Korea to be Asia's standard bearer at Berlin Film Festival (Feature)
By Andrew McCathie Feb 3, 2011, 2:06 GMT
Berlin - A slow-moving melodrama from South Korea about a young couple attempting to conceal their feelings ahead of their breakup is to be the Asian film industry's standard bearer at next week's Berlin Film Festival.
Indeed, Lee Yoon-ki's Saranghanda, Saranghaji Anneunda (Come Rain Come Shine) is the only Asian movie to be selected for the Berlinale's main competition.
This is despite nations such as China, Japan and India emerging in recent years as major world film producing countries. It is also in marked contrast to previous years when up to four Asian movies have been included in the race for the Berlinale's coveted Golden Bear for best picture.
Last year the Berlinale celebrated its 60th anniversary by throwing the spotlight on Asian cinema with a raft of movies from the region in its main program - including the opening and closing films.
But according to Berlinale chief Dieter Kosslick the 61st festival will be leaner and 'more compact' than last year. This year there are only 16 films in the competition for the Golden Bear, down from previous years when it was sometimes closer to 20.
Despite the scarcity of Asian films in the main competition, Kosslick also pointed out that there were a large number of movies from the region spread across the various sections of the Berlinale, which is one of the world's top film festivals.
Along with South Korea, this year's Berlinale includes entries from nations like China, Japan, India, the Philippines and Thailand.
Since Berlinale helped to set off a new wave of Asian cinema in 1988 when it awarded its Golden Bear to Chinese director Zhang Yimou's Red Sorghum, filmmaking in Asia has grown in maturity as it has gained international recognition.
The result is that several Asian cinema powerhouse countries privately admit to holding back their new releases in the hope of their inclusion in the main program of the world's leading film festival in Cannes, which is held in May.
Among the batch of South Korean films to be screened in Berlin this month is Kyuhwan Jeon's Dance Town, which is about a couple's struggle to find their way from communist North Korea to what they hope will be a new life in South Korea.
Starring Miran Ra and Seongtae Oh, Dance Town Dance Town is to screen in the Berlinale's Panaroma section which focuses on more independent and arthouse movies.
Saranghanda, Saranghaji Anneunda follows Lee's critically acclaimed debt movie This Charming Girl, which screened at the Berlinale five years ago.
Slow paced and sparse in dialogue, This Charming Girl told the story of a 29 year-old woman who has forged a solitary life as a result of some past trauma.
Chinese director Chen Kaige returns to Berlin this year with his historic drama Zhao Shi Gu Er (Sacrifice) which is to be shown at a gala screening as part of the Berlinale's special section.
Set in ancient China, Sacrifice is a big studio film about a young man seeking revenge for massacre of his family.
Zhang Yimou also returns to Berlin this year for a screening in the festival's youth program of his new movie Shanza shu zhi lian (Under The Hawthorn Tree) which is a love story set against the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution.
Christoph Terhechte, who heads up the festival's forum section said he had hoped to show two films from China but the filmmakers had failed to reach agreement with Beijing's strict censorship board. Forum screens experimental films normally by younger filmmakers.
A crop of movies from India are also to be screened this month in Berlin including Qaushik Mukherjee's provocative Gandu (Asshole).
The story of Mukherjee's film resolves around a young drifter who steals money from his mother's lover and indulges in drugs. It also includes a remarkably frank sex scene for a Bengali film.
Saat Khoon Maaf (Seven Sins Forgiven) from Vishal Bhardwaj tells the story of a woman who kills her seven husbands with each story being set during a period of political upheaval.
In addition, Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan is a member of this year's Berlinale jury.
Japan is to be represented in Berlin by Byakuyakou (Into the White Night) by Yoshihiro Fukagawa, whose movies tell the story of the murder of an Osaka pawnbroker. The international premiere of Zeze Takahisa's four-and half hour long Heaven's Story is also included in the program.
From the Philippines comes Sheron Dayoc's Halaw (Ways of the Sea) about a man's search for his wife set against the background of people smuggling in south east Asia.
Also among the lineup of Asian movies is the world premiere of Poor kor karn rai (The Terrorists) by Thunska Pansittivorakul which seeks to shed light on the functioning of Thai democracy.
Another film from Thailand is Aditya Assarat's second feature Hi- So about a Thai actor returning home from the US to star in a movie.
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