Good Spread of Subjects

in 18th Busan International Film Festival

by Aijaz Gul

The twelve films selected from eleven countries in the New Currents section of the Busan International Film Festival brought in a good spread of subjects varying from the search for water in drought, contemporary corporate disappointments, teenage rape, the miseries of old age and the trauma of child deportation as well covering genres from slasher horror to dark comedy.

Indian director Girish Malik makes his directorial debut with Water (Jal) and takes us to drought-stricken Rann of Kutchin India where people are ready to exploit others’ misery in the search for water. However, in this case it’s not for human consumption, but for dying native flamingos. This is the first feature of director Girish Malik, but it does not have the look of a film from a debut director. Malik is in full command on every discipline of film making. Everything is in order, but the crisp camerawork and music are highlights. The hardship, dirt poverty and nothingness is apparent on the actors’ faces, even the exploiters seem genuine.

Korean corporate drama 10 Minutes (10 Bun) is a major film with exceptional top-notch production values and technical competence. The setting is the contemporary Korean corporate world as people bet on promotions and office tussles to reach the top of the ladder. The hero, hard-pressed for money, is promised a promotion by the boss at his new government publicity job but it goes to someone else who is less capable and close to top command. She sure makes a mess of everything with a copy of the office manual close to her heart to keep the unions far apart. Once the woman is gone and the mess left behind, the hero is utterly disappointed, but the boss again offers him a second chance. Once bitten, twice shy; would he be trapped again? The director leaves that up to the audience to decide.

10 Minutes has just the right contemporary look with good camerawork and rich production design, be it at office, at home or at the bar, while sharp editing moves the story at a brisk pace. The film ends on a close-up of hero physically sitting in an office after hearing the promotional  offer for the second time, but, he is emotionally somewhere else, far away, staring into space, undecided. 10 Minutes received a standing ovation for presenting the conflict and tussle of the corporate world today in this powerful and well-scripted drama.

There were several other good films in the New Current section including director Hannah Espia’s Transit from the Philippines, a heart-breaking tragedy about a gorgeous child in Israel who must be deported back to the Philippines. The film is told from five different perspectives that become repetitious after a while. There are ways that this could have been avoided to give a better pace to the film.

Again from Japanese director Kanai Junichi brings out the best in acting from its two central characters: a teenage girl who has been raped and her single working mother, emotionally destroyed by this abrupt and unexpected tragedy. In the end the girl wants to meet the rapist, which the mother unwillingly allows and, of course, in her presence. The two decide to forget the past and move on with a separate life, never to meet again. The subtle performance by the Mayumi Asaka as the mother is remarkable and the director chose just the right actor for this difficult and exceptionally demanding role.

Edited by Glenn Dunks