VIFF 2016 | Beautiful 2016

Posted by Alden E. Habacon & filed under VIFF.

Credit: viff.org
Credit: viff.org

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Beautiful 2016 | Meihao Heyi 2016
Dir: Jia Zhangke, Stanley Kwan, Nakata Hideo, Alec Su | Gateway | Dragons & Tigers | Hong Kong/China | 2016 | 96 mins
Showtimes:
Oct. 8, 8:30 pm | International Village 8
Oct 12, 4:00 pm | International Village 9

Beautiful 2016 is a curation of four short films, coming from the annual commission of prominent Asian directors by the Hong Kong International Film Festival. This year’s culmination is wonderful journey of visual storytelling taking audiences through Japan, Mainland China and Hong Kong. Despite four very distinct chapters, they share a rich exploration of the human spirit. What is wonderful about this selection is that short films are generally the format of new filmmakers. In the film industry, shorts are an emerging filmmaker’s calling card, and in not being driven by commercial aspirations, can showcase a filmmakers true creative potential. In giving this kind of creative freedom to some established filmmakers, the storytelling reveals the effectiveness of the short form to deliver a story quickly but profoundly, much in the same way fables can still deliver deep insight and compete against many (feature length) novels. Each of the stories offers a slightly different pacing and visual approach, and together are a reminder of what international film festivals are best at: taking our imaginations through a journey across geographies, cultures and languages — as well as into our inner spirit.

Surprisingly, three of the four shorts are stories of women who are confronted with some kind of disruption that forces them to confront their identity. As viewers, we share in their personal exploration of grief and resilience. The last short, is classic Asian form of storytelling, wherein a comedy about our own shortcomings and human tenacity is shrouded in the circumstances of tragedy.

Somewhere in Kamakura

This short is a surprisingly heart-warming story by one of world’s most renown directors of Japanese-horror, Nakata Hideo (director of Ring and Ring 2). The tale stars Kagawa Kyoko, a Japanese cinematic icon often associated with the golden era of Japanese cinema. Kagawa receives a letter from a first love, written and sent many years ago. Unable to journey into her past alone, a friendship grows with her caregiver, who feels bound to help Kagawa find closure. Using minimal dialogue, Nakata offers a profound commentary for the need, challenges and possibility of inter-generational connection.

Dama Wang Who Lives on Happiness Avenue
The second short is the directorial debut of Taiwanese musician-turned-filmmaker Alec Su. Su’s short documentary offers a picture of feminimity in China that Is insightful and endearing, and in being a stark contrast to the stereotype of rich housewive, challenges what we might actually know about life in Mainland China. The short doc portrays Dama Wang’s place in her community, and as an owner of a hair salon who spends as much time as possible participating in plaza dancing (think square dancing to various Chinese songs), while also giving viewers a touching picture of her ongoing struggle with her status as a widow. Although far from the experience of most newer immigrants in Vancouver, there is an underhanded parallel to marital separation experienced by Chinese women worldwide.
One Day in Our Lives of…
A nostalgia-packed short film by Stanley Kwan, who surprises audiences with the return of Hong Kong film icon, Cecelia Yip, who been in longtime retirement. Yip plays the stereotype of the HK-pop star diva, while making reference to an Anita Mui classic song (also the theme song of Wong Kar Wai’s Days of Being Wild (1990). Similar to the previous shorts is the portrayal of an established and experienced woman who is forced to confront the emotional loss of a former identity, the tribulation of hiding true feelings, while also capturing a self-determination to keep moving forward.
The Hedonists
Jia Zhangke’s is a laugh-out-loud dark comedy that showcases the internationally acclaimed filmmaker’s ability to portray the harsh impact of a dramatically changing China on the everyday life of ordinary people. Filmed in Jia’s hometown, Fenyang, Shanxi, The Hedonists follows the misadventures of three suddenly unemployed Shanxi coalminers as they attempt to secure employmen in the new Chinese economy.

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