Indie Forum of the 14th Osaka Asian Film Festival (March 8 – 17, 2019) presents seven features and three shorts. “HANA” by Mai Nakanishi tells a piercing story of four-year-old Hana (Kim Do-eun), the only daughter of a Korean single working mother (Lee Jeong-bi). The mother is in dire search for a nanny for her little girl. She doesn’t ask much, only that Hana is taken care of and kept safe. Those who are familiar with Constantine immediately started to look for the catch. And you are not wrong, as Hana is not your usual child.

Sujin (Jeone Hee-jin), rushing to her first ever nanny interview, is welcomed by Hana`s mom, who is already in her coat, one leg in the door. Not only is Sujin hired, she is asked to immediately start on her new job. Take a good care of Hana, keep her safe. It is weekend, but mom is expected in the office and offers a double pay. As soon as she leaves, Sujin goes on and totally ignores parenting rule number one. She calls on Hana, who is supposed to be sleeping in her room. From that moment on, a little ghost is on the run.

HANA is screening at Osaka Asian Film Festival

Anonymous blocks of flats, empty rooms, designer furnishing, pale shades of white, gray, full of light all simply lack human touch. The sound design only adds to the game of nervous tension and child`s laughter and scutter don`t bring much relief. They all show Nakashimi`s experience in J-horror/suspense production, and talent to employ cinematography (Lee Jun-sang) to render eerie, hunting and yet sad ambience.

The only thing to be cautious about is the superficial use of music. There are some two moments in “HANA” when it turns out as a cheap scare and pulls out from the otherwise very fitting score. The narrative segments of “HANA” already suggest Nakanishi’s intention to rework the story into a feature, with some scenes closing a dot too soon, leaving their arcs cut off. Nakanishi is still worth remembering; features might indeed suit her better, especially with her sense of sneaky set-ups.

The scariest aspect of the film is the notion that, without stating so in opening or closing credits, “HANA” might be rooted in actual events. The demands of performance driven societies that think “feminism” is a great way to allow women become mothers and highly efficient professionals, create a very natural condition for emotional disconnection of children and parents. Kids who want to play and parents who are too tired and too busy finding a soothing excuse in words like “I am doing this for my child.” Saw from this point, “HANA” can be read both, literally and metaphorically, which gives the film an interesting, yet uncomfortable, twist.

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