Special Screenings

The Special Screenings section presents 16 films from Asia and around the world.

# first feature

Hotel by the River [opening film]

Korea / 2018 / 96 min.
Director: HONG Sang-soo

An aging poet has taken accommodations at a tranquil hotel overlooking the Han River. He reunites with his two sons whom he hasn't met for some time. The poet's sons harbor mixed emotions about their father who abandoned his family for his mistress. With bad blood still between them, father and sons go to eat at the restaurant. There, two young women are having a meal. One of them is staying at the hotel to nurse her broken heart and has summoned her friend. The poet first sends his sons home, then begins drinking with the two women.... In this masterpiece, the subtleties of life, family, growing old, and other such themes are raised within nonchalant conversation. The black and white cinematography beautifully captures the winter scenery. Screened at the Locarno Festival where KI Joobong won the award for best actor with his portrayal of the poet.


Ash is Purest White [closing film]

China / 2018 / 141 min.
Director: JIA Zhang-ke

The year is 2001. In Datong within China's Shanxi Province, Qiao's lover Bin makes a living from racketeering. When he is driven into a helpless situation by small time hoods, Qiao fires a warning shot from Bin's gun in order to save him. Arrested by police, Qiao protects Bin by going to jail for illegal possession of a firearm. She is released from prison 5 years later, but Bin has left Datong. Qiao tracks Bin to the city of Fengjie in the Three Gorges region where she discovers he is living with another woman.... Depicting the changes in society through the relationship of a man and woman living in the criminal underworld, this masterpiece could be called the sum of all JIA Zhang-ke's works to date. The splendid cinematography is by renown French cameraman Eric GAUTIER known for his work with Olivier ASSAYAS among others.


A Tramway in Jerusalem

Israel / 2018 / 90 min.
Director: Amos GITAI

"A Tramway in Jerusalem" is set on a tramcar running east and west through Jerusalem where a mosaic of different ethnicities co-exist, and comically tells several loosely related episodes in an almost omnibus style. The people discuss politics, religion, soccer, as well as sing. Particularly interesting is the episode featuring two young women of the same age, a Palestinian and a Jew, who have complicated backgrounds with regard to nationality. The film could be called a microcosm of Israel's complex status quo which defies explanation as a simple dichotomy. Joining many regulars of GITAI's films Yael ABECASSIS and Hana LASZLO is Mathieu AMALRIC who plays a foreign tourist. Screened at the Venice Film Festival along with "A Letter to a Friend in Gaza".


A Letter to a Friend in GAZA

Israel / 2018 / 34 min.
Director: Amos GITAI

Documentary released by GITAI who was gripped by Israel's radicalized blockade of Gaza. Reciting various text revolving around the Palestinian problem are Palestinian actors Makram KHOURY and his daughter Clara KHOURY who both appeared in "Syrian Bride" (2004), Israeli theatre actress Hilla VIDOR, and Amos GITAI himself. Over these are overlapped collaged photographs and video footage of Gaza. Especially impactful is the text published in the leading newspaper Haaretz by Israeli journalist Amira HASS who has been calling attention to the Palestinian plight. Finally, the film is capped off with a reading of a paragraph from 'Letter to a Friend' by Albert CAMUS published during World War II.


Graves Without a Name

Cambodia / 2018 / 115 min.
Director: Rithy PANH

The film opens with director Rithy PANH having his head shaved in preparation for a religious rite. His purpose is to discover the whereabout of the remains of his family who were murdered during the Khmer Rouge years. Furthermore, testimony from many people attest to how unprincipled the Khmer Rouge rule had been.... PANH has consistently sought to document the tragedy of his native country. This film could be called the consummation of his current efforts. A diverse number of literary works are cited in the film including Jean CAYROL's writings 'Night and Fog', a passage from Pascal QUIGNARD's novel 'All the World's Mornings, and verses from the poetry of Paul ÉLUARD. Screened as the opening film of the Venice Film Festival's Venice Days section.


