The Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival – or, if you prefer, BAPFF, announced with the vigour of a 1960s Batman sound effect – is fast approaching, with the full program announcement arriving in less than two weeks (on the 28th of October) and the festival proper kicking off on the 19th of November.
For those of us anxious to see what the line-up will look like, yesterday saw the festival quietly release its ‘first look’ at the program (at least, beyond the four preview screenings already announced). The films on offer are very well in the ballpark of what we’ve come to expect from last year’s slate – Asian arthouse, intriguing retrospectives and, of course, APSA nominees – with plenty of films to get excited about.
First of all – literally – there’s The Idol, a biopic of 2013 Arab Idol winner Mohammed Assaf, will serve as the opening night film of the festival. The Idol combines an impressive pedigree – Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad has picked up a pair of Oscar nominations and won an APSA back in 2013 for Omar – with a promising critical reception out of its TIFF debut; The Hollywood Reporter suggested that it could be “another Slumdog Millionaire.” I’ll take that with a grain of salt – I was not at all impressed by last year’s opening night film and apparent ‘crowd-pleaser’ Crow’s Egg – but I’ve got enough faith in Abu-Assad’s ability to be optimistic.
Speaking of auteurs, there’re plenty to be found in First Look. Last year’s festival was my introduction to idiosyncratic Korean director Hong Sang-soo, and he returns with the Australian premiere of Right Now, Wrong Then, which picked up the Golden Leopard at Locarno. Jia Zhangke joins the dance card with Mountains May Depart, while Jafar Panahi’s [Tehran] Taxi, having wowed audiences at the Melbourne and Sydney festivals, makes its way up north.
I wasn’t able to catch Tehran Taxi in Sydney due to scheduling issues, but I did get to see Hou Hsiao-hsien’s gorgeous The Assassin, which is also screening at BAPFF. I found it beautiful – if somewhat opaque – but Richard He’s amazing review of the film for the MIFF Critic’s Campus reveals the intricate, affecting complexity concealed by its diaphanous curtains. Strongly recommended, and it’s paired with a free (!) screening of Hou’s classic A City of Sadness.
A City of Sadness isn’t the only retro screening making an appearance. While there’s been no announcement (yet) of any Wong Kar-Wai films (whose 2046 has been emblazoned over the BAPFF preview screenings thus far in a maybe-possibly-not-I’m-probably-being-too-optimistic hint), nor any news about Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy (Charulata played at BAPFF last year and the damn thing just got remastered), we are going to be treated to screenings of Bad Boy Bubby and Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s debut feature, The Town – the latter as part of a Turkish Waves program with a special focus on Turkish cinema. (Do you think they had to fight to not have it called Turkish Delights?)
Bad Boy Bubby, meanwhile, is paired with director Rolf de Heer’s latest, Another Country, which serves as a complementary doco to last year’s excellent Charlie’s Country. Another Country was pretty well a lock after getting nominated at the APSAs, and I think it’s a fair bet that any film picking up an APSA nomination will make the cut at BAPFF. Another Country isn’t the only Aussie feature announced, either; while it remains to seen if 2015’s BAPFF will be as light on local content as last year, we at least have the Australian premiere of Canadian/Australian co-production Early Winter and the Queensland premiere of Stephen Page’s Spear. Page is best known for work with the Bangarra Dance Theatre, but his chapter of The Turning proved that he’s a talented film director as well.
Finishing up the festival is – in a step away from the primarily arthouse fare announced so far – a “3D action adventure film” from China/Hong Kong by the name of The Taking of Tiger Mountain. All-in-all, it’s an impressive opening salvo (though I’m hoping the notable absence of Weerasethakul’s latest, Cemetery of Splendour, isn’t at all ominous). I’m tempering my enthusiasm with a hefty dose of scepticism – the fact that the announcement didn’t appear on the festival’s social media until hours later doesn’t bode well for an improvement in their marketing strategies (or budget?) – but I can’t help but be a little excited for November 19.