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Bought my Film Fest Tickets! Spent $142.40!!! But I’m honestly thrilled. There’s something about going to the festival that makes me excited.
I spent Wednesday night reading through the entire film synopsis on the website. Short listing my interest as I went along. I was actually freaking out as I picked about 4 – 5 films in just 2 pages! I ended up with about 18 and further narrowed it down to 8. The choices were made for variety, entertainment value and story. Think like other years my preference skewed towards more absurd, morbid and futuristic content. Then I’ll throw in an animation piece (usually Japanese Anime) and something that I deem wholesome. I don’t go for crowd favourites, unless I really think it is that worth watching. Past experiences have proven they’re normally over hyped.

Here’s a run down of the films I picked:

Mahmut is an acclimatized émigré in Istanbul whose photographic aspirations à la Tarkovsky have long since been replaced by bourgeois coffee shop conversations on theories of craftsmanship. His life is clinically well organised, from the obligatory intellectualization, to the passive nightly porn video sessions and the occasional visit from a prostitute. He guards his isolation listlessly, yet adamantly until interruption comes in the form of a distant cousin Yusuf who has left behind rural unemployment to ply the lengths of the Bosporus Strait for a job in the docks. The ties of kinship however, fail to extend beyond the nominal and eventually the difference in status divides the two men and acts like a catalyst to break the already quite non-existent bond.

Ceylan’s exquisitely shot and quietly composed film won the Best Actor award at Cannes for both its lead actors Muzaffer Özdemir and Emin Toprak (who played Yusuf and died just recently in a tragic road accident) as well as the Grand Prize of the Jury. The film also received the Best Turkish Film and Director Award at the Istanbul International Film Festival.

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Country: Turkey
Duration: 110 minutes
Year: 2003
Rating: NC-16

All Tomorrow's Parties
China in the distant 21st century is a strange luminescent dystopia in which the Gui Dao sect has overtaken any formal state authority in Asia and sends its errant citizens to ‘Camp Prosperity’ to be re-educated. Zhuai and his younger brother Mian are imprisoned in the “re-education” centre where they meet Xuelan and her little boy. Zhuai develops an attraction for Xuelan and when the sect is suddenly overthrown, this accidental and wandering dysfunctional family head towards a deserted industrial city, where the same scenario has played out. Pervaded by a sense of nowhere to go and nothing to do and yet, released into a sudden freedom, they attempt to learn the simple pleasures of life.

Director: Yu Lik Wai
Country: China
Duration: 95 minutes
Year: 2003
Rating: NC-16

Virginal Minami is a hesitant yakuza and loyal minion to Ozaki in an outfit run by a lecherous, ineffectual boss. When Ozaki begins to show signs of the abnormal, hilariously claiming that cutesy Chihuahua dogs are potential yakuza killer dogs the head honcho, sensing the final screw has come loose, assigns Minami with the task of finishing Ozaki off. Wracked with guilt and indebted to Ozaki, Minami is a veritable mess on the road. When the task is done entirely due to a minor road accident, Minami panics and then, Ozaki disappears. Meanwhile, dull Nagoya is in fact, decidedly weird. It’s populated by a cross-dressing coffee shop owner, an American sake seller who recites her lines from a script, and an inn run by an almost catatonic, submissive man and his profusely lactating, domineering sister (yes, lactating breasts return). Minami stumbles through this absurd universe determined to find Ozaki and restore normality.

Director: Takashi Miike
Country: Japan
Duration: 129 minutes
Year: 2003
Rating: R(A)

James' Journey to Jerusalem / Massa'ot James Be'eretz Hakodesh
In this parable, James is sent as a soon-to-be-pastor from the imaginary village of Entshongweni (possibly in South Africa) on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Jerusalem. Clueless to the misfire encounter with a sardonic and suspicious immigration officer, James is assumed to be an illegal migrant and carted off to prison to join countless other “illegals”. Bailed out by Mr.Shimi who runs a shady business employing migrant workers in hard labour jobs, he learns tricks of the trade while befriending his employee’s father who advises him not to be a “frayer” (a sucker). James’ naivety is deadpan – gaining a knowledge of capitalism, profiting from the system and de-mythologizing Jerusalem while having an unrelenting faith in divinity. The film won the Best Feature Film FIPRESCI (Critic’s Award) at the Norway Film Festival 2003.

Director: Ra’anan Alexandrowicz
Country: Israel
Duration: 87 minutes
Year: 2003
Rating: PG

Parasite Dolls
Tokyo in A.D. 2034 is a veritable dystopia in which technological advances have enabled the creation of ‘Boomers’ – entities that utterly resemble their human counterparts, but have been created for the sole purpose of doing those laborious jobs bourgeois humans refuse to undertake. Unsurprisingly, a subculture of Boomers in terrorism and prostitution has flourished under the hands of miscreant humans. An anti-terrorist team called A.D. Police create special task unit Branch to tackle the rampant urban problem. However, the out-of-control Boomers pose less of a threat than the puppet-masters behind the scenes.

Directors: Yoshinaga Naoyuki, Nakazawa Kazuto
Country: Japan
Duration: 85 minutes
Year: 2002
Rating: NC-16

Kim Hak-soon’s modestly “small” film based on the novel of the same name, is about the everyday tribulations of thirty-something Koreans trying to deal with life after the fascination of living it has worn off. A man gives up his law career and marriage to open up a small video store. Despite the break from potentially oppressive convention, his life is still filled with days of monotony and vague melancholy. This is until he begins to receive anonymous and poetic love letters inserted into the videotapes, left behind in the drop-box. The simplicity and honesty of the gesture shifts his life, if only marginally. Kim Hak-soon focuses on everyday sounds – a spoon clinking on a coffee cup or videotapes rewinding – in a way that brings careful attention to the beauty present in the mundane things of life.

Director: Kim Hak-soon
Country: Korea
Duration: 98 minutes
Year: 2003
Rating: R(A)

Fear X
Harry is a security guard whose world takes a sudden turn for the brutally worse when his wife is shot dead. Not wholly swallowed by the anguish, he turns his shock into an obsessive and methodical search for clues as to who the murderer was and why she was murdered. He painstakingly scours through CCTV footage, gleans other video footage from colleagues and keeps his eye on the mall where the event occurred, as if hoping that meticulous observation will naturally yield something with time. All the while, his daily routine and solitary meals are filled with remembering and an acute sense of absence, culminating in an eventual journey to Montana where Refn provides an unexpected, anomalous twist.

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Country: Denmark / Canada / UK
Duration: 91 minutes
Year: 2003
Rating: PG

Young Adam
Set in 1950’s Scotland, Joe Taylor – a kind of failed aspiring writer and drifter – works at the coal barge owned by Ella Gault and her husband Les, as it lumbers its way along the canals from Edinburgh to Glasgow. One hapless day, Joe and Les find a woman’s body floating in the canal and notify the police. Meanwhile, Joe and Ella begin an affair that ignites her while it merely continues his perversely brutal sexual encounters. As the pieces begin to fit together more judiciously, Joe’s world strips back into a series of twinned motivaions, from sex to death, sex to food and consent to force. The film won Best New British Feature at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and was nominated for the British Independent Award 2003.

Director: David Mackenzie
Country: UK
Duration: 93 minutes
Year: 2003
Rating: R(A)

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