Sheffield Doc/Fest 2012 with a strong taste of Asia

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Doc/Fest’s 19th edition will bring to Sheffield some of this year’s documentary heavy-hitters and will also show the best of docs from or about Asia.

The festival programme includes 120 films from dozens of countries, including 16 films from or about Asia, 300 speakers from the digital and docs sector and over 150 buyers and decision makers from 20 countries participate in the marketplace.

Festival: 16 films from or about Asia

The festival line up is composed of 120 feature docs, short films, cross platform films and outdoor screenings. Among them, the audience will be able to discover 16 films from or about Asia.

List by alphabetical order

. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Director(s): Alison Klayman
Producer(s):  Adam Schlesinger

Country: United States, China
Year: 2012
Length: 91 minutes
Language:  English, Madarin

In the official selection for the Special Jury Award

Festivals:  Sundance 2012, Berlin Film Festival 2012, Miami Film Festival 2012, True False 2012, Hot Docs 2012

“I consider myself more of a chess player – my opponent makes a move, I make a move. Now I’m waiting for my opponent to make the next move.” It is perhaps lucky for the people of China – and the outside world – that Ai Weiwei is not in fact a chess player, but one of the world’s most celebrated and influential artists – and China’s most outspoken domestic critic. Director Alison Klayman’s extraordinary access takes us deep inside Ai’s world, following him as he supervises a myriad of projects, undertaken by an army of willing artists. Of course Ai Weiwei is used to being followed – when they’re not jailing him, the Chinese authorities are tracking his every move. Weiwei’s inspired art and impassioned politics combine to create lacerating indictments of the way that the country he continues to love is ruled. Social media and the Internet have facilitated his major battleground: transparency, and the right of the people to stand up and be counted as individuals. Filmpage

Video trailer

www.aiweiweineversorry.com/

. Ala-Too


Director(s):  Chingiz Narynov
Country:  Kyrgyzstan
Year:  2012
Length:  15 minutes
Format:  HDCAM
Language:  Kyrgyz, Russian

We are on the central square of Bishkek, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, with its soldiers keeping watch, its street sellers and its families out on the town – a scene of daily life in a country that is only twenty years old. From time to time, the square witnesses revolutions. Nearly two years ago, dozens of demonstrators and passers-by were killed, in the hope of a better life. Film page

. Blames & Flames


Director(s):  Mohammadreza Farzad

Producer(s):  Pirooz Kalantari
Country:  Iran
Year:  2011
Length:  28 minutes
Format:  Digi Beta PAL
Language:  Farsi

This reflective essay revisits the eve of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, when more than 130 cinemas burned down. With the closure of television stations as well, the people turned their cameras onto each other, taking centre stage in a rapidly unfolding drama. Film page

. Burmese Butterfly


Director(s):  Hnin Ei Hlaing
Country:  Myanmar, Germany
Year:  2011
Length:  12 minutes
Format:  Digi Beta PAL
Language:  Burmese
Festivals:  Signe de Nuit Paris, France 2011, Lifescapes South East Asian Film Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand 2012, Goettingen International Ethnographic Film Festival, Germany 2012
As a child, Phyo Lay would be beaten for behaving like a girl. Now 21, he is comfortable living as a woman and wishes everyone could accept him for who he is. In this charming short, he introduces us to Burma’s evolving gay culture. Film page

In official selection for the Sheffield Student Doc Award

. China Heavyweight


Director(s):  Yung Chang
Country:  Canada, China
Year:  2012
Length:  89 minutes
Format:  HDCAM
Language:  Chinese
Festivals: Sundance 2012

A masterful profile of China, told through the prism of the country’s newest sporting passion – boxing. Outlawed in 1959 for being too American, the ban on boxing was not lifted for thirty years. Now coaches are scouring the regions for promising children to recruit into a rigorous training programme. The risks are high for the boys and girls plucked from schooling to train. If they succeed, they can leave their impoverished rural lives behind, and represent their country in international events. If they fail, they return to them, and a life of manual labour. In this artful, beautifully constructed film, Canadian director Yung Chang follows young recruits, as they consider their futures, and during rare visits back home. They are led by their charismatic coach, Qi Moxiang, who gave up boxing some years ago, after failing to qualify for the Olympics, but is now determined to return one last time to the ring. Film page 

. Fire in the Blood


Director(s): Dylan Mohan Gray
Country: India
Year: 2012
Length: 84 minutes
Format: HDCAM 1080/25p
Language: English, Hindi, Manipuri, Xhosa
Festivals: Mumbai

