Featuring: Uneek, Mighty Mark, Tsu Terry, TT The Artist
Baltimore is a city well known for its crime rate and featuring as the setting for the Wire but I have not heard the latter and did not know much about the city’s artistic scene before this film. Several of the participants of the documentary mention their city not being able to catch a break.
I admit I am not much into the style of music promoted in this film but it was good to see it for something different and it is well packaged.
This is not a straight documentary as people seem to be putting on a performance while they tell their story even people speaking directly to the camera. I would describe it as a music documentary with some social commentary thrown in.
The story explored is the music and club scene of Baltimore and some of the featured artists and major events such as the Queen of Baltimore and King of Baltimore events that are a major thing for the city. The King of Baltimore could have been a documentary all on its own.
It is a very well shot documentary and even the bad parts of the city look good including the Cherry Hill section where they describe it as being one of the worst parts of the city.
If anything it makes the city look too good, but you would think they would want to make the city look attractive for people wanting to work with the artists there. Strangely there do not seem to be any visual artists or anyone involved in non-music or dance works involved but hopefully they do get a boost from this documentary.
They do mention Club Queen Records set up by the director to promote people of colour and women in traditional male-dominated music genres.
While you will get more into this documentary if you are into what they are selling, there is still a lot here to enjoy and see into a scene you would not hear from otherwise.
A hunter in the forest shoots a magical wood elf and then has his house destroyed by rainbows, then things start to get weird.
A very strange and funny short with interesting animation and a big hairy man breast feeding magic elves to grow their beards.
While the short starts out as black and white, it quickly becomes more colourful and strange. It does look like cut out paper animation in parts but it is more detailed from than that.
Interesting character designs and funny to watch even if you do not really know what is going on.
Directors: Upamanyu Bhattacharyya, Kalp Sanghvi
Writers: Upamanyu Bhattacharyya, Kalp Sanghvi
Set in 2042 after global warming has destroyed the city of Calcutta, the survivors look for food on the flooded streets only to be confronted by a pack of tigers. Who will survive?
Nice painted style for setting the scenes of the ruined city and the animation style is similar with detailed characters that suit the story.
There are some confronting images and situations in this short, but it does make for a more realistic story. From the first time I saw one of the characters with a mask on the back of their head I knew there would be a tiger attack as I have seen such a thing in stories about tiger attacks as they always attack the third person in a group of people (some people wear motorbike helmets instead).
This is meant to be speculative fiction but it does feel like the real world and they do not show you how many people have died from the result of climate change, only the survivors and what their lives have been reduced to.
Statement by director
Something to Remember (2019)
Director & Scriptwriter: Niki Lindroth von Bahr
Animals in human clothes sing a mournful tune and then the world ends, again.
A great little stop motion animated story with a fully realised world that has its own story.
We don’t find out if the animals took over this world from the humans or it is an alternate reality where humans never existed but CERN is involved somehow.
Mother Bunker (2020)
Director: George Metaxas
Producers: Pia Dulu, Jason N. Rodriguez, George Metaxas
In the robot bunker after the humans have been destroyed a robot puts on a show.
A great little stop motion animated short with an interesting setting and self-contained setting. Almost feels a shame it is over so quickly.
Even though killer robots have been done a lot in science fiction, this is original as why would robots want to see a drag show? They are 1s and 0s and would not have time for culture I thought?
Director: Directed by Joe Wilson, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, and Dean Hamer
The traditional lore of how the traditional healing knowledge of the native Hawaiians came to the islands is told through the story of the four healers who gave their spirits to the stones and how it has been forgotten.
While I know a bit about Hawaiian culture as does everyone due to the popularity of surfing and the shirts, I have not really heard much about the native culture in terms of their own stories. This was a great animated short and contained a lot of information in a short time.
I would recommend this one if you are interested in Hawaii at all and want to learn more about it.
Director: Élodie Dermange
A young woman has to make a momentous decision that will affect her life. While it is not directly discussed what that is, the film does heavily imply something in that direction.
An interesting short in that it looks like every frame is a separate watercolour painting for the main figures as the hair and clothes change tone from frame to frame. Rather than making the whole thing look choppy and amateur it makes it look endearing and gives it a unique style.
There are not many characters in the film but it still manages to tell a good story from them and only the one location.
