Wow, I'm falling way behind in my writing. Time to catch up. I was up at the PFA on the (San Francisco) Closing Night of the festival, for two more shows.
First up was the short KEAO, a mostly dialogue free (or was it completely dialogue-free? I don't actually remember) about a hula dancer returning to her cultural roots.
That was the lead in to THERE ONCE WAS AN ISLAND. I've decided that the theme of the festival is "disruptive influences." Something comes from outside and completely changes the way of life for everyone. That was present in NIGHT MARKET HERO, THE CATCH, DELHI IN A DAY, and more films I saw (but I'd be getting ahead of myself) and it's certainly the case here. In this case, the disruptive influence is global warming, and the change is that this small island off the coast of Papua New Guinea is slowly disappearing. The Taku live there, and do to isolation (they're connected to the mainland only by intermittent and irregular boat service) their culture has been largely unchanged for centuries. But already the adults can point to spots of their coastline where they used to play on sandy beaches that are now submerged as the waves come right up to their houses. Saltwater has ruined a giant taro garden. The changes are literally undeniable. What to do about it, given that they (and Papua New Guinea) is very poor, is another matter. Their choices really boil down to moving further from the coast to the center of the island and hope it isn't completely submerged eventually, or move to the mainland. In fact, the government (although it doesn't really have the funds for it) is committed to moving all the islanders to the mainland. But that would essentially destroy their culture. There is also an engineering solution, building seawalls off shore that allow gentle waves to deposit new sound on the beach. This is outlined by a scientist who comes to visit, but is then quickly dismissed as too expensive. This kind of bugged me. I understand that it probably really is too expensive, but they don't even estimate the cost (or at least that's not in the movie.) It seems like it might be a good charity fundraiser project that not only saves their island but gives even more attention to the reality of global warming.
Then the second show was a bizarre little comedy, RYANG-KANG-DO MERRY CHRISTMAS NORTH. In this film, the disruptive influence is a Christmas present. In the opening scene we see South Korean children celebrating Christmas and sending a balloon with a sack full of presents over the border to the children of the north. Of course, most balloons are shot down but one makes it through and lands in the hands of little Jong-soo. He's the small kid in class and constantly picked on, but now that he has a real working security robot, he's suddenly the popular one. He learns about Christmas and "Comrade Jesus Christ" from his grandfather, and lords over all the other schoolkids in his Santa Claus coat and hat (complete with blinking lights.) He's also quite the natural capitalist, as he charges fees for viewing his robot (of course, before he had the robot the popular class leader was charging fees to view a chicken, so there's really nothing new there.) It's a pretty bizarre, funny story that satirizes and challenges all preconceived notions of North Korea. And I suppose it's pretty important to add that the script writer Sung-San Jung is a North Korean defector, so he is probably writing from what he knows.
And that was Thursday at Asianfest. Just the San Jose weekend to write up now.
Total Running Time: 163 minutes
My Total Minutes: 274,065