East Asian movies to vie for Muhr Awards at DIFF

DUBAI - East Asia’s best-known and rising filmmakers have submitted their newest films to keep regional audiences engrossed and to earn honours in the seventh Dubai International Film Festival’s (DIFF) Muhr Awards competition next month. The festival will run from December 12-19.

By (Staff Reporter)

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Published: Tue 23 Nov 2010, 9:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:07 PM

Eleven feature and documentary films from China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and Thailand have been selected for DIFF’s Muhr AsiaAfrica competitions. An international jury will select the winners during the festival and present 12 prestigious Muhr Awards and more than $225,000 in prize money on December 19. Additional films from East Asia are also included in the festival’s out-of-competition segments and its shorts competition. All films are open to the public.

Nashen Moodley, DIFF’s Director AsiaAfrica, said six of the films are new to the Middle East; an additional two have never been screened outside their home countries and a third is a world premiere, providing a rare opportunity for residents to view films they have never seen before and are unlikely to see again in the region.

“Choosing the final films to be included in this year’s Muhr AsiaAfrica competition was difficult given the many outstanding documentaries and features completed this year, and the final result is a powerhouse of diverse cinema that reflects the strength of Asian cinema,” he said. “Audiences and jury members alike are in for a feast of filmmaking.”

From China, director Feng Xiaogang’s $25 million blockbuster Aftershock focuses on the psychological scars of survivors of the 1976-Tangshan earthquake that killed more than 240,000 people. Equipped with state-of-the-art special effects, the film begins on the day of the quake and traces its impact on a single family over 32 years.

Also from China is the documentary, I Wish I Knew, the story of Shanghai, a city that is home to people from all walks of life, from revolutionaries to capitalists and gangsters to artists. The film documents what happened to 18 people from Shanghai, Taipei and Hong Kong when they had to choose between leaving their homes or staying to weather the communist revolution.

Prison and Paradise, a compelling entry from Indonesia, explores the background to the Bali bombings of October 2002. The documentary follows NH Ismail, a Washington Post journalist, and former roommate of one of the bombers, as he meets the families of the perpetrators and the victims as well as the masterminds behind the bombings. The film will make its world premiere in Dubai.

The Muhr AsiaAfrica competition also includes four films from Japan, including a co-production with South Korea. Set deep in the heart of a forest in central Japan, Genpin focuses on a small clinic for seeking natural childbirth. Naomi Kawase’s sensitive, delightful documentary follows not only the women who elect to give birth there, but also the rich, poor, young and old who enter the building.

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Kazuhiro Soda returns to the Muhr competition with his new film Peace, an observational film that contemplates the essence of peace and coexistence through the lives of three people and a group of stray cats in Okayama city.

The Japanese entries also include Kokuhaku (Confessions), an example of visceral, surreal, and darkly comic Japanese cinema; and Norwegian Wood, director Tran Anh Hung’s adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s best-selling novel. Kokuhaku, the story of a junior high school teacher who seeks revenge after discovering one of her students had killed her toddler daughter, is also the Japanese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards. Norwegian Wood, on the other end of the spectrum, is a classic story of love, death and the loss of innocence.

South Korea’s three films in competition include Yongsan, a documentary about evicted tenants who perished in a city fire in early 2009, which will make its international premiere in Dubai;Ordinary Days, a look at the everyday life of a group of modern Korean citizens from experimental filmmaker Inan; and End of Animal (Jimseung Ui Kkut), which has been described as one of the most striking debuts in Korean film history.

A cross between a road movie and apocalypse movie, the film revolves around a young woman stuck in a broken-down taxi on the day electricity disappears and the world turns crazy.

Last but certainly not the least is the Gulf premiere of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, winner of Palme d’Or for Best Picture at this year’s Cannes film festival.

The final part of Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s multi-platform art project Primitive, the surprising and enchanting film follows a dying Uncle Boonmee as he explores his past lives with the help of his dead wife and lost son.


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