Saturday, April 4, 2009

Agrarian Utopia in competition at Jeongju

Following its appearances at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and then at the Singapore International Film Festival, Uruphong Raksasad's Agrarian Utopia will be in the competition at the 10th Jeongju International Film Festival from April 30 to May 5.

Here is the review by Kim Se-jin:

Agrarian Utopia is another serious film from Thai director Uruphong Raksasad, who was born a farmer’s son and continued to show interest in farmers and farming-related issues. This film is about two debt-ridden families that are forced to grow rice on someone else’s land. Jumma and Mungmeung’s families both work hard, but since they’re not landowners, what they get in return is very small. In order to feed themselves, they must dig ant holes, pick beehives, catch snakes, and hunt wild dogs. The beauty of the country-the green grass, the red glow of the setting sun offer a striking contrast to their grueling reality. This film is reminiscent of Robert J. Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1921). According to the director, farming is the holiest profession for mankind. And since the struggles of the two families, just like the Nanook family, are directly linked to survival, their struggles seem all the more holy. The director takes an unflinching look at their circumstances surrounding the families. Not that he lacks any compassion for his subject; he is just showing the harsh realities of the 21st century as they are. The people in the film rarely smile, they are more cynical than naive, and they are weighed down by a sense of loss that was unseen in the Inuit. For them, talks of political change and environmental philosophy are all meaningless. A heartbreaking and powerful film that melds together the beauty of the country with the weight of labor and hunger.

The fest opens with Short! Short! Short!, an omnibus of 10 shorts by young Korean filmmakers. And the annual Jeongju Digital Project by three directors features shorts by Hong Sang-soo (Lost in the Mountains), Naomi Kawase (Koma) and Lav Diaz (Butterflies Have No Memories, which dovetails nicely with a special program on on the Filipino Digital New Wave). Diaz' latest feature Melancholia will be shown, as well as an early short, Purgatorio.

Past participants in the digital project include Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Wordly Desires) and Pen-ek Ratanaruang (Twelve Twenty, which is apparently destined to be Pen-ek's great lost film -- anybody know how this can be seen?)

Also this year, the Jeonju fest launches a Korean independent projects market.

Update: Just had a look at the entire program. Some of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's films will be shown. His debut feature, Mysterious Object at Noon, is part of the 10th Anniversary Screenings featuring "New Directors Discovered by JIFF". His short, Meteorites, is part of the "Stranger Than Cinema" package, and there's also the omnibus Stories on Human Rights, which includes Apichatpong's Mobile Men.

(Via Movie On)

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