Human Nature (2019)
Director: Sverre Fredriksen and Zaou Vaughan
In a world where the humans are the animals and cats look at funny human memes on their phones we get this film.
This was one of my favourites due to the animation style of stop motion sewn puppets and such strange scenes as the human cats and the field of human cows.
Not too sure if some of the images are safe for work but it is a funny film any way.
He Can’t Live Without Cosmos (2019)
Director: Konstantin Bronzit
Screenplay: Konstantin Bronzit
A young boy is born into a spacesuit near the cosmodrome and his mother tries to stop him from going to space, but can’t stop destiny.
While simply animated and only set in the one room mostly, it manages to tell a heartfelt and sweet story about motherly love and connection.
Some things are never answered like why the boy is born into a spacesuit but it does not really matter as they are treated like a normal child by their mother and even rugged up in winter even though they are already in a spacesuit.
Director: Park Jee-youn
Two people in a flooded room are shadowed by a crow and strange things happen.
Given the fact that this is a film festival and the animation shorts program you occasionally get things that make no sense and try your patience. This is one of those.
I did enjoy the animation style and surrealism of it but not really much else as it did drag on and on.
Director: Camila Kater
Cast: Helena Ignez, Larissa Rahal, Raquel Virginia, Rachel Patricio, Valquiria Rosa
Various women recount their own stories related to their own bodies over various stages of their lives. Several different animation styles are used and they are very effective.
One of my favourite shorts for the program and I would recommend this one to health educators and parents talking to their children about health issues.
Even though it is in another language and I don’t actually know these people, the way these stories are told is very engaging and I wanted to hear how they turned out.
I did like the one that was animated by being painted onto dinner plates as it looked like it was very time consuming.
With the win of Parasite (2019) at the 2020 Academy Awards I thought I would go through and put together a bit of a guide to people confused as to where to start with Korean cinema and who haven’t had the experience of watching it since the early 2000s when it first started taking off at least in the festival circuit internationally.
These are all movies I have seen and would recommend based on your level of knowledge of Korean cinema. I am not really big on the horror genre so there might be some omissions due to me personally not having seen some of the more popular ones in that area.
If you have no knowledge at all of Korean cinema it is worth finding a couple of movies to start off easier so you don’t get confused.
Volcano High (2001)
This one is fun and easy to get into. I first saw it at MIFF one year and ended up going back to see it again before the end of the festival, something which I almost never do (also having a festival passport had something to do with it.) One of my first DVD purchases of a Korean DVD from a time where you could buy legit copies in the CBD. There is a dubbed version and also one done by MTV rappers but yeah nah.
Joint Security Area (2000)
I first saw this at the Forum Theatre upstairs for MIFF and then again in November the same year. The first time I came across Song Kang Ho in a movie and his performance is the best thing about it.
Also started my addiction to Choco Pies but they must have better ones in Korea as all the ones I have had are stale. I grabbed a copy of this from the same DVD store I got Volcano High from to get Park Chan-Wook to sign it at MIFF when he came to do a Q&A for Old Boy.
Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005)
A lovely family friendly story about opposing sides coming together in the midst of a war to work together to save a village. It is funny and sad and does remind me of a Myazaki movie at points.
The Host (2006)
Although people say to see Memories of Murder first or Mother, those two rely on you knowing a bit more about Korea to get something out of them. This has the hook of the environmental angle and military crackdown. It is also a movie about a family having to work together to achieve something and not trusting the government. Some scenes feel like you should not be laughing at them such as the fight the family has at the memorial service but you still do.
Song Kang Ho is so funny and silly here and has great pathos. In one scene he can’t even run away from people chasing him as he is so sad and pathetically covers up a body with a piece of cardboard.
The King and the Clown (2005)
With costumed dramas being so popular in South Korea this is as good a representative of any for those for a wider audience. I don’t think it matters the main couple is LGBTIQ at all, stop being such a big tough guy and just kiss him you fool!
Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004)
With a large ensemble cast that includes the famous Choi Min-sik this story of two brothers separated by war is one of the biggest Korean war movies ever in terms of box office and they always tend to do well. This isn’t M*A*S*H buddy! Stuff goes down and it is a serious and long movie. I remember seeing it with an intermission at the Astor Theatre in Melbourne along with Joint Security Area (they are doing a Bong Joon Ho retrospective coming up.)
