Every year the Jeonju festival in Korea commissions three filmmakers to make shortish digital films and ‘packages’ the results as a feature-length programme with an umbrella title. Visitors is this year’s package, the best for some time. In Hong Sang-Soo’s Lost in the Mountains (South Korea, 32min) the visitor is the supremely self-centred Mi-Sook, who drives to Jeonju on impulse to see her classmate Jin-Young – only to discover that her friend is having an affair with their married professor, who Mi-Sook once dated herself. The level of social embarrassment goes off the scale. In Naomi Kawase’s Koma (Japan, 34min), Kang Jun-Il travels to a village in rural Japan to honour his grandfather’s dying wish by returning a Buddhist scroll to its ancestral home. Amid ancient superstitions, a new relationship forms. And in Lav Diaz’ Butterflies Have No Memories (Philippines, 42min) ‘homecoming queen’ Carol returns to the economically depressed former mining town she came from – and becomes the target of an absurd kidnapping plot hatched by resentful locals. Serving as his own writer, cameraman and editor, Diaz casts the film entirely from members of his crew and delivers a well-seasoned mix of social realism and fantasy. —bfi
A regular on the international festival circuit, Hong Sang-soo is one of Korea’s most highly regarded contemporary directors. His mostly improvised, innovatively constructed films conceal rich layers of meaning beneath deceptively simple surfaces, and reveal a filmmaker with a unique, individual style. A rather notorious figure on the Seoul film scene, Hong has a fondness for alcohol that is almost as legendary as his talent for filmmaking. He’s been known to get familiar with his actors before shooting by taking them on drinking binges, and, for verisimilitude, the many drinking scenes in his films normally include actually drunk performers (who sometimes don’t remember these scenes after they’ve been shot).
Born in 1960, Hong began his film studies at Joongang University in Korea, then moved to the United States, where he received his BFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts and his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His debut feature, The Day a… read more
Naomi Kawase was born in 1969, at a time when Japanese cinema was thriving with vigorous underground filmmaking, the initial streak in Kawase’s own young career. While studying photography at the Osaka School of Visual Arts, she started to make films as part of a workshop: “I focus on that which interests me” (1988), a personal symphony of the city, “The concretization of these things flying around me” (1989), a silent study of the homeless, "Presently (1989), a poetic piece visualising the 4 elements (water, air, fire and earth). After graduating in 1989, she taught for 4 years.
In 1992, she made Embracing, a medium length 16mm feature in which she sets up to find her biological father (Naomi was brought up by her grandparents after her parents’ marriage broke up). In 1993, she cast her documentary eye on a striking boy-meets-girl fiction in White Moon. She dedicated her following film Katatsumori (94) to her grandmother. This film and the next one… read more
Lavrente Indico Diaz is a multi-awarded independent filmmaker who was born on December 30, 1958 and raised in Cotabato,Mindanao. He works as director, writer, producer, editor, cinematographer, poet, composer, production designer and actor all at once. He is especially notable for the length of his films, some of which run for up to eleven hours. His eight-hour Melancholia, a story about victims of summary executions, won the Grand Prize-Orizzonti award at the Venice Film Festival 2008. His work Death in the Land of Encantos also competed and represented the country at the Venice Film Festival documentary category in 2007. It was granted a Special Mention-Orizzonti. The Venice Film Festival calls him “the ideological father of the New Philippine Cinema”.
Diaz says that he usually writes his scripts while shooting, letting his creative instincts take over and allowing the story to evolve as filming progresses. He tends not to follow industry conventions, such… read more
Each film gets better... I thought the Kawase was pretty bad, the characters simplistic and somewhat cliche, coupled with the annoying unsuitable handheld camera and silly flashbacks it made me quite depressed, i'm sure Kawase's other films are better. The Hong started off a bit uneven with the voiceover getting in the way a couple of times, but the second half is pure Hong! Diaz's was one of the best films of 2009