Monday, November 11, 2013

San Diego Asian Film Festival, Nov. 9, 2013

The Taiwan Film Showcase -- a wide variety of Taiwan films presented by the San Diego Asian Film Festival -- kicked off on Saturday November 9th at UCSD's Price Center. Festival Art Director Brian Hu introduced the event and the day's first film, A Rolling Stone 築巢人 (Shen, 2012), Grand Prize Winner at the 2012 Taipei Film Festival 台北電影節.

Taiwan Film Showcase poster at the San Diego Asian Film Festival, 2013.

A Rolling Stone delivers its story in layers. Rather than depicting a father's relationship with his son with autism in a linear fashion, this documentary shows the son at an art gallery presenting his geometric drawings of bees and hornets, or the father receiving questions in a cold and grey room -- responding as if in the presence of a psychoanalyst. Each excerpt from their lives is held for the perfect amount of time. Almost all of the shots are medium shots and close-ups, never really providing the full picture. But providing just enough to wonder why it is that we persist living in the ways we do, and if we really have a choice.

To My Dear Granny 親愛的奶奶 (Chu, 2012), the Opening Night Film of the 2012 Golden Horse Film Festival, was next. I had the opportunity to introduce this film and then appreciate the way the film makes startling connections between cinema and memory. In fact, there were moments in this otherwise sticky-sweet film that made me entirely forget I was watching a film. The narrative is essentially a series of flashbacks presented by a protagonist who recalls his grandmother's influence while growing up in Taiwan. The scenes in which the child's memory allows for his deceased father to be present among the living are incredibly effective and definitely worth checking out.

The Sandwich Man 兒子的大玩偶 (Hou, Wan, & Tseng, 1983) was the third and final film of the day on Saturday. This three-part film remains astounding for a number of reasons -- the moment in time in which short story writer Huang Chunming's 黃春明 stories were presented on the silver screen is certainly pivotal in Taiwan film history, and the film's first segment, directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien remains endearing. Yet the third story, directed by Wan Ren, continues to grow on me. It begins in black and white, and changes to color when focusing on the blood of a working class laborer who is struck by a car driven by a U.S. military serviceman in 1969. The transition from black and white to blood red, the blood of the worker, sets the tone for a short piece that retains its good humor while presenting a searing critique of inequality.

 With SDAFF Art Director, Brian Hu.

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