In an ideal world, the medical breakthrough of ARV drugs in the mid 1990s – which meant that AIDs no longer carried with it a death sentence – would have meant the end of deaths from the virus. Instead what ensued was a shocking crisis of humanity, as Africans continued to die by the millions, unable to afford the astronomically high price of these drugs. Fire in the Blood examines the battle that a number of inspiring players – including the government of India – waged to level the playing field for AIDs sufferers. Success would mean overcoming the will of the powerful pharmaceutical industry, determined to maximise its profits at all cost. Interviews with campaigners, including Bill Clinton and Desmond Tutu, shed light on the aggressiveness of the drugs industry in preventing the distribution of readily available low-cost drugs, and the profoundly restricting patent laws, which prevent countries from providing their own treatment. Film page

Video Trailer

www.fireintheblood.com

. Going up the Stairs


Director(s):  Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami
Country: Iran
Year: 2011
Length: 52 minutes
Format: Digi Beta PAL
Language: Persian
Festivals: IDFA 2011

In the official selection for the Special Jury Award

Married at nine, on her wedding night Akram was so threatened with violence that she fainted. Fear of displeasing her husband drove her from school before she learned to read. Now a grandmother, and still living with her husband Heidar in Tehran, her knees hurt when she goes up the stairs. But Akram will keep on climbing them, for upstairs is where she paints. The ideas for Akram’s vibrant, striking paintings come to her in dreams. She has already had a successful local exhibition, despite the fact that her husband berates her for using too much paint. Now Akram has been invited to Paris, and hopes he will give her permission to go abroad for the first time. A charming, beautifully filmed portrait of the flourishing of an artist in the least hospitable of environments, this film also provides a rare glimpse inside a very traditional Iranian marriage. Film page

. High Tech, Low Life


Director(s): Steve Maing
Country: United States
Year: 2012
Length: 88 minutes
Format: HDCAM 1080/24p
Language: English
Festivals: Tribeca FIlm Festival 2012, Boston International Film Festival 2012, Hot Docs 2012, Open City, London 2012, Sydney International Film Festival 2012
Awards: Special Jury Prize, Boston International Film Festival

A young man is standing chest-deep in a grassy field poring over an electronic tablet. Living in the neglected backwoods of China, Zhou Shuguang (alias “Zola”) is one of more than 500 million Internet users in the country. Harnessing the power of instant information access and dissemination through networks like Twitter, he and other citizen journalists have learnt to bypass the strict codes of conventional Chinese media to provide readers with first-hand, unmediated accounts. Tiger Temple, a 50-something activist with a legacy of political dissidence in his family, reports on plights faced by farmers in the agricultural hinterland, whereas Zola, a back-chatting blogger with a slightly inflated ego, gravitates towards more urban and sensational stories. Lioness director Stephen Maing follows them over an extensive period, through arrests, airport inquisitions, and nagging parents. It’s a fascinating, all-access story of how two people fueled by idealism cope with pervasive state control. Film page

www.hightechlowlifefilm.com/  Film page on ADN database

. Hometown Boy (Gin Chen Xiao Ze)


Director(s): Hung-I Yao
Country: Taiwan
Year: 2011
Length: 72 minutes
Language: Chinese
Festivals:  Golden Horse 2011, Hong Kong International Film festival 2012
Awards: Golden Horse Award,

It’s been more than 30 years since Liu Xiaodong spent any significant amount of time in his hometown of Jincheng. Perhaps it’s the crossbred symptom of travel weariness and mid-life reflection that has led the celebrated artist back to his parents’ living room; whatever the cause, he has found the perfect spot from which to paint. Following Liu on a quest to re-paint the people who first posed for his art school portfolio, the film captures a master at work gently observing and composing his subjects. And likewise, the film bears the still, contemplative mark of another master, Hou Hsiao-hsien (whose protégé Yao Hongyi is the film’s director). One by one we encounter the painter’s childhood friends – a fantastic crew of rapscallions he calls the “forgotten working class” – through whom a greater story about modern China unfolds. Film page

. Jai Bhim Comrade


Director(s): Anand Patwardhan
Country: India
Year: 2011
Length: 182 minutes
Format: Digi Beta PAL
Language: Marathi, English, Hindi
Festivals: Film South Asia, Kathmandu, Nepal 2011, Mumbai International Film Festival, Mumbai, India 2012
Awards: Best Film, Film South Asia, Kathmandu, Nepal
Best Film, Mumbai International Film Festival, Mumbai, India
Best Documentary, Hong Kong International Film Festival

