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September 18, 2014
Friday, April 4, 2014

Not to miss at Bafici outside of int’l competition

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in a scene from Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive.
By Esteban Colombet
For the Herald

A rough selection of must-see gems screening at BA’s leading indie film event

With more than 400 films screening at Bafici this year, making a thorough selection can be a daunting challenge. Here’s a short list of must-see international entries on the festival’s agenda this year:

Journey to the West (France/Taiwan, 2014, 56 min). After the premiere at the Berlinale in February, filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang’s Journey to the West (Xi You) screens at Bafici in Buenos Aires before being presented at Tribeca, in New York, later in April. The film focuses on a monk travelling through Marseille in a meditation loosely based on the classical Chinese story by novelist Wu Cheng’en. Tsai Ming-liang’s carefully chosen camera angles shape a collage of different districts of Marseille, building a hypnotic space where his character’s contemplative journey turns into a odyssey of discovery.

Big Bad Wolves (Israel, 2013, 110 min). When Quentin Tarantino declared Big Bad Wolves the best film of 2013 at the Busan Film Festival in Korea, the popularity of Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s feature went through the roof. While critics strove to point out the similarities between Tarantino and the two young Israeli filmmakers, there’s little room for imitation in this genre gem, which tells the story of a renegade cop and the vengeance-bent father of a murder victim who work together to deliver their own brand of vigilante justice to an alleged child-killer. Horror and farcical humour collide in a savage tale of paranoia, morality, vengeance and plenty of violence.

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (US, 2014, 105 min). Drawing inspiration from an urban legend about a Japanese woman who took a similar journey, filmmakers David and Nathan Zellner tell the heart-wrenching story of Kumiko, a lonely woman who leaves her isolated life in Japan to find a treasure hidden somewhere in the US. Kumiko is played by the astonishing Rinko Kikuchi (nominated for an Academy Award for the 2006 movie Babel).

Tip Top (France, 2013, 106 min). In this brazen film which screened in the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes last year, Serge Bozon, one of the most captivating contemporary French filmmakers adapted Bill James’ novel of the same name (published under the pseudonym David Craig). Starring the unrivalled Isabelle Huppert, Tip Top tells the story of two urban female internal affairs inspectors who arrive in a provincial precinct to investigate the death of an Algerian woman who was an informer.

Cheatin’ (US, 2013, 76 min) is Bill Plympton’s seventh animated feature and his first full-length film in five years. Considered one of the forefathers of independent animation, Plympton shows himself as the overachiever he is, with a film done on hand-painted style with over 40,000 drawings to be scanned, cleaned, and coloured by a small studio team of just 10 people. Cheatin’ is a noir story inspired by the works of James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity) and blending love and revenge with violence and nudity – and, of course, Plympton’s surreal sense of humour.

Cupcakes (Israel, 2013, 90 min). Award-winning filmmaker Eytan Fox (The Bubble, Walk On Water) this time focuses on a gauzy musical comedy about friendship, life and unique challenges. When a group of close friends accidentally enter a Eurovision-style song contest, their catchy tune — originally written to cheer up a heartbroken buddy — is chosen to represent Israel. Pushed on a stage of high expectations and inevitable glitz, the group tries to make its way through the thorny ground of the pop music business and their antics are as funny as they are endearing.

Han gong-ju (South Korea, 2013, 112 min). A winner at Rotterdam and Marrakech film festivals last year, young director Lee Su-jin’s debut film Han Gong-ju tells the story of a high-school girl with no adult support network to lean upon, who’s nursing a shock of unspeakable severity. “Deviating from classicist structure, this film lures the spectator to participate in the pleasures of storytelling through an extraordinary and intricate narrative puzzle,” the Rotterdam jury said about Lee’s debut feature.

Night Moves (US, 2013, 120 min). Directed by acclaimed US independent filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, Night Moves, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard, made its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival last year, followed by a North American debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. Night Moves is Reichardt’s fifth feature and focuses on three radical environmentalists who devise a plan to blow up a hydroelectric dam, which they see as the symbol of the energy-sucking, resource-devouring industrial culture they despise.

Only Lovers Left Alive (UK/Germany, 2013, 123 min). While celebrated indie helmer Jim Jarmusch’s last film will likely get a commercial release in Argentina later this year, Only Lovers Left Alive is too alluring to pass over. The fact that Jarmusch takes a plunge into the vampire genre should be more than enough incentive to see it at Bafici. If you need more inducement, how about adding Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as a depressed underground musician and his resilient and enigmatic lover? Plus, this romance-drama-vampire film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year.

Our Sunhi (South Korea, 2013, 88 min). Directed by master of contemporary Korean filmmaking Hong Sang-soo, Our Sunhi premiered last year at the reputed Locarno Film Festival, where Hong won the Silver Leopard award for Best Director. The film focuses on Sunhi, a film-school graduate, whose encounters with a professor, an ex boyfriend and a fellow graduate give helmer Hong a pretext to build an astonishing portrait of the young woman from the perspective of three men, who happen to be as misguided as they can in their grasp of Sunhi’s life and world.

The Reunion (Sweden, 2013, 89 min). Swedish artist Anna Odell plays herself in this astonishing debut feature where she struggles to discover how far from reality are old hierarchies and truths. Odell uses her own identity and life story to showcase the apparently imperceptible hierarchical structures, the complexity of power and exclusion and group dynamics.

We Are the Best (Sweden, 2013, 102 min). Screened at the Toronto Film Festival last year, We Are the Best is a Swedish drama directed by Lukas Moodysson and adapted from the graphic novel Never Goodnight by the director's wife Coco Moodysson. The film portrays the lives of three girls between the ages of 12 and 13, who live in Stockholm in 1982. Ignored by their parents and deemed strange by other people, the three decide to create a punk band — something that only boys be doing at the time — despite having no instruments and hearing everybody saying that punk was dead.

Wolf Children (Japan, 2012, 117 min). Stunningly beautiful and emotional Japanese animation Wolf Children, directed and co-written by Mamoru Hosoda, follows Hana, a woman who falls in love with a wolf-man and gives birth to two half human, half wolf children. After the tragic death of her beloved, Hana seeks refuge in rural town where she attempts to build a life for herself and her children. Premiered in Paris in June, 2013, Wolf Children has been collecting awards at festivals in Oslo, New York, as well as the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year and the Animation of the Year Award at Tokyo Anime Fair. Winning the top awards in the country of animes should make this film a safe bet for anime lovers in Buenos Aires.

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