Finally, some movies were watched on my second day of the Osaka Asian Film Festival. It was a packed day with two screenings, an event and a really great interview.
A Gift (พรจากฟ้า)
Four Thai directors find a creative way to pay tribute to their late king in this omnibus. Using three compositions by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who actually was an accomplished musician with a Sanford Media from the Yale School of Music, directors Chayanop Boonprakob, Jira Maligool, Nithiwat Tharatorn and Kriangkrai Vachiratamporn link together three stylistically different stories of love.
Based on a photo of two people standing in for Barack and Michelle Obama at an event rehearsal, the first section by Boonprakob and Vachiratamporn – based on Love at Sundown – tells the story of two people (Naphat Siangsomboon and Heart Attack’s Violette Wautier) who have to stand in for an ambassador and his wife during the rundown rehearsal of an event. It’s essentially a romcom meet-cute scene extended to 45 minutes.
The second film by Tharathorn (The Teacher’s Diary) is a tearjerker melodrama about a woman (One Day’s Nittha Jirayungyurn) who quits her job to take care of her Alzheimer’s-stricken father after her mother dies. Helped a piano tuner (Heart Attack’s Sunny Suwanmethanont), the woman slowly learns how to accept the reality of her father’s illness.
The third part by Maligool takes a wild swing to office comedy-musical, following a group of office workers who put together a band under the leadership of a former metal rocker. The filmmakers manage to link the three stories in a way that feel like we’ve come full circle by the end of the 144-minute running time.
A Gift, by the way, was nominated for six Thailand National Film Association Awards. It won two categories – Best Original Score and Best Sound Mixing.
Boonprakob and Vachiratamporn appeared after the surprisingly well-attended screening (It was a weekday morning show, after all) for a Q&A. The festival even set up an autograph session with the two directors outside the venue:
After a ramen lunch (which took longer than expected because of the line), I returned to ABC Hall for the rest of the day.
77 Heartbreaks (原諒他77次)
One of Herman Yau’s four planned 2017 releases is this anti-romance comedy drama that once again pairs him up with writer Erica Li. Charlene Choi stars as Eva, a lawyer who has decided to leave her college sweetheart Adam (Pakho Chau) after his latest screw-up. When he discovers that Eva’s written down all 77 of his mistakes in a journal, he relives the errors one by one.
Another pleasant surprise at the festival was to see the turnout for a Herman Yau film on a Friday afternoon. In addition to the usual press guests (this was a world premiere, after all), plenty of general audience packed the room. When you can hear Japanese audiences reacting giddily to the sight of certain veteran actors in cameos, you know you’re watching the film with the right crowd.
After the screening, Yau came out and had a short Q&A. He revealed that the project was actually initiated by Choi, which is why the film had so many star cameos.
77 Heartbreaks is set to be distributed by Emperor Motion Pictures, but there’s no release date set yet, making Shock Wave the first Herman Yau release of 2017.
Hong Kong Night
This year saw an exceptional number of Hong Kong films in the lineup, especially in the competition. Sponsored by the Hong Kong Trade and Economic Office, the festival brought all the Hong Kong guests together before the screening of Mad World for a special event called Hong Kong Night. With the exception of Soul Mate, the filmmakers behind the Hong Kong films all came to the festival for at least one screening of their film.
Each director gave a small speech. As a proof of the solidarity in the Hong Kong film industry, Herman Yau actually took time to endorse Mad World and other young filmmakers (“I’m the only old guy here!” Yau says), while Fire Lee gave a ringing endorsement to Sisterhood.
Meanwhile, a statement by programming director Sozo Teruoka revealed that the only reason that Fire Lee’s Husband Killers got left out of the competition was that it was completed too late to be included. It screened in Osaka as a special screening instead.
At the end of the event, the Hong Kong delegation all posted for a selfie in front of the audience.
I didn’t stay to watch Mad World (which I’d seen at the HK Asian Film Festival back in November) because I went back stage to interview director Wong Chun and screenwriter Florence Chan for Discovery Magazine. The interview feature will be on the magazine in a future issue, but I can say that the pair gave very thoughtful answers and were very honest about their creative process.
After the interview, I walked over to the Osaka Station Cinema to catch the feature-length version of Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time on the big screen. I saw at least one walkout. Everyone sat quietly and finished the whole film. I love the Japanese audience.
Coming up next: Southeast Asian films and a bit of partying