In the fourteenth entry in the column, we take a look at a Pakistani, an Indian, and the first film of one of our own, Kun Yu-lai.

Dia (2018) by Hamza Bangash (23.53, Pakistan )

 

Having its World Premiere in Locarno, “Dia” is one of the most impressive shorts to come out of Pakistan  during the latest years.

Mariam is a sensitive law student preparing for her final year exams. She lives with her overbearing mother and younger brother in a middle class neighbourhood in Karachi, Pakistan. As Mariam’s exam date and graduation draw nearer, her mother urges her to consider an arranged marriage. Mariam, who is in a secret relationship online, refuses. As the pressure of marriage and finals build to a boiling point, she struggles to retain her sanity. The film chronicles her descent into madness- and how she attempts to seek help- in a society where mental illness remains taboo.

The film has a direct purpose of highlighting the place of women in contemporary Pakistan , with Bangash painting a picture that is quite dark. Modern technology and particularly the mobile phone “world” has brought a sense of freedom to Pakistani youths, but the film destroys this false sense completely, as it shows that tradition and religion are the elements that still dominate the country’s society.

At the same time, Hamza highlights the social prejudice associated with mental illness, as the film takes a turn towards the psychological thriller, as the images follow Miriam’s troubled mind. Yasir Khan’s cinematography succeeds in capturing the sense of claustrophobia deriving from Miriam’s mentality, while Bangash’s own editing presents the events in the film with a rather fast pace that makes the film easily watchable.

Nida Khan as Mariam captures the essence of her character, and particularly the downward spiral, to perfection, while Bakhtawar Mazhar as her mother is impressive as a woman who has no clue and does seem to wish to learn what is going on with her daughter.

“Dia” is an impressive short, and I would like to see Hamza making a feature out of it, portraying the lives of women and the situation with mental illness in more detail.

A (2018) by Aneek Chaudhuri (7.07, India)

Continuing his experimental trips after “White“, Aneek Chaudhuri presents a short that deals with the Durga Puja Festival.

The movie starts with a close up of a mouse, only to change to a man painting his face. He is soon revealed to be a performer (Bahurupi), who, dressed as Shiva, roams the streets trying to earn some money. The Durga Puja Festival is coming, so he breaks his money box, with all the earnings he has accumulated, in order to buy a saree and dress as Durga, Shiva’s wife.

The film is actually about God, and how people should perceive him. According to the director, God has no identity, is everywhere and is kind to everyone, while the protagonist symbolizes the personification of God, with Chaudhuri believing it is of human form. The transformation of the protagonist symbolizes a new beginning, as  he sacrifices his gender, identity etc, in a series of actions that connect the subject with the title.

The film is full of symbolism, and thus is somewhat difficult for a non-Indian to understand its various messages, with its experimental nature stressing this fact. Chaudhuri, however, is quite skilled in the visual presentation of his subject, and with the help of the cinematographer, Sourideb Chatterjee, manages to produce a short that is captivating, even if one does not understand its messages. Lastly, Deep Chatterjee as the protagonist, is also captivating, in a minimalist, silent, but imposing performance.

After watching two of Aneek Chaudhuri’s works, I really want to see him directing a feature movie with a big-budget, particularly regarding the visual aspect.

Director of Success (2018) by Kun Yu Lai (Taiwan, 8.46 min)

Apart from a contributor of Asian Movie Pulse, Kun Yu Lai is also studying film production and direction at Chapman University. This is his first film, which has already been selected for San Diego Asian Film Festival.

Lai, a director, is trying to direct a film, but the producer seems very unhappy with the result, particularly due to the logistics of the matter, and tries to find an excuse to kick him out, by suggesting changes he know the director will not like. He succeeds, and Lai loses his movie. He is completely shuttered by the outcome. Soon, however, finds the strength to carry on, realizing that his vision and purpose can overcome any obstacle.

Kun Yu Lai shows true potential in this self-portrait, that functions more as an encouragement for artists to follow their dreams than an accusation towards the “money people”. The mostly black-and-white cinematography by Ai Chung is very fitting and Jane Yang’s editing gives the film a relatively slow, but again very fitting pace. Overall, all aspects of the film come together nicely, which can be attributed to Lai’s direction.

For a debut, and even more, for a student film. “Director of Success” is more than hopeful.

 

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