Asian Films at the 34th Moscow International Film Festival

in 34th Moscow International Film Festival

by Aijaz Gul

The selection of Asian films at the 34th Moscow International Film Festival ranged from interesting and amazing to largely banal cinema from a vast region encompassing Japan, China, Armenia, Georgia, Korea, Iran, Turkey, Russia and Egypt.  Categorising Egyptian and Armenian films as Asian could raise eyebrows — but Wikipedia seems to confirm this criteria.

If there were multi-million dollar (or rather multi-billion ruble) films like The Horde (Horda) with hundreds of extras and horses, choreographing blood spectacles (part-history but largely theatrical), there were also modest films like Growing in the Wind (Routedan Dard Bad) from Iran, A Cherry on a Pomegranate Tree (Shi Liu Jie Tao) and Horizon (Tian Bian) from China. The festival offered up a wide spread of cinema with not only varying subjects, themes and plots but also cinematic techniques and visions which were vastly different from each other, ranging from simple and basic old—fashioned filmmaking to state-of-the-art digital CGI-loaded films. So what to do? Relax and move with the flow (in this case, the audiences).

Growing in the Wind, directed by Rahbar Ghanbari, is a modest effort about nomad life in Iran. Rahbar himself was even more humble as he came on-stage with the actors. He bowed and said: “Values and traditions are important to us, but presenting these values on screen poses problems in Iran today”. He added: “This is a film that I made it with my heart.” Yes, Growing in the Wind is simple and true to life, without pretentions and lofty artistic claims.

Director Chen Li’s A Cherry on a Pomegranate Tree takes us to rural China, where we see a woman in power as a village head (a unique element in macho-driven China, where women have largely remained obscure and at best in secondary roles). The slow pace needed a quick fix in fast cutting.

Fire in Hell (Jioghwa), a co-production from Korea and the Philippines directed by Lee Sang-Woo, is yet another instance of an explicitly daring subject Korean filmmaking has taken up. We see a monk in the temple, kicked out of the sacred place for his downright ugly behaviour, followed by more extreme feats of rape and murder. The priest has the nerve to take the ashes of his victim to her family and then fall for her sister. There are indeed no limits and boundaries for falling in love.