A 14-year labour of will, Jai Bhim Comrade is an epic eye-opener for those who are unfamiliar with India’s severe caste discrimination. Filmmaker Anand Patwardhan prologues with the 1997 Ramabai Colony shootings that killed 10 Dalits – the oppressed, or “untouchables” – and proceeds to illuminate the socially destructive stratification that has existed for over 2,000 years. Meandering through the dusty alleys of Ramabai and the Maharashtra villages, songs of “upliftment” and lament are being passed on to younger generations, urging them to continue the struggle for dignity. Dalits sing to recall their heroes past – most notably the political leader Bhimrao Ambedkar – and to hope for a better future. In an ominous turn, his teachings are being deceptively subverted by casteist, vote-hungry politicians as dissenting Dalit voices are repressed. Times definitely look bleak, but Jai Bhim is meant to incite and outrage – and it does so with eloquence. Film page

. Japan: Children of the Tsunami


Director(s): Dan Reed
Country: United Kingdom, China, Denmark, Canada, Netherlands
Year: 2012
Length: 60 minutes
Format: HDCAM
Language: English

Compelling testimony from 7-10 year-old survivors, reveals how last year’s Japanese tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear accident have changed children’s lives forever. The film focuses on two key locations: a primary school where the tsunami killed 74 children, and a school close to the damaged nuclear plant. Film page

. Maori Boy Genius


Director(s): Pietra Brettkelly
Country: New Zealand
Year: 2012
Length: 84 minutes
Format: HDCAM
Language: English, Maori
Festivals: Berlin Film Festival 2012, Sydney Film Festival 2012

“I feel like this is a critical year. This year will probably determine what type of adult I’ll grow to become,” says 16-year-old Ngaa Rauuira. He’s not the only one with his eyes on the future: his entire Maori tribe in New Zealand seem to have focused on the teenager as a beacon of hope. And they are certainly in need of one – young Maori men face crippling statistics of poor education, gangs, prison and suicide rates. Having begun a university degree at 12, he’s now headed to Yale for a summer of study – with his dad in tow. A lot is riding on his success, and with his father footing the extortionate bill, Ngaa Rauuira keenly feels the pressure. But he is nothing, if not focused: as important as it is to walk confidently in the Western world, it’s more important to return – and lead his people out of troubled waters. Film Page

www.maoriboygenius.com

Ping Pong


Director(s): Hugh Hartford
Country: United Kingdom, Canada
Year: 2012
Length: 76 minutes
Format: HDCAM
Language: English, German, Japanese, Mandarin
Festivals: Hot Docs 2012

Les D’Arcy is a living legend. At 89 years old, he’s obviously not received the memo about slowing down, and is going for gold, literally. He’s headed to China to compete in the over 80s Table Tennis Championships in Inner Mongolia. A seven time world champion, he still lifts weights to train – something he’s been doing for decades, after surviving a sickly childhood. Of course compared to some, Les is a spring chicken. Australian legend Dorothy deLow is 100, and finds herself a mega celebrity in this rarefied world. She’d better watch out though– Texan Lisa Modlich is fifteen years her junior and is determined to do what it takes to win her first gold. Director Hugh Hartford follows eight players from five countries, as they prepare to compete in this extraordinary sporting event that is as much about the tenacity of the human spirit as it is about taking home the title.  Film page

www.pingpongfilm.co.uk

. Planet of Snail


Director(s): Seungjun Yi
Country: South Korea
Year: 2011
Length: 87 minutes
Format: HDCAM
Language: Korean
Festivals: IDFA 2011

Young-Chan is a dreamer, who spends most of his life reading and writing. Deaf and blind since childhood, Young-Chan’s fingertips constantly skim his braille keyboard, through which he studies and exercises his literary ambitions. His lifeline to the outside world is his wife Soon-Ho. Afflicted with a disability herself – a spinal deformity which make her half his height – they are very much in love. In rising star Seungjun Yi’s sensuous feature, the camera lingers on the richly textured life that this unusual couple has forged together. Their friends look on them with envy, an understandable emotion when watching the couple’s openness to sensual experience of all kinds – from tree hugging, to kite flying to winter tubing, to the more mundane task of changing a light bulb. Young-Chan’s incisive metaphors provide a worthy literary soundtrack to a film which manages to be life affirming without being sentimental.  Film page

www.planetofsnail.com  Film page on ADN database

. Saving Face


Director(s): Daniel Junge, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy
Country: United States, Pakistan
Year: 2011
Length: 52 minutes
Format: HDCAM 1080/23.98p
Language: Urdu, English
Awards: Academy Award, Best Documentary Short Subject, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

