Monday, May 30, 2011

2nd IndBear Feature Film Festival 2011

The IndBear Feature Film Festival was a new addition to the IndBlue family last year. Along with IndPanda for short films and IndPolar for animation the team have most of the bases covered in what makes up a season of film festivals in Hong Kong. The focus is on independent cinema, so expect to unearth a few gems here that go under the radar of the bigger festivals. IndBlue themselves are a non-funded, non-profit organization working to help independent film-makers. They distribute and produce short films and features, with films being sourced from all over Asia. In addition they organize workshops aiming to set up an infrastructure for talent, and have even begun projects introducing film-making to Hong Kong secondary schools.

In its 2nd year there has been a slight downsizing of IndBear in terms of line-up, but there are some good quality films in its concise schedule. Individual films are generally only shown once or twice over the course of the events seventeen days with screenings from Thursday to Sunday so it’s advisable to book tickets in advance. The festival will be held in two cinemas in Hong Kong’s Kowloon district, the upmarket, luxurious MCL Telford and MCL Kornhill cinemas. The Telford cinema in particular is worth a visit in its own right, the impressive building being the recipient of the 2009 International Architecture Award.

One of the opening films, Invasion of the Alien Bikini took the Grand Prize at the 2011 Yubari Fantastic International Film Festival and is a is a gloriously wild, low-budget blend of comedy, sci-fi, body horror, and martial arts action. Produced on a budget of a mere $4500 by one of the stalwarts of Korean independent cinema Indiestory this kind of film is exactly what IndBear is all about.

Opening boldly with the Beethoven's 9th symphony, with more than a little nod to Kubrick, the film doesn't let up for the rest of its 75 minute running time. Oh Yung Doo's sci-fi extravaganza centres on the nerdy Young-gun, who prefers the moniker City Protector. He wanders the streets searching for damsels in distress. When he saves the sexy Monica, played by the excellent and alluring Eun Jung-Ha, she insists on taking him back to his apartment to express her gratitude. However, Young-gun has taken a vow of celibacy. Monica won't take no for an answer though and our hero must resist her increasingly tempting seductions.

Of course, Monica isn't all she seems and needs Young-gun to impregnate her to give birth to hordes of aliens and take over the earth. Throw in a father-son back story for our protagonist, random groups of high-kicking henchmen, and lots of sexual torture, and really what more do you need from a film? It might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea but it won plaudits galore at Yubari, and was the first time a foreign film-maker has ever received the Grand Prize there. Director Oh Yung-doo is definitely one to look out for in the future. It’s only being show once on June 10th so make sure you get your tickets early.

There are a couple of other interesting Korean films that feature in the schedule. Set in Busan She Came From, by Kim Sung-Ho, is the story of a director In-soo re-writing a film, a man losing his sight who is searching for his daughter, and the daughter Hye-ryun who is escaping everything on the back of a motorbike. Their paths weave together and eventually In-soo’s re- write begins to mirror actual events, exposing the boundaries between fiction and reality. In addition there is the challenging Father is a Dog that continues to explore the themes director Lee Sang-woo developed in his previous works Mother is a Whore and All About Father. The film examines the claustrophobic hell of a dysfunctional family as three brothers suffer under the heavy hand of their abusive father.

Japanese cinema has two representatives at IndBear. The return of the fascinating Imaizumi Koichi, who used to be an actor in Japanese pink movies (a type of romantic, soft-core pornography with high production values), allows festival-goers another chance to catch his film that was screened last year The Family Complete. It’s about a peculiar family living in a traditional Japanese house, suffering from a strange new virus. Featured in the Up in the Air section of the line-up, it looks like it might be an interesting companion piece to Father is a Dog.

Additionally, the international premiere of Tentsuki is one to look out for. About life in the bizarre town of Tenshi Tsukinuke Rokuchoume, it focuses on bankrupt salary-man Noboru escaping his past. As he begins to acclimatize to the weird people he meets in this strange community, he falls in love with the beautiful and free-spirited Miyuki and wonders if perhaps he’s found the right place to settle down. However, a shocking event shakes Noburo’s conceptions of his idyllic new life. With director Masafumi Yamada’s background in J-horror films this looks like an exciting and inventive bit of work.

IndBear also has a varied intake of European films on show. German star Daniel Bruhl’s new movie My Words, My Lies, My Love is about failing writer David Kern who stumbles across a transcript of a masterpiece in a second hand store. In a bid to impress the object of his affection, literati Maria, he decides to present it as his own work. Things begin spiraling out of control, and before he knows it he’s on daytime TV chat shows, and signing copies of his book. Swedish film Sebbe that won best debut in Berlin last year is the story of a bullied teenager, getting grief from kids at school and his over-worked mother. As a way to cope he develops a hobby, spending his time in the local junkyard creating new things from other people’s waste. Also, The Life and Death of a Porno Gang about a struggling film director that teams up with a porn director to start an underground cabaret has been doing really well at festivals all over the world. From Serbian director Mladen Djordjevic it is typical of the exciting stuff coming out of that country at the moment. Be warned though, it is very explicit; lots of sex and lots of violence.

Alongside My Words, My Lies, My Love and She Came From there are another couple of worthy entries in the Lost and Found section of the festival. Obselidia, the first feature from director Diane Bell, tells the story of loner George, a man making an encyclopedia of obsolete things. He interviews subjects for his work using a VHS recorder and a typewriter. While constructing his opus, he meets the silent film projectionist Sophie. The two wind up taking a road trip to the desert to interview an apocalypse prophesizing climate scientist. It might be a bit quirky, but any film that manages to use California and Nevada’s fascinating and alien Death Valley as a setting deserves to be seen. For people looking for something a bit closer to the middle of the road Love in a Cab might just be able to provide it. After New Years celebrations Ke Qing and Zhu Erget find themselves fighting over a cab, they decide to share and realise that they are both going the same way. Over the next decade they gradually begin to fall for each other, but there are a few complications. With director Han Yew Kwang’s background in sitcoms this film offers something a bit lighter for the IndBear festival.

The festival closes with a documentary on the life and death of one of the icons of the Hollywood star system of the ‘50s, Rock Hudson: Dark and Handsome Stranger. Last year was the 25th anniversary of his death, a victim of AIDS. It focuses on the double-identity of the super-star Hollywood hero, and his closet homosexuality. The film examines the duality of these two separate parts of the man, his film roles and how Hudson himself claimed that there was little difference from the image projected on the big screen and the reality of his private life. It should be a fascinating character-study and a strong film to close the festival.

There is lots to check out at this years festival, and IndBear is fast establishing itself as a solid fixture on the Hong Kong film calendar.

Ticket prices are $55-$60 for adults and concessions go for $45-$50 and can be purchased at the box-office of either cinema, online at, or over the phone 25-727-202

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