First Night Nerves

Hong Kong / 2018 / 100 min.
Director: Stanley KWAN

Xiuling is a former theatre star who has decided to return to the stage a year after the death of her husband. However, Xiuling's greatest rival Yuwen, aiming to make her stage debut, is also set to star alongside her. A week before the opening performance at Hong Kong’s City Hall Theater, sparks flare between the two actresses over various issues.... A glamorous backstage ensemble piece featuring eight women (of which one is the transgender theatre director) out-acting one another, a thorough demonstration of the direction by Stanley KWAN who has worked on numerous outstanding women's films. Joining Hong Kong stars Sammi CHENG and Gigi LEUNG are Chinese actresses QI Xi and BAI Bai-he. Of note is the performance of 80s Hong Kong star KAM Kwok Leung.


Alpha, The Rights to Kill

The Philippines / 2018 / 100 min.
Director: Brillante MENDOZA

Brillante MENDOZA's latest film deals directly with the expanding drug war in Manila. The protagonist is Espino, a police officer who receives an order to wipe out the drug trafficking organization of crime lord Abel. With intelligence received from Elijah, an informant inside the organization, Espino and the SWAT team raid the site of a drug deal. After a fierce gun battle, the gang members are apprehended. However, instead of waiting for investigators, Espino and Elijah pack the cash and drugs into a bag and leave the scene.... The double life of a police officer and father who captures the respect of his children is vividly portrayed by MENDOZA's talent for handheld camerawork. Playing Espino is Allen DIZON who also appeared in the Netflix Series "Amo" (2017) which MENDOZA directed. Screened at the San Sebastian International Film Festival.


Your Face

Taiwan / 2018 / 76 min.
Director: TSAI Ming-liang

The faces of people emerge from out of the darkness. Some are solemnly quiet while some are talkative. One even begins to fall asleep in front of the camera. The deep wrinkles etched on each of their faces symbolically indicate the lifetime they have lived.... World premiering at the Venice Film Festival, TSAI Ming-liang's latest film photographs the faces of 12 people in extreme close-ups. Other than TSAI's go-to actor LEE Kang-sheng, who appears at the end, no other actors are used for the film. Setting himself apart from commercial films, TSAI has continued to produce minimalistic works and this masterpiece is likely to be called the truest essence of the director. The music was composed by SAKAMOTO Ryuichi. For TSAI, this marks the first time in many years he has utitlized a background score. After his sophomore "Vive L'Amour" he had only used existing songs in his films.


The Horse Thief

Hong Kong / 1986 / 88 min.
Director: TIAN Zhuangzhuang

The second feature-length film by one of China's "Fifth Generation" masters, TIAN Zhuang-zhuang. It is considered a masterpiece of 1980s Chinese cinema along with CHEN Kai-ge's "Yellow Land" (1984) and ZHANG Yi-mou's "Red Sorghum" (1987). Set in Tibet, this tragic drama unfolds amid desolate scenery as it follows a man who is banished from his community for donating stolen goods to a temple, and must steal horses repeatedly to support his family. The film's strongest point is its almost cultural anthropological documentary-like imagery capturing various customary rituals of Tibet. The power of these often surpass the story and therefore led to a mixed reception in China at the time it was produced. This is a digitally restored version that was presented at the Beijing International Film Festival.



Korea / 2018 / 66 min.
Director: HONG Sang-soo

Classical music fills a small cafe where a man and a woman are quarreling. The woman is vehemently holding the man responsible for her friend's suicide. The camera pans to the neighboring table where a young woman is seated. She is typing something on the laptop laid out before her. It seems as if she is writing down the conversation taking place next to her. Before long, a young man approaches the woman. He is her younger brother who says he will introduce his girlfriend to her. The woman is led out of the cafe by her brother.... HONG Sangsoo's gift for minimalism is fully on display all within the very confined setting of this film which screened in the Forum Section of the Berlin International Film Festival.



Japan / 2018 / 166 min.
Director: TOYODA Toshiaki

A mysterious and wondrous islands surrounded by an unparalleled natural environment exists in Tokyo Prefecture that is referred to as the Galapagos of the East. They are called the Ogasawara Islands. A man lives on one of these islands. He is 65-year-old MIYAGAWA Noritsugu, a legendary surfer–a tarzan of the sea–who established the world's first swimming-with-dolphins tour. Artists of every type are summoned to the island and shown around by MIYAGAWA. The imaginative power of these intensely perceptive individuals is drawn out by this tour and a never-before-seen Ogasawara comes to life. In order to chronicle these islands, director TOYODA Toshiaki moved to Ogasawara and took 5 years to complete this documentary. The film's pièce de résistance are the scenes didgeridoo instrumentalist GOMA, actors KUBOZUKA Yosuke and SHIBUKAWA Kiyohiko, drummer NAKAMURA Tatsuya, and guitarist YAMAJI Kazuhide are performing out among majestic natural surroundings.


