Asian movies, directors receive warm welcome at film festival
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Crowds formed a long line from the entrance of the Annenberg Theater all the way around the building, extending even to the sidewalk of the street, before the theater opened for the screening of Chinese director FengXiaogang’s film Back to 1942.
Such a sight is not unique at the 25th Palm Springs International Film Festival. A day earlier, when Indian film Lakshmi was shown, a similar long linewoundupthe street.
More than 15 films from Asia were featured at the festival, and several Asian filmmakers have traveled to attend the festival with their films and conduct a Q&A with the audience after each screening.
“I’moverwhelmed and touched by the audience’s response,” says Elahe Hiptoola, producer of Lakshmi.
The film is based on true events. Lakshmi is a 14-year-old girl sold into prostitution, and her unyielding resolve not to lose hope and her courageous acts eventually bring down her oppressors.
Nagesh Kukumnoor, director of Lakshmi, also came to the festival. He has worked with Hiptoola to make 13 films together.
They took a different route for their latest film, which Hiptoola called a “social contribution” in which they address the issue of abduction and prostitution of women in India.
Hong Kong director Wong Karwai also attended the festival with his film The Grandmaster, which is on the shortlist of nine finalists in the best foreign language film category for the Academy Awards.
Wong participated in the “Talking Pictures Program” organized to explore “the careers and creative choices of the top talents in the world of cinema”. At the program, Wong talks about his latest film as well as his other award-winning hits.
Anthony Chen, director of Ilo Ilo from Singapore who won several awards for his debut feature film, was also at the festival.
Ilo Ilo is Singapore’s Academy Awards submission this year. It’s a story about an over-stretched middle class family and their Filipino maid who helps care for their troublesome 10-year-old son.
Chen was honored as one of “10 Directors toWatch” byVariety at the Festival.
South Korean director Kang Yi-kwan also attended the festival with his film Juvenile Offender, which is his country’s contender for the Academy Awards. The film is a story of a troubled 16-year-old who winds up in a detention center until the authorities track down the mother he thought was dead. It is regarded as a “neo-realist, social conscience drama”.
Kang, who studied sociology in college before turning to filmmaking, says he had researched juvenile offenders and made a short film about the issue before making the feature film.
Philippe Muyl, a French director who has made a Chinese film in collaboration with producers in China, participated at the festival with his entry Nightingale. Muyl takes the audience on a Chinese road trip through spectacular mountain villages to discover the daily existence of the people and the beauty of nature.
The story is about the relationship between a grandfather and his granddaughter. A previous film, The Butterfly, was very popular with Chinese audiences, which led him to the production of this new film.
“People perceive China through television and film,” Muyl says. “I want them to see the beautiful countryside they don’t know.”
Asian films and their filmmakers are well received at the festival, one of the largest in the United States.
“I’d like to see more Chinese film submissions for PSIFF,” says Therese Hayes, programmer for Asian films at the festival.