Can films be made to reflect the uniqueness of the many Asian cultures?
When you look into a mirror, you would definitely see your reflection looking back at you and it would feel similar yet eerily different. If you own a three-fold mirror, it would give you more than a singular image; the tool would have given added spectrum and dimension of a plane which is akin thus, making it more ethereal. While watching the omnibus of three short films in the Asian Three-fold Mirror 2016: Reflections, it could have birthed a replication of that emotion. This collection was launched by the Japan Foundation Asia Center and The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) as a project to develop relations between Asian countries by encouraging Asian talents specifically filmmakers to create their work with an Asian background with the aim of premiering their work to the world through the TIFF. The series will continue until the year 2020 when the Olympics and Paralympics are to be held in the nation where the sun rises and in the inception of the project; the Asian Three-Fold Mirror 2016 brought together three globally acclaimed directors who are respectively from Japan, Philippines and Cambodia. They were given the platform to creatively imagine stories that would provide their own interpretations of the theme, Reflections and the recurring motif was having Asian characters with very unique circumstances of being in Asian countries where they are not a citizen of.
Shinuma or Dead Horse was directed by Brilliante Ma Mendoza who introduced us to Manny (played by Lou Veloso), a Filipino immigrant who had spent three decades working at a horse farm in Japan only to be deported when the authorities discovered the illegality of his domicile. We follow Manny as he regained his memories in the Philippines upon him returning to a non-existent home and the struggles he faced of embracing the past he left and the culture he had abandoned. The brilliant utilisation of close-ups on the actors’ faces as well as the horses’ movements featured gave intimacy to a story in which most of the audience might find it difficult to relate to. The deafening music signalling the transition of scenes acts as a vacuum pulling our senses and hearts to stay with Manny until the end and actor, Lou was mesmerising as he managed to show a complication of understanding the fate that had fallen upon Manny.
Isao Yukisada debuted his first short film shot in Malaysia with, Pigeons which centres on an old Japanese man (Masahiko Tsugawa) living in Penang and surrounded only with the company of his pigeons and his three helpers and one of them was young Yasmin (Sharifah Amani). There are hints in Pigeons showing the dark history of the old Japanese man and this was contrasted with the hopeful affairs he has with Yasmin. A lot of films which are produced in Malaysia are dedicated to the scenery and the advantageous landscapes but Isao Yukisada had seized the beauty of Penang mainly in the small house resided by his characters and this further focuses on the witty dialogue and budding relationships within the walls.
The final picture was Beyond The Bridge which was directed by Sotho Kulikar who also starred in the film as a young dancer who has captured the heart of an older Japanese man played by Masaya Kato. The film has three timelines of Cambodia in the 60s, 70s and 90s and it was surprising how the length of Beyond The Bridge was less than an hour though Sotho Kulikar had achieved to make a film that is suspenseful, passionate and eye-opening to the regime of Khmer Rouge. Beyond The Bridge tells a story of love, art and war with the backdrop of the Cambodia-Japanese Friendship Bridge in Phnom Penh which can be seen in realism through black-white documentary footages. Asian Three-fold Mirror 2016 is truly riveting and it is obvious how the project will aid in the exposure of Asian cinema as well as in the exchange of various cultures and experiences since the directors in Reflections were raging on strange waters by working in unfamiliar settings, visiting countries they have never been to and waged over language-barriers. There is a hope that the door for the international recognition of short films made in Asia will be opened wider than ever and it would hold an echo of variety of Asia’s ethos.
Asian Three-fold Mirror 2016: Reflections was premiered to Malaysian audiences last week. Feautured image; the poster of Asian Three-fold Mirror 2016: Reflections.