Saturday, September 5, 2009

Same Same But Different, an award winner in Locarno, heads to Toronto

German director Detlev Buck's Cambodian romantic drama Same Same But Different was well-received in its premiere at the Locarno International Film Festival last month.

Playing in the Piazza Grande lineup, it won the Variety Grand Piazza Award, given by critics Derek Elley and Jay Weissberg. And Derek Elley has reviewed it for Variety. Here's a snip:

Based on the true story of a young Teuton who falls for -- and stands by -- an HIV-positive Cambodian girl, Same Same But Different manages to avoid most of the expected potholes while remaining a film typical of its creator, maverick German helmer Detlev Buck. Irreverent humor and down-to-earth characters prevent the potentially soupy mix from curdling in its own juices, and the Asian setting is never exoticized for cheap emotional gains. The film split viewers at its Locarno preem, with some finding it too unemotional, others refreshingly different.

A fact-based story, Same Same But Different stars David Kross, who caught the attention of critics playing opposite Oscar-winner Kate Winslet in The Reader. He plays the young German man named Ben who travels to Asia and falls in love with Sreykeo, a Cambodian bargirl, portrayed by young Thai actress "Saipan" Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, who debuted in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Ploy. About her, Elley says she's "less at ease with the language ... but has just the right looks and bearing to make Sreykeo's practical character believable."

Same Same But Different next makes its North American premiere in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the Toronto International Film Festival. Programmer Cameron Baily writes the synopsis:

Kross plays Ben, a young man in search of adventure who flies off to Cambodia with his best friend. During the first days, it's the typical round of Third World getaway stuff. The pair check out tourist sites and cheap drugs, and even get the chance to fire a rocket launcher in a farmer's field. But then Ben meets Sreykeo (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk), a young Cambodian woman. She'd be a much safer bet if she were also typical. Instead, Sreykeo confounds the expected commercial exchange between a rich, callow Western man and a poor Cambodian woman. She is not simply a prostitute, but neither is she above asking Ben for money. In a series of beautifully shot encounters set to spare chamber music and melancholy Euro-pop, Ben and Sreykeo fall in love.

Here director Detlev Buck appears to be channelling Lost in Translation and In the Mood for Love, as this, too, is a story of illicit love drenched in minor chords and urban decay. The difference is that Sreykeo is HIV-positive. Establishing that fact in the first scene then shifting to show both its revelation and its consequences, Buck unsettles the ground under the viewer's feet. The stakes are high for both lovers, but not merely in obvious ways.

Both Kross and the Thai actress Sakuljaroensuk capture the discomfort and desire of two people drawn to each other across a chasm of difference. When Ben visits Sreykeo's home, he is too big for the cramped space. But when his vacation ends and his plane home beckons, he is suddenly small. And because this film is anything but typical, the story cannot end there.

Good buzz for this film as it heads to another festival, and ticket buyers are already lining up. Encouraging. TIFF runs from September 10 to 19.

(Via Boje Buck)

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