BON-UTA: A Song From Home

Japan / 2018 / 134 min.
Director: NAKAE Yuji

2015. Even after 5 years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, the residents of Futabamachi in Fukushima Prefecture are unable to return home and have been living in temporary housing. What gives the people of Futabamachi hope is the fact Hawaiians of Japanese descent have been handed down the Bon (Lantern) Festival dance by the people of Fukushma who immigrated to Hawaii over 100 years ago. People from Futabamachi head to the island of Maui in order to demonstrate the Futaba Bon Uta. Furthermore, the film reveals how over 200 years ago a group of immigrants from Toyama Prefecture more than 500 kilometers away came to the aid of Fukushima's Souma region during a depopulation crisis due to famine and epidemic. The Bon Uta became a reassurance for people who lived far from their birthplace. Director NAKAE Yuji of "Nabbie's Love" and "Hotel Hibiscus" devoted 3 years making this moving documentary accompanying people who will not allow traditions deeply rooted in their region to die out.


Wish we were here

Japan / 2018 / 76 min.
Director: SHINOZAKI Makoto

Childhood friends Tamako and Yoshimi live in a new residential development within metropolitan Tokyo. They had been the kind of good friends who exchanged birthday gifts each year, but on Tamako's birthday, the 11th of March in 2011, the Tohoku Earthquake occurred. This created a small rift between the two. Despite the fact they were not directly damaged by the earthquake, nor have they actually quarreled, the rift between them gradually widens as they attend the same university.... The latest film by "Since Then" (2013) and "Sharing" (2014) director, SHINOZAKI Makoto looks at Japan's daily life after the Tohoku Earthquake.


Jesus #

Japan / 2018 / 76 min.
Director: OKUYAMA Hiroshi

Yura has to transfer from Tokyo to an elementary school in the snowy countryside in order to live with his grandmother. He is bewildered by the religious worship activities he performs with his classmates, but gradually adjusts. Around the time he begins to become more open with those around him, a tiny Jesus appears to him. Every thing Yura prays for comes true and Yura comes to believe in the power of Jesus.... Produced during university, the feature film debut by up-and-coming 22-year-old director OKUYAMA Hiroshi was selected to compete in the San Sebastian International Film Festival's New Directors Section. The film marks the arrival of a new filmmaker whose future potential can be discerned through the direction which brought out natural performances by the children, and the precisely framed camerawork among various other aspects.


Love Dart

Japan / 2018 / 120 min.
Director: SAITO Hisahi

A film depicting 4 young people bewildered and distressed over love and sex. Yumeka has been making collages in the atelier left to her by her grandmother, but lives a life devoid of real feelings. Meanwhile, Yumeka's friend from her university days, Tomoko, suffers from an obsession with cleanliness and is unable to have relations with men. Concerned for Tomoko, Yumeka proposes to her friend Takaya a tryst with Tomoko, but Tomoko is unreceptive to Takaya. Soon after, Tomoko begins working at a softcore porn theater on Yumeka's recommendation and meets a young, regular customer named kyoichi who prostitutes himself for money.... Director SAITO Hisashi brings to life an original script written by up-and-coming screenwriter ARAI Misa. It depicts the deep feelings between two awkward women when it comes to relations with other people. The wholehearted performances of the two heroines by NAWATA Canon and NAKAGAMI En within SAITO's characteristic long takes are splendid.


Complicity #

Japan / 2018 / 116 min.
Director: CHIKAURA Kei

CHEN Liang has come from China's Henan Province to work in Japan as a technical trainee, but runs away from his place of training and becomes an illegal resident. While lying to his mother back home that he is continuing his training, Liang has been involved in for-hire larceny. In an unexpected turn of events, he takes on another's identity and is taken in by a small soba restaurant in Yamagata where he begins to work.... The feature length debut by CHIKAURA Kei, who has directed a number of short films praised at international film festivals, deals with the social problem of technical trainees from overseas. Playing CHEN Liang is LU Yulai who made a striking debut in GU Changwei's "Peacock" (2003). FUJI Tatsuya turns in a great performance as the stern soba restaurant proprietor. World premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.