Train to Busan (2016)
If you are only going to watch one Korean zombie movie make it this one. Takes an overdone concept and accelerates it by having the action take place in an enclosed space that could have another story within it from just the high school baseball team trapped in the other carriage. There is a prequel Seoul Station (2016) but it is not really necessary to watch unless you want more background to the initial outbreak. The little girl is the real star of this movie as it is about her journey.
If you have seen a few films from Korea and want to go further into it. I know people think some of these should be the first people should see, but there are reasons not to.
This was the darling of the festival circuit on its’ release. I even bought the Korean version and the soundtrack but its’ impact has dulled somewhat with the likes of the Raid movies and the Night Comes for Us upping the depiction of violence on screen. The fairly average remake did not help matters nor did the Bollywood version Zinda which totally missed the point of it. If you were going to get it these days I would get one of the deluxe releases with all three movies from the trilogy. Park Chan Wook said Sympathy for Mr Vengeance is his favourite even though not as many people like it.
Yellow Sea (2010)
Nice movie, but could use more stabbing. Saw this back to back with the Unjust at MIFF one year and that is a bit too much considering how high the stakes are in that movie to come out and go straight into this one. I actually ended up buying this one as I wanted to see it again.
Memories of Murder (2003)
This one was recommended to me back when people still talked about movies on film forums and not just podcast or podcast discussion groups. Due to the historical setting and cultural differences it does take a bit more to get into but it is worth it. Sang Kang Ho plays a yokel country cop whose methods get results but are not by the book. His city counterpart is all about the correct procedure and trusts in science. I had the Korean special edition at one point which actually shows you who the killer is if you sit through an hour long documentary with no subtitles (may just be the hand model though.)
The Quiet Family (1998)
A fun comedy of errors later remade as Happiness of the Katikuris to much more success. This one is great though and has a lot of recognisable actors hamming it up here.
The Chaser (2008)
A detective story, race against time thriller and serial killer film all in one. The stakes are very high in this one to the point of the main protagonist is ready to take out people who are meant to be helping him to try and find the killer (the scene where he crashes the police van). The little girl is a star there is a hard scene to watch at one point.
Of course you may watch these movies in whatever order you want, but I have warned you and you would not get as much out of them unless you have at least some knowledge of Korean culture beforehand. Notice that I did not say language as I still do not know Korean at all even after 20 years of watching films from South Korea.
So deliciously wicked and I can’t believe that I saw this back to back with the Chaser at MIFF one year. Park Chan Wook directs and Song Kang Ho stars as a vampire priest trying to control his base urges but he is led astray by lust. The lady vampire enjoys her new power it even more and does get her time to shine, which could have been a whole other movie by itself.
A much more personal film from Bong Joon Ho about a mother in a small town who will go to any lengths to prove the innocence of her son after a murder of a local teenager. I do mean any lengths and you will be surprised how far she takes it. This movie and Sympathy for Mr Vengeance also comment on the lack of health care in South Korea.
The live action version of French graphic novel Le Transperceneige has divided audience over its weirdness and hard sci fi setting but I like it. This is also in light of the Bong Joon Ho getting one over Harvey Weinstein who wanted to cut it even more “it was a fucking lie. My father was not a fisherman”. Tilda Swinton has an uncredited cameo in the film and Song Kang Ho features as a drug addicted engineer. Chris Evans is the lead but it is a multinational effort this one. I am interested in seeing how they go with the TV series.
Midnight Ballad for the Ghost Theatre (2006) / The Fox Family (2006)
Finding these was a complete surprise for me as I had never heard of them and there was no English writing on the DVD boxes at all. I had to rely on the staff at the store to even find out if there was subtitles. Some things to require a leap of faith and it was worthwhile for these.
Midnight Ballard for the Ghost Theatre is a Korean take on Rocky Horror Picture show will all new songs and a young girl as the main character. Lots of singing and dancing and a positive outcome.
The Fox Family assumes you know the legend of the foxes who have to eat a human liver to stay in human form. Very strange and out there in parts but well worth it if you can find it.
The Handmaiden (2016)
Park Chan Wook’s version of the novel Fingersmith is transferred to pre-World War II Korea but is quite a trip. I felt like a perv watching it in a cinema and no wonder it sold out both screenings at MIFF plus a bonus session. Not really as accessible as some of his other work but then again this director does not like to repeat himself. I have still not seen his Hollywood effort.
