Focus Asia April 2013 Film Info
Information about the films shown at the film festival.
Satiated Village (2011) by Zou Xueping.
Director’s Statement: After I finished my documentary The Hungry Village, I returned to my hometown to screen it for my family. They were unanimously against it. All of them- my parents who were born in the 50s, and my brothers, born in the 70s and 90s—believed it was dangerous to investigate the famine in our village that took place fifty years before. They agreed that a college graduate should have a stable job and not run around interviewing old people and making documentaries. Their reactions frustrated me and their doubts raised doubts in me. I had to do some soul searching and reconsider my life goals. When I opposed their opinions it was the first time in all of the twenty-five years I’d been alive. Fortunately, I didn’t face them all alone. My 9-year old niece stood by me and was my little angel. The old folks I had interviewed The Hungry Village were also for my work in documentary. But when they saw the film they believed it shouldn’t be screened outside of China. Since it “exposed the history of the famine” foreigners would laugh at China. An old man named Xiling persuaded them to change their minds. This is my second film since I’ve been involved in the “Folk Memory Project.” Like last time, I returned to my hometown to search for memories and film realities. The village has recovered from the catastrophic famine fifty years ago and there is no shortage of food. But my big question is, is the village’s spirit starving?
Shuangjing Village, I’m Your Grandson (2012) by Shu Qiao
Director's Statement: This film is based on a story inspired by my family tree. My grandfather pieces the story together. At first he thought it was meaningless but eventually he began telling it. After some time I sensed a shift in him, and in the end I got closer to my grandfather.
Self-Portrait at 47 KM (2011) by Zhang Mengqi.
Director’s Statement: This is my second self-portrait film. (The first is Self-portrait with Three Women.) It takes place in a village called 47 KM. It is called this because it is located at the 47th kilometer marker on the road from Suizhou in Hubei Province. My father was born there. He left when he was twenty years old but my grandfather still lives there. In 2010, as a participant in the Folk Memory Project, I went to the village twice, once in the summer and again in the winter. The village seemed completely disconnected from my life. However, I re-discovered my grandfather and began to understand him and the other villagers who lived through the great famine fifty years ago. I also got to know the village, which had always perplexed and embarrassed me. What does Village 47 KM mean to me? Like a mirror, I see myself reflected there.
Treatment (2010) by Wu Wenguang
Director’s statement: This film came out of a desire to memorialize and explore my deep feelings for my mother, who passed away in 2007. My thoughts were constantly shifting and changing during this process. While sorting through footage that I filmed over a twelve-year period, I saw subtleties that I had previously overlooked, and relived experiences that I’d long since forgotten. What touched me even more were the moving images of my mother. Seeing a beloved person who was no longer living speaking and moving before my eyes, it was as if it had all just happened yesterday. I realized that making this film is not just about remembering her—it’s also an experiment to bring her back to life. I’m in the process of trying to heal myself and my mother is a crucial part of this. And so, exploring the issues of my mother, remembrance, the present, healing and self-treatment (treating myself like a doctor treats a patient), this film’s structure began to naturally unfold.
Flashpoint (2012), directed by Mridula Chari, Gursimran Khamba, Francis Lohrii and Shivani Gupta
Mohammed Ali Road and Mahim were among the more affected areas during the riots of 1992-1993. Twenty years later, this film takes the lens back to those areas to map the middle classes of those areas. Their lives, though not tangibly afflicted, were nonetheless transformed by that time enough to reflect in their attitudes towards communalism today. Prominent writer and journalist Dilip D’Souza, draws these narratives together as we try to make sense of stereotypes that persist even today.
Badalte Nakshe, directed by Nithila Kanagasabai, Nitya Menon, Archana Sadar and Likokba
Traversing the tenuous realm of children, memory and the riots, the film follows Farhana Ashraf, a teacher and a writer in an attempt to explore the constructed histories of two generations. 20 years after the riots, how do the people who were children then remember the lived experience of the riots? Moreover, how do adolescents of the present generation make meaning of these inherited narratives of violence from what they hear and see? In an effort to articulate this on-going dialogue with the past and present, the film weave these two threads bringing to the surface erasures, omissions and the ruptures they entail.
Farooq versus The State, directed by K.P. Jayasankar and Anjali Monteiro
Hari Masjid, Wadala, Mumbai, was the scene of a brutal police attack on January 10, 1993. Though Farooq Mhapkar was one of the casualties of indiscriminate police firing, he was charged as a rioter. Farooq versus The State is the story of Farooq's protracted legal battle against an unyielding State in pursuit of justice. Through this case, recounted through memories of survivors and other stakeholders, the film seeks to explore how justice was delayed and denied to the victims and survivors of the 1992-93 communal violence.
The Women and the Generals (2010) by Maj Wechselmann
In the night of 1 September 1965 a small group of junior officers abducted and killed several generals. The military under General Suharto blamed the communist party for their deaths and accused members of the leftist women’s group Gerwani of sexual perversion and the murder of the generals. These women were then tortured, raped, and imprisoned for many years. Maj Wechselmann succeeded in finding and interviewing some of the women. These interviews are complemented with interviews with historians and human rights activists and archival footage.
The Act of Killing (2012) by Joshua Oppenheimer
The film is about killers who have won, and the sort of society they have built. The main characters of the film are Anwar Congo and his friends who were promoted from small time gangsters who sold movie theatre tickets on the black market to death squad leaders. Unlike ageing Nazis or Rwandan génocidaires, Anwar and his friends have not been forced by history to admit they participated in crimes against humanity. Instead, they have written their own triumphant history, becoming role models for millions of young paramilitaries. The Act of Killing is a journey into the memories and imaginations of the perpetrators, offering insight into the minds of mass killers. Anwar and his friends agreed to tell the story of the killings on film. But their idea of being in a movie is not to provide testimony for a documentary: they want to star in the kind of films they most love from their days scalping tickets at the cinemas. The filmmakers seized this opportunity to expose how a regime that was founded on crimes against humanity, yet has never been held accountable, would project itself into history. The film challenges Anwar and his friends to develop fiction scenes about their experience of the killings, adapted to their favourite film genres – gangster, western, musical. They write the scripts. They play themselves. And they play their victims. Their fiction filmmaking process provides the safe spaces that serve to challenge them about what they did.