Brisbane: A Showcase for Independent Cinema in the Asia-Pacific By Ranjanee Ratnavibhushana

in 16th Brisbane International Film Festival

by Ranjanee Ratnavibhushana

Brisbane is not a very big film festival but it’s a showcase for mainly Asia-Pacific Cinema with a focus particularly on independent film-makers. The festival had three juries: FIPRESCI, Netpac and Interfaith; and the FIPRESCI award is considered as the main prize. The various segments of the festival and films screened in each section showed the keen interest of its Executive Director Anne Demy-Geroe to bring up the profile of the Brisbane Film Festival as a centre stage for creative independent cinema.

This year there was a special section on the Malaysian new wave cinema. Digital filmmaking has emerged so strongly in Malaysia mainly due to their government’s developmental push for information technology. Four films including Love Conquers All by Tan Chui-mui and Village People Road Show by Amir Muhammad were screened. Another very interesting section was Estonian Animations. The animations screened in this section were produced by two key studios, Joonisfilm and Nukufilm, both based in the capital, Tallinn.

Tributes were paid to two very different people from world cinema. The Great Spanish director Bunuel spent a few years in Mexico and did some excellent films like Los Olvidados (1950). To celebrate this work there was a special section under the title “Bunuel in Mexico”, including a seminar. The eminent Australian David Stratton — film critic, author, film festival programmer and the director of the Sydney Film Festival from 1966 to 1983 — was honoured by being awarded the Chauvel Award 2007 for significant contribution to the Australian film industry.

Three films were short listed in the final discussions of the FIPRESCI jury: Hana (Japan) directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, The Other Half (China) directed by Ying Lian and The Home Song Stories (Australia) directed by Tony Ayres. The FIPRESCI award was won by the film The Home Song Stories.


Hana (Hana yori mo naho) is based on one of Japan’s great historical legends, the “Loyal 47 Ronin” story. (This reminds me of the two part classic of Kenji Mizoguchi’s The Loyal 47 Ronin). Retold in countless theatrical versions and in dozen of films, it tells the story of a band of master-less samurai who exact revenge for the death of their beloved master, and then commit hara-kiri. The plot and the characters may be entirely different from the traditional samurai drama; however, Hirokazu Koreeda represents a much more positive and optimistic outlook on life. Aoki Souzaemon comes to Edo to search for Jubei Kanazawa, the man who killed his father. Spending time in the village, however, he comes close to the villagers, especially to a widow named Osae, with whom he falls in love. When he finally finds Jubei, living a peaceful life with his family, Souzaemon’s will for revenge falters. Through his relations with Osae and the villagers, Souzaemon comes to realize the true meaning of happiness and the futility of revenge. Koreeda injects warm human and peaceful attitude into this period piece.

“The Other Half”

The Other Half (Ling yiban), directed by Ying Lian, was screened in the section “Chinese Digital Cinema”. It portrays the realities of Chinese society through the story of Xiaofen — a member of staff at a law firm — and the people around her. Unlike the works of Zhang Ke Jia, which look deep into the realities of the Chinese society through the characters, the film objectively observes the Chinese society as it is. However, the boundary between fiction and reality blurs when Xiofen realizes that her boyfriend is suspected for murder and she sits in the client’s seat of her office telling her story as if she was telling somebody else’s story. Also, actual news footage is displayed along with the film and the characters experience a chemical factory explosion that had actually taken place in real life. In such moments, fiction and documentary narrative styles are seamlessly combined. This is indeed a very interesting way to depict ‘the other half’ of the Chinese society, and has a cinematographic style that has not been attempted in recent Chinese films.