The Wailing (2016)
A supernatural thriller and detective story that actively punishes you for thinking that you “get it”. I did not expect to have any laughs in this at all but there you are. Some of the scenes are quite disturbing and I could not work out my feelings towards it at the time so I never did a proper review.
Very Japanese in the way the Legendary pictures movies are not. People may claim that Godzilla is hardly in those other movies but this movie is mainly meetings. The director’s experience on Neon Genesis Evangelion comes through as the monster is dealt with as if it is a natural disaster and then a military threat with combined arms tactics used.
I didn’t really see enough to do a “worst” part of the list. A lot of these are ones I saw at MIFF but the Raid movies and the Night Comes for Us are from other times and Netflix.
The Raid: Redemption (2011) / The Raid 2: Berandal (2014)
Truly epoch-making action cinema. Even if you do not watch Asian action cinema at all you would have watched something that has been influenced by these two movies. I keep seeing other stunts and fight choreography that has been borrowed from this film. Cecep Arif Rahman in John Wick 3 not being defeated on screen was due to the amount of respect Keanu Reeves had for the actor.
“When they are shooting it is like two dogs fighting over a bone, but as soon as the camera stops it is all smiles and backslaps.” – the director on whether the stars of the movie had a “knock down” clause like the Rock and Jason Statham.
Takes the action of the Raid films and kicks it up one notch further adding more gore and painful to watch violence. The Operator could do her own film easily. Also, when in doubt pop that collar!
The Act of Killing (2012) / The Look of Silence (2014)
When Errol Morris and Werner Herzog decide to jump on board as producers, you know it is something important and it was. At the Q&A for the first documentary I took 19 pages of notes, people asked question in Indonesian.
The second film was actually meant to be made first but was shut down by the army so they went to interview the perpetrators of the violence instead.
The Lost Arcade
The Big Mouth
The Love Witch
Heart of a Dog
Talking Pictures – Jerry Lewis: The King of Comedy
Train to Busan
Based on my first read through of the program without having any limtations for screening times or fitting on an E-Mini Pass added.
Might actually reschedule some of these to see at Cinema Nova after the festival after the festival as a lot of them are screening there.
The Neon Demon
Heart of a Dog
Lo and Behold: Reveries of a Connected World
How Heavy This Hammer
Right Now, Wrong Then
Which Way to the Front?
The Big Mouth
Jerry Lewis: The King of Comedy
The Lovers and the Despot
The Eagle Huntress
The Lost Arcade
Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie
Don’t Bloml: Robert Frank
Notes on Blindness
The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe
Miss Sharon Jones!
The American Epic Sessions
Kubo and the Two Strings
Long Way North
Our Huff and Puff Journey
The Red Turtle
The Love Witch
Train to Busan
When a movie starts with a nuclear explosion you know it not screwing around. Starting in 1946 in the Hiroshima prefecture, men fight each other like dogs for whatever scraps they can find and become the top dog.
There is no real “good guy” in this movie but Shozo Hirono (Bunta Sugawara) is the least bad and ends up involved with the Yakuza after standing up for a friend and ending up in prison. There he meets a Yakuza who he becomes friends with who explains it is more a matter of circumstance people end up in crime.
Upon his release he ends up joining the one crime family with his friends and things take off from there. It is kind of pointless to try and talk about all the characters and plot developments as there are so many of them. The box set of the five movies actually came with a chart so you could track where people were in the various families.
The movie also helpfully tells you when a main character dies, which is quite a lot as it turns out. A lot of the time it is for the stupidest reason or so one boss can gain a momentary advantage. This movie does not glamourize Yakuza life as much as try and show you how it really would be. One example would be the finger chopping scene. Nobody knows how to do it and when they present the finger the other boss says “you didn’t need to go to all that trouble!”
A lot of the characters do not act in ways you would expect from this sort of film, such as the crying Yakuza boss or the ex-friend Shozo’s who cries like a little girl when he finds out he is going to be killed. Shozo is pretty much sick of the whole thing by the end and could go either way.
I watched this on the big screen in a festival environment and could not understand why people were laughing at some scenes. I enjoyed it and did not need to laugh at it and it explains a lot of things I have seen in other movies about the Yakuza and even western crime movies.
Even though the other movies in the series are hard to get I would like to try and see them now and see how the rest of the story plays out. Also there is a sequel to the series set years later.