He leads a simple and contented life until he is blamed for the loss of one of the birds. Karim heads to the city, but as he progresses there, its corrupting influences begin to erode his decent and humble nature. It is up to those closest to him to restore the values that he had once cherished. The plight of an abandoned baby in Kabul is at the heart of Afghani director Barmak Akram’s tender-hearted Kabuli Kid. Taxi driver Khalid attempts to trace the mother of a baby left in the back of his car. But as attempts prove futile, Khaled’s family develop strong attachments to child.

Women’s lives come under scrutiny in two powerful films. In Dibawah Pohon (Under the Tree), acclaimed auteur Garin Nugroho depicts the mysticism of traditional Balinese dance ceremonies in modern-day Bali,  where three women face life-changing dilemmas. In ground-breaking Iranian director Manijeh Hekmat’s Se Zan (3 Women), three generations of women come under the spotlight. Middle-aged Minoo is afraid for her missing daughter, Pegah. Pegah is speeding out of the city when she stops to pick up a hitch hiker who will have a profound effect on her life.  Meanwhile, Minoo’s ailing mother clings to a precious old rug as her last link to her past.

The Last Thakur is a contemporary take on the Western, this time from Bangladesh.  Kala, a poor, starving stranger arrives in a small Bangladeshi town, walking into a bitter power struggle between the town’s Chairman and a powerful Hindu landowner. Both try to secure Kala’s gun-toting services, but he is in the village on a mission to exact revenge on the man who killed his mother. As tensions rise on all sides, the stage is set for an almighty showdown.

The Dubai International Film Festival will run from December 11 to 18, 2008.

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