This year we asked Cinemazzi videographer and freelance film editor Luke Richards to keep a diary of his favourite events at the Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival.
Now in its second year, the Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival is the successor to the former BIFF, with an invigorated focus on films from the Asia Pacific – the 2015 extended program screened more than 100 features, documentaries and shorts from across the region. Here, Luke shares some of his favourite filmmaker insights, as revealed during the festival’s Q&A events, plus mini-reviews of his Top 5 favourite films at BAPFF 2015. So what made the cut?
Thursday November 19: The Idol opening night screening, GOMA
Luke says: I was quite excited going to the opening night of BAPFF! This would be my first time attending the festival so I didn’t know what to expect. The event was held at the Gallery of Modern Art, where we enjoyed drinks and canapés on arrival. I also got to catch up with a few of my old lecturers from film school, which was a nice little reunion. The opening night screening of the festival was a Palestinian film based on the true story of singer Mohammad Assaf, who took Palestine by storm after winning Arab Idol (the country’s equivalent to Australian Idol). Set during the devastating scenes in Palestine in 2013, the film follows Mohammad from childhood, as a youngster in a Gaza refugee camp trying to start up a band with his sister, and follows him to Egypt, where he auditions for Arab Idol. I found the Palestinian’s story quite inspiring – learning that he came from great hardship before bringing together an entire nation that was experiencing major depression and war.
Saturday November 21: Hong Kong Trilogy screening at Palace Barracks
Luke says: This film was an interesting one. Hong Kong Trilogy follows three different generations of real people: Preschooled (children), Preoccupied (young people) and Preposterous (elderly). This film crossed between fictional and non-fictional material – for example, the voiceovers in the film were done using real audio interviews of people from Hong Kong, but the film’s scenes were shot with fictional characters based off those interviews. I thought it was an interesting style of filmmaking, and a different perspective on telling a story. We were also lucky to have director and cinematographer Christopher Doyle and producer Jenny Suen in attendance on the night. They talked about the passion and privilege on telling the story of the Hong Kong people and bringing it to the cinema.
Wednesday November 25: Q&A with The Idol editor, Eyas Salman
Luke says: The following day the Australian Screen Editors hosted a Q&A with The Idol editor Eyas Salman, who previously worked with the film’s director Hany Abu-Assad on his 2013 Oscar-nominated film Omar. Eyas walked us through sequences of the film and pointed out things you wouldn’t normally pick up (such as sneaky little visual effects in the Arab Idol performance scenes). Also Eyas mentioned that the child actors in the film had never acted before – which was hard to tell as they were all very talented in the film!
Friday November 27: The Assassin screening at Palace Barracks
Luke says: There had been so much hype around this film, I had to see it! The Assassin is based in seventh century China, where a female assassin, who was taken at a young age, has been given a dangerous mission to kill a political leader. This film was not what I was expecting. I was expecting more action sequences and a faster-paced film but this was more of an elegant drama. It was very visual and had beautiful set design and landscapes. In attendance was the cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bing, who told us at the start of the screening to pay attention to the mood of the film to help interpret the story. He also revealed that almost the entire film’s lighting was natural and required much waiting and patience. With this style of shooting, he was trying achieve shots that looked like old Chinese paintings which shows in the landscape scenes and the set designs in the palace.
Saturday November 28: Downriver screening at New Farm Cinemas
Luke says: This chilling Australian thriller was really gripping and kept you engaged throughout. Downriver follows James, who was accused as a child of drowning a young boy in a river and has been serving time ever since. After his release, he travels back to the town where it all happened and tries to reconcile what transpired that day. You felt unsure about who really killed the boy and went on this journey with James to put the ghosts of his past to rest. As I watched this film, it actually felt like a twisted and dark version of The Dressmaker (2015) – as the main characters return to their hometown where they have both been accused of murdering a boy when they were younger. (Funnily enough, Kerry Fox who played the mother in Downriver also played teacher Beulah Harridiene in The Dressmaker.) In attendance at the screening was director and writer Grant Scicluna, producer Jannine Barnes and composer Lawrence English. It was interesting to learn how Grant only introduced English’s film score in the second half of the film to allow everything to start to unravel; and how Grant adapted his short film The Wilding (2012) into this film.
Sunday November 29: The Taking of Tiger Mountain (Closing Night) screening at Palace Barracks
Luke says: On the closing night, I did not know what the film was going to be, so I did not have any expectations. To my delight, it was a huge thrill and an action-packed rollercoaster. The film is about the conflict between the People’s Liberation Army of China and bandits during the Chinese revolution. The style of the film felt like it was a cartoon in the action sequences and the costume design, particularly for the villain of the film. That really gave it a fun feel to the film and you got right into the actions. Some of the action sequences felt a bit far-fetched, but you ultimately forgive that as you go along with the ride. Plus it gave another dimension having the film screened in 3D, making the action even more impactful. Of course the night couldn’t end there; we all headed off to the after-party and got treated to Asian-style canapés and a lycee mojitos. Summary: The closing night was a great way to end the festival. Gave me quite an adrenaline rush and got me wanting more! Though I must say my favourite film of the festival would be The Idol. It was just such an inspiring story, and knowing it was a true story about one person bringing together a nation with his magnificent singing voice was just moving to watch. Can’t wait for next year!