The last edition of JAFF was decorated with several feature-length films that previously had international festival outings throughout the year before ultimately being anchored at JAFF. These films we include in the Asian Perspectives program. As a result, the number of films in Asian Perspectives is getting fatter. Too fat maybe. Statistically, the number of viewers and the level of occupancy of films which previously screened in various international film festivals are certainly well-known and have a lot of fans. However, the film selection of a good festival does not only depend on popularity alone, but also on the identity and value of the festival itself which makes it special doesn’t only preserve “cosmetics” that will slowly expire.
We then selected films that have all already been present in the world festival calendar. There is a diversity and exploration that we are aiming for. We separated those films from the Asian Perspectives program to debut a program called Panorama. Panorama is a screening program for Asian films that have travelled to various international festivals, and have received public attention in various places. Through this program, viewers will not only watch films that are considered important in a filmmaker’s career path but also can examine issues that are considered significant in the respective year. Panorama is a broad and free view of Asia as seen by the world.
Nine films are participating in the Panorama program at JAFF 17. Three Iranian films: Ali Abbasi’s “Holy Spider”, Saeed Roustaee’s “Leila’s Brothers” and Jafar Panahi’s “No Bears” are in the program this year. “Holy Spider” revolves around serial killings as a critique of Iranian society that creates a murderous society that is rooted in misogynism. “Leila’s Brothers” delivers a message about Iranian socio-economic classes that begin to crack in society through the economic struggles of a woman who must become a major player in saving her family from an explosion that may happen at any time. Despite oppression from the state, “No Bears” manages to experiment with its storytelling style to make films about boundaries: between humans and between traditions.
Three Japanese films are also featured in the Panorama program: Koji Fukada’s “Love Life”, Emma Kawawada’s “My Small Land”, and Sho Miyake’s “Small, Slow But Steady”. “Love Life” is about the alienation of those who are unable to share pain. “My Small Land” revolves around the balance of a refugee who is still searching for his identity in a world that is still not on his side. “Small, Slow But Steady” is not just a sports drama but also presents a deaf woman who is full of internal conflicts such as loneliness, anger, and being “different” with a promising visual and audial presentation.
“Joyland” by Saim Sadiq, named Pakistan’s best film of the year and the national entry to the Academy Awards, also features in the program. “Joyland” is a painful story about gender and sexuality in narrow and stifling gender norms. “The Novelist’s Film”, Hong Sang-soo’s twenty-seventh film also joins the lineup. A film which celebrates the beauty of accidental encounters and heartbreaking candour. Finally, the latest film from Lav Diaz, “When the Waves are Gone” is also on the list of films. Shot on a 16mm camera, “When the Waves are Gone” is set in the maelstrom of the Philippines’ brutal violence. Cruelty and guilt mix with trauma which has to be reckoned with.
Panorama is intended for those who want to be a part of world cinema. It embodies the opportunity to see the best films whose quality has been acknowledged by international film festivals. Some were chosen with reference to the spirit of JAFF so that they are not simply glamorous or financial choices. In other words, the richness of Asian aesthetics, phenomena and ways of thinking and acting, and the diversity within the program is also worth considering.