Helsinki Cine Aasia returns for its eight year to bring the best of Asian cinema to Finnish audiences. The program is stacked with award winning and critically acclaimed films from Malaysia, Tibet, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, and Japan. Beginning next Thursday, March twelfth, the festival continues until the end of the week until the fifteenth.
Details can be found at: www.helsinkicineaasia.fi/en/
As with previous festivals, stay tuned for reviews and articles in the following week. Until then, here are the four films you shouldn’t miss this year.
THE HORSE THIEVES. ROADS OF TIME
One morning a man leaves to sell horses at the market somewhere in the countryside of Kazakhstan. On his way home, he is murdered by horse thieves. As the widowed and orphaned family begins to put their life together again, a stranger arrives at their door, hoping to make amends for his past.
Beautifully minimalist in style, THE HORSE THIEVES. ROADS OF TIME is a stark, deeply humane look at life far removed from society as we know it. A frontier western at a time when such places are thought to have vanished, it feels lived in and true. Time stands still as people go about their methodical daily routines; the images linger, yet are never boring. It feels like we’re spying on real lives unfolding in silence. As violence and vengeance erupts, what occurs is clinical and even muted. As if the wild expanse didn’t even notice we were ever there.
FLY BY NIGHT
Tai and Sai Lo are small time gangsters in Kuala Lumpur. Tai likes to keep things rolling as smoothly and inconspicuously as possible to avoid run ins with corrupt cops and rival gangs. Sai, a mess, doesn’t understand the meaning of the world inconspicuous. When Sai pisses off the wrong people, it sets in motion a chain reaction that could get them both killed. Leaving Tai on a desperate run to square things off before his time at the top comes to an end.
Sharing DNA with last year’s impeccable UNCUT GEMS, FLY BY NIGHT is an intense ride from start to finish. With everything going straight to hell for the duo, there’s barely any respite once the house of cards begins to fall. While inventive and mesmerizing at every turn, FLY BY NIGHT will be off putting for some the same way as its American cousin. But for those willing to go for a ride it offers a wild look at the Malaysian underworld.
THE ODD FAMILY: ZOMBIE ON SALE
The Park family has a new house guest, a young man (called Zzongbie) with a penchant for biting people. It’s not long before one of the oddballs is bit; only for them to realize that instead of instant death, the virus rejuvenates the carrier. Being the entrepreneurial masterminds they are, the Park’s quickly decide to capitalize on their newfound scheme, and set up shop with Zzongbie as their primary source of income.
Effectively combining scares with laughs, THE ODD FAMILY breaks down zombie-film tropes into a hilarious and biting (hah) satire. Consistently surprising, the film is a tonal balancing act from slapstick to gore as it delivers a scathing commentary on modern day life.
THEY SAY NOTHING STAYS THE SAME
For Toichi, life is constant transportation, as he ferries people across a narrow river somewhere in Japan. The arrival of a bridge being built nearby finds Toichi’s work threatened, along with the tradition passed down for generations. Leaving him facing the loss of not just his livelihood, but the fleeting connections he makes to his passengers who tell their stories during passage across the river. As a mysterious girl appears by the river, Toichi finds himself for the first time at the center of the story being told.
Directed with grace by actor Odagiri Joe and filmed by Christopher Doyle, THEY SAY NOTHING STAYS THE SAME is a haunting story about the inevitability of time. Beautifully carried by Akira Emotoi, it mirrors the lives that pass through ours like passengers on Toichi’s raft: Hopelessly tied to the current, but richer for having shared these short moments together.
ONLY THE CAT KNOWS
Yukiko and Masaru are an aging married couple, whose life together has grown complacent. When Yukiko’s beloved cat, Chibi, disappears one day, she realizes that their marriage has been dead for years. Facing the prospect of a divorce in their twilight years, the lovers have to face their own hangups and misgivings built up over the years, all the while hoping that one day Chibi will poke her chubby little face back through the door again.
A tender love story, a droll tale of companionship, and a charming anecdote for cat lovers, ONLY THE CAT KNOWS is a winning combination for everyone. Based on the manga by Nishi Keiko, it is delightful and immensely touching as it allows for the love story of its aging leads take the time to breathe and expand over the course of two hours.