The great thing about the Osaka Asian Film Festival is that it gives me chance to watch a lot of Southeast Asian films that I would never be able to see in Hong Kong. That was the focus of my third day at the festival.

Singing in Graveyards

This Malaysian-Philippines co-production has a hell of a concept: Legendary rocker Pepe “Joey” Smith plays both himself and an impersonator who longs to get one last shot at fame. Bradley Liew’s film is a character study of a frail old man who yearns to break free of being in someone else’s shadow.

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At the Q&A for the screening (its 17th film festival play), Liew and his co-writer/producer Bianca Balbuena explain that they wanted to show Smith outside of his famous stage persona. They also revealed that Smith suffered a stroke before the shoot and could only work for six hours a day, which explains Smith’s almost zombie-like physical state in the film.

Kita Kita (I See You)

The latest film by The Philippines’ Sigrid Adrea P. Bernardo is a modern fairy tale about Filipino expats in Hokkaido. When Lea (Alessandra De Rossi) suffers temporary blindness from a devastating breakup, her neighbor and “Kabayan” (countryman) Tonyo (Empoy Marquez) steps in and offers her the kindness that she needs to move on. After the story’s major twist, it switches perspective and tells the story from Tonyo’s side.

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The film was presented as a world premiere in the OAFF competition. P. Bernardo, De Rossi, producer Piolo Pascual (also an actor) and cinematographer  appeared after the screening for a Q&A. They talked about casting the unlikely pair (This is the first romantic role for De Rossi, who says that she usually only plays in the lead in poverty porns, and Empoy Marquez.) and choosing Hokkaido because it’s the only place that the director hasn’t been to in Japan. A Filipino expat also stood up and thanked P. Bernardo for the film, while several members of the film’s Japanese crew also attended in support of the film.

My Stupid Boss

Prior to the screening of this immensely popular Indonesian comedy, the festival held the award ceremony. You can see the results here. The ceremony was especially interesting coming from someone who hasn’t attended one of these (HKIFF doesn’t have a competition section, and I’ve also never caught the live announcement of HK Asian Film Festival’s Asian New Talent Award). The ceremony was attended by many of the guests and audiences who have seen other films at the festival, so you can hear the excitement in the air when something that audiences like wins an award.

Something that wasn’t in the story: Director Ho Yuhang jokingly announced that the Grand Prix winner was La La Land in the moment that got the biggest laugh of the night.

Most of the festival guests cleared out after the award ceremony (there was an afterparty I didn’t attend), and about two-thirds of the audience remained to watch the film.

Based on the four-part novel series, My Stupid Boss is about the psychological warfare between Diana (Bunga Citra Lestari) and her eccentric, incredibly incompetent boss (Reza Rahadian, unrecognizable under all that makeup). Written and directed by Upi Avianto, the office comedy struck enough chords that it was also the third highest grossing Indonesian film of 2016. It was one of the few films in the program that did not have a Q&A, but the audience seemed to enjoy the over-the-top antics of the boss.

After the film, I was asked by a fellow guest to attend the Philippine Night party, which is the second party after the first afterparty. I chatted with Ho Yuhang, whom I had interviewed that afternoon, about Hong Kong cinema and the types of films he wants to do. I chatted with other overseas guests and used my broken Japanese with a few of the young Japanese indie directors. I generally don’t do very well at parties, but I’m glad the OAFF creates these intimate gatherings for its guests rather than the usual big flashy film festival/market parties.

Next: The final day at OAFF