Beginning with the Opening Night gala screening of PERHAPS LOVE, the Festival has devoted the largest international quotient of films in its program to films and filmmakers from Asia and the Pacific Rim. Not only is this among the most exciting and adventurous filmmaking happening today, but San Francisco's connection with the Orient is long established and still a major part of the city's diverse mix of cultures.
Another Chinese film that is creating buzz at the Festival is director Ning Ying's PERPETUAL MOTION, the story of four women who meet on the eve of Chinese New Year to play mah-jongg and reminisce about old times. Only the hostess knows that it is a clever ruse to determine which of her guests is having an affair with her husband. The director has won numerous awards at international film festivals, including Best Director honors in 1993 at the San Sebastian Film Festival for his film ZHAO LE, which also won the Gold Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival that year. His 1995 film MIN JING GU SHI won the City of Torino Prize as Best Film in the International Film Competition at the Torino International Festival of Young Cinema.
A drama ripped from today's headlines is the powerful film BASHING, by Japan's Masahiro Kobayashi. This true-to-life drama offers a controversial, fictionalized account of a young woman's kidnapping in the Middle East, that made her an outsider in her hometown. Kobayashi’s film is based on the experiences of several Japanese aid workers who were held hostage in Iraq in 2004. The film had its international premiere at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.
In the fascinating Canadian documentary THEY CHOSE CHINA by director Shui-Bo Wang, the rarely heard story of POWs captured in the Korean War by the Chinese army, who declined to return to the United States upon their release, is explored in fascinating detail. Wang’s film is the winner of this year’s Golden Gate Award for television documentary (long form).
In Japanese director Seijun Suzuki’s musical fantasy PRINCESS RACCOON, an abandoned prince is rescued by an enigmatic, Chinese-speaking woman (who is a raccoon princess in human guise) played by superstar Ziyi Zhang (MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA). Another film featuring surreal musical numbers is Berlin Film Festival favorite THE WAYWARD CLOUD, by Taiwanese master director Tsai Ming-liang, which uses the delirious sequences to tell the tales of the personal lives of a porn actor, his costars and his pseudo girlfriend.
Two unclassifiable genre films from Japan will screen as part of the Late Show section of the Festival. Minoru Kawasaki’s EXECUTIVE KOALA is the surrealistic tale of a human-sized koala bear, struggling with suffocating office politics. Mitsuru Meike’s satiric and bitingly funny THE GLAMOROUS LIFE OF SACHIKO HANAI features a glam call girl, who is hit by a stray bullet and comes into the possession of a cylinder containing a clone of the finger of President George W. Bush (huh?).
The recent explosion of indie films in Asia is explained by programming consultant Roger Garcia this way: "Digital technology has enabled many young filmmakers to tell stories that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. Our indie films come from filmmakers who are outside the mainstream and may be all the better for it.” Amen.