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Asian Cinematic Highlights at the Pan Asia Film Festival

Published 28 February 2011

The Asia House Pan-Asia Film Festival is really a rare treat if you would like to see the hidden gems of Asian filmmaking. The Artistic Director, Sonali Joshi, has compiled a programme that gives a very good insight into what’s going on in Asia nowadays in terms of filmmaking.

We sometimes tend to forget about certain parts of Asia, and think of mainly the leading countries like China and India. Although the Pan Asia Film Festival includes unique films from the mentioned countries too, I am especially interested in those coming from countries like Tibet, Kyrgyzstan or South Korea.

What is special about the chosen films is that none of them tries to follow the ‘traditions’ of 21st century filmmaking; they have their very own style and do not even attempt to meet the requirements of Hollywood or Bollywood. Some of them are moving and naturalistic, others are humorous or dramatic, but they all show a slice of the culture they are influenced from in bringing up human rights and social issues.

The Pan Asia Film Festival opens with the English premiere of Norwegian Wood – directed by the Vietnamese-French Tran Anh Hung – that is a story of love, loss and sexual passion, set in 1960s Japan. Brilliant Moon, directed by Buddhist lama Neten Chokling, is a documentary about the life of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991), who was a writer, teacher, scholar and head of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism at the same time. His students included His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the King of Bhutan. The post screening discussion considers the master’s significance in the Tibetan community.

Some of the films bring up the issue of the clash or juxtaposing of traditional and modern ways of life. The Rice Paddy, as the first film made in the Dong language, spoken by one of the ethnic minorities of China, is set in the mountains of Guangxi Province and follows the life of a 12 years old girl, A Qui. She aspires to be a writer and travel the world, but the death of her grandmother forces her family to return to the family home. Rarely heard traditional Dong music and lifestyle and the life of contemporary Chinese youth also appears in the movie.

One of the special screenings on International Women’s Day is the screening of a new documentary that explores the family life and personal character of Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. In a post screening discussion the director Anne Gyrithe Bonne and broadcaster Nita Yin Yin May considers the future of the protagonist and her country .

The Festival will close with the London premiere of award-winning Au Revoir Taipei, combining romantic comedy with a crime caper.

Showcasing pan-Asian contemporary cinema, the Pan Asia Film Festival represents 13 countries from across the region, including the Middle East, Central and South Asia. This offers a great opportunity for independent Asian filmmakers to catch the attention of cinema lovers in the UK, as well as of those who are interested in Asian culture and current issues in a wider and deeper sense.

The Pan-Asia Film Festival is hosted by Asia House and runs from the 1st March till the 13th March 2011. For screening schedules, please visit www.panasiafilmfestival.org