When Zakia took her husband to divorce court, he did what hundreds of Pakistani men do to their wives every year: he threw acid in her face. In this society, where “honour” means everything, the easy availability of farming acid, and lack of prosecution has led to the escalation of this most horrific of crimes. But Zakia is determined to obtain justice – and hopes a new law will imprison her tormentor for life. Fellow sufferer Rukhsana’s plight is even worse, as she is forced to still live with the family who scarred her – but is kept away from her daughter. Both women’s husbands lie brazenly to the camera, confident their word will be believed. For many of Pakistan’s acid attack victims, hope for returning to normalcy lies with Dr Mohammad Jawad. He came to prominence after reconstructing the face of Katie Piper and is now hoping to work his magic on Zakia and Rukhsana. Film page

Video Trailer

www.savingfacefilm.com

. The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom


Director(s): Lucy Walker
Country: United States
Year: 2011
Length: 40 minutes
Format: HDCAM
Language: Japanese, English
Festivals: Sundance Film Festival 2012
Awards: Sundance Jury Prize, Sundance Film Festival
Academy Award nomination, Academy

Even for a nation used to earthquakes, and prepared for the possibility of a tsunami, the devastation wreaked in Japan by both events on March 11th last year, was unanticipated and unprecedented. As the opening, harrowing scene of this Oscar-nominated film makes clear, the massive wave came from far away and took out entire villages – climbing up the hills where people thought they would be safe. By April, survivors are becoming used to their new reality – holed up in makeshift refugee centres, sifting through the rubble of their homes, mourning their lost friends and families. Amidst the apocalyptic landscape, there is a sign of hope. The cherry blossoms are blooming, as they do in abundance every year, the harbinger of renewal and new beginnings. Their ability to thrive, even after being submerged in salt water, points the way to the lost victims, giving them the courage to rebuild their lives. Film page

Video trailer

www.thetsunamiandthecherryblossom.com/

Meet market: 5 projects from or about Asia

MeetMarket is the pitching initiative at Sheffield Doc/Fest, designed to match documentary makers’ most innovative project ideas with UK and international decision makers. MeetMarket 2012 will take place on June 14th and 15th. In 2012, 65 unique projects involving 20 countries, have been selected. 5 of these doc projects are about or from Asia Pacific.

9 Muses of Star Empire (South Korea) – Minch & Films (Producer – Min-Chul Kim, Director – Hark-Joon Lee)

A year-long chronicle that follows a journey of an all girl pop group “9 Muses”, portraying the everyday life of nine girls relentlessly pursuing their dreams in a world of jealousy, betrayal, and scandal. “9 Muses” is an emerging girl group, aspiring to perform on a national stage and gain world-wide fame just like millions of others. For that, the girls have decided to set everything aside and live as one of the Muses for “Star Empire”; the entertainment company which created and coordinated every move. What’s the price they must pay for their dreams?

 . A Class of Their Own (China) – LIC China (Producer – Haryun Kim, Director – Haryun Kim)

Migrant workers are the backbone of China’s economic factory. They flood from rural villages to manufacturing centers as they chase a better life. But the migration is not without problems. Families face a stark choice: leave the children behind and see them but once a year, or bring them to the cities, where they suffer in an educational underclass. In this heartwarming film Haryun Kim’s unique access to a school for the children of illegal economic migrants provides a moving insight into one of the lesser known tragedies of China’s economic migrants.

 . FOOD PLANET (South Korea) – KBS (Producer – Gunhyub Lee, Director – Wookjung Lee)

Food Planet, consisted of 8 episodes, will reveal the secrets of human and civilization in food focused on 5 food items – bread, barbecue, curry, rice and chocolate. Also, a special edition will provide an extraordinary experience of a novel format documentary film. The program will show the micro world of food science with special footage taken by time slicing, rotating time-lapse, high-speed shooting and also take a form of expedition, exploring the grand nature from Mayan rainforest to Greenland ice sheet and the curious roots of humankind’s food in it.

. The Long Walk – a film about Ai Weiwei (Denmark) – Danish Documentary Production (Producer – Katrine A. Sahlstrøm, Director – Alfred Nymand)

 . Look Love (China) – CNEX Studio (Producer – Ruby Chen, Director – Ye Yun)

Look Love, a feature length documentary, looks at a new generation of Chinese children who are growing up without parental love and family values. 

With rising migration in a rapidly changing China as backdrop, children are entering their formative years without parental love or family values. We follow three children from hugely different backgrounds: Xin Yuan from the cosmopolitan Beijing, and fifteen thousand miles away, Lin Sheng from the mountains of Guizhou and Hunan Provinces, as they navigate love, loss, anger, despair, loyalty, and betrayal and learn how
to reconcile as the “left-behind” children.

Sheffield Doc/Fest runs from June 13 to 17.

http://sheffdocfest.com

SOURCE: Sheffield Doc/Fest

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