The Face of the Ash

in 19th Busan International Film Festival

by Taesik John Park

There was a wedding party in a small village. It was a beautiful traditional party and the people enjoyed themselves in their own ways. Then a car came slowly from a distance into the village. We can see a coffin over the car and the soldier who brought the coffin to this village gave the village elder, Abdulrahman, notice of nephew’s death. The film is The Face of the Ash and it begins with the happiest day of the young couple’s life before it becomes a tragic day.

The background of this film is the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. As Abdulrahman should be preparing the funeral of his nephew, the coffin is opened and inside he finds something wrong with the dead body – the man who is lying in the coffin is not circumcised. The dead body maybe belongs to Noiell’s family, the only Christian family in the village. It is from this moment on that the code of comedy and farce is added to Shakkwan Idrees’ film.

With the combination of these two related concepts of tragedy and comedy, the director wants to tell the audience what the real war is. Some say war is not only an issue for the nation, it is also the issue for the parents. No, it is not correct. The main victim of the war is the family itself. The parents are always curious about their boy who is in between life and death on the battlefield and they are waiting for the news from the boy. But how irresponsible are the parents? How can we find laughter in this serious situation, in the core of the war?

The director tells us it is possible if we understand each other deeply and have sympathy. Meanwhile the coffin is misplaced and nobody knows what will happen next. The tension is ongoing and they really need laughter to make things move on. The religious confrontation is not the exception. If there is a big problem between two religions, hatred is not the solution, only understanding and sympathy will lead them to peace.

Violence and conflict still exist in Iraq, but the film leaves us with the message of harmony between enemies and religions, and finally between human beings. The making of this film is not fully satisfying, so to say, not that sophisticated. But The Face of the Ash is the first feature film of this director, so I expect more from his coming movies.

The Face of the Ash is an entry of the 19th Busan International Film Festival. As one of the jurors in the New Currents category, I focused on twelve films from ten countries presented by young directors, most of whom were only on their first or second film and it was a wonderful experience for me to smell the fresh air from these films. The Face of the Ash was not chosen as the best film but it made a favorable impression. If the Busan International Film Festival keeps giving chances to young directors in this way, it will be a place of challenge. I have found hope here, in Busan.

Edited by Glenn Dunks