TCFF 2019 Film Spotlight: ‘Go Back To China’ – Q&A with writer/director Emily Ting

GO BACK TO CHINA

Synopsis: When spoiled rich girl Sasha Li blows through most of her trust fund, she is cut off by her father and forced to go back to China and work for the family toy business.


Review of GO BACK TO CHINA

When I first heard of the title, I did a double take. It has that anti-immigrant sentiment, but yet that provocative title works perfectly in the context of this film (read below on my Q&A about how director Emily Ting arrived on that title). This is the first time I saw Anna Akana (I wasn’t aware she’s a famous YouTube star), but the casting is spot-on as she brings a natural whimsy and playfulness to the drama. Although her character Sasha spoiled and even delusional at first (as illustrated in the hilarious opening scene where she goes on a job interview at a fashion house), you can’t help but empathize with her and wants to see her do well.

L-R: Lynn Chen, Anna Akana and Richard Ng in a still from GO BACK TO CHINA

This is a coming-of-age story of sort, with Sasha being forced to terms with her father’s wishes of working at his factory, and finally finding her footing in the family business. The fact that the film was shot in Shenzen, China definitely makes the film feels very authentic. There are some tough moments between her and her old-fashioned father (Richard Ng), especially in regards to him constantly getting divorced and remarried. Naturally they differ in what each consider familial duty, with Sasha’s loyal step-sister Carol (Lynn Chen) sometimes caught in the middle. At times the story feels like an adaptation of the prodigal son from the Bible.

If I had to nitpick however, at times the fact that Sasha gets acclimated in the business and excels as a toy designer feels too good to be true. Somehow the toy factory crisis in the third act is resolved all too conveniently as well. But those are small quibbles in an otherwise charming and entertaining familial drama. Having grown up with an entrepreneurial, head-strong grandmother who’s Chinese-Indonesian, I can certainly relate to the story.

This is a terrific sophomore feature from Emily Ting. I really enjoyed her debut film Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, and here she stepped up the game with a more complex story and also a bigger cast. I particularly enjoyed the scenes between Anna Akana and Lynn Chen, two strong Asian-American performers I’d love to see more of. I also have to mention the extremely-underrated Kelly Hu as Sasha’s mother, I wish she had more screen time but glad she’s part of the cast.

It’s wonderful to see more Asian-American stories coming out the past few years. Emily Ting is a gifted filmmaker I hope would continue making films. Oh, and after watching this, I suddenly got the urge of getting a bunch of stuffed animals! 😀

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Interview with Emily Ting

1. Go Back To China was inspired by your own experience and certainly felt personal. Would you share a bit about that experience working in Shenzen at your dad’s company?

I feel like everyone has one story that has shaped the trajectory of their life and defined who they are today. For me, going back to China to work for the family business is that story. I learned a lot about myself in the 12 years I spent working for the family business, and making this film was a really cathartic experience. When I decided to go back to Asia, I thought that meant giving up on my filmmaking aspirations forever. But ironically, that experience ended up inspiring all the films I’ve made since. 

On set with lead actress Anna Akana

2. How did you decide on making the semi-autobiography into a comedy, has that always been your vision from the start?

This was actually my attempt at making a serious drama! But I naturally have a very light touch, so this is just my filmmaking voice coming out. Also, I think that a lot of the comedy is a result of Anna Akana’s performance. She is a comedienne, and she brought a lot of her comedic chops to the role. I don’t think the film would be as funny if someone else had played Sasha.

Anna Akana in a scene inside the factory’s sample room

3. The title is certainly quite provocative, and it’s perfect for this story. How did you come up with that?

I finished the whole script without any idea on what to call the film. I was playing around with some more mundane ideas for the title, like “The Family Business” or something like that. And as almost a joke, I slapped “Go Back to China” on the draft as a working title, since this is a film literally about a girl who goes back to China. But I didn’t think that we could actually call my film that. I think that my manager was the first person I sent the script to and he took to the title right away. And then everyone else that I sent the script to told me they loved the title and that I shouldn’t change it. So it just stuck! I still can’t believe that I got away with making a film called Go Back to China!

4. I LOVE the cast here, esp. Anna Akana & Lynn Chen as the sisters. How did their casting come about? I’d love to hear about Richard Ng & Kelly Hu’s casting as well if you wouldn’t mind sharing.

At the time when I was working on the script, I was doing a lot of general meetings at digital companies and Anna Akana’s name kept coming up. I wasn’t familiar with her work, so I looked her up on Youtube and went down a rabbit hole watching her videos. She is immensely watchable and embodied who Sasha is. Even though she has a huge following on Youtube, she hasn’t acted in a lot of traditional films. I took a leap of faith and made an offer. She responded to the material and came on board. I still can’t believe that this is her first lead role in a film!

After Sasha was cast, the role of Carol was much easier to fill. I had been a fan of Lynn Chen for a long time and knew that she would knock the role out of the park. I asked my friend Dave Boyle (who worked with her on several films) to pass the script along to her. She responded in a few days that she was in! Even though I already knew Lynn could act, her performance in this film still blew me away. She made me cry behind the monitor on set many times!

Director Emily Ting on set with her GO BACK TO CHINA cast

The hardest role to fill was the father. I had to push the production several times because we couldn’t get the role cast. The father’s casting process was in a way very reflective of a film about daddy issues! I had wanted a name Asian actor for the role. Actually, one of the first people I thought of was Richard Ng, who is a very beloved veteran Hong Kong actor, and we had worked together on Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong previously. But the internal consensus was that, at almost 80, he was too old for the role. We started sending offers out to younger name Asian actors. But we just couldn’t get anyone to read the script! After months of this, I returned to my initial idea of Richard. I thought, what if we just aged him down through HMU and wardrobe? My producer was on board with this idea, and I wrote an email to him. He read the script in about two weeks and agreed to take on the role. We gave him a new haircut and a more stylish wardrobe, and he was transformed into Teddy instantly. In hindsight, I wish I would’ve just followed my gut and could’ve avoided months of anxiety.

We were really lucky to get Kelly Hu for the mother role. It is a very small role and my casting director didn’t think any name actors would want to take on what is basically a glorified cameo role. But I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask. We sent the offer to her on a Thursday, and by the following Tuesday, she signed on. Even though her role would be small, she loved the script and wanted to help the project any way she could.

5. Some of the toys featured in the film are adorable. How did you get them, did any of the ones you designed make it to the movie?

The sloth was actually from our family’s toy company’s Christmas line! I did come up with an idea for a Christmas sloth in real life, and the item was sold at Dollar General, Kroger, and some other stores. All the other toys that you see in the movie were products that were being manufactured at the factory on the days we were shooting. We went around the production line and picked toys that fit with our pastel color palette to appear on camera.

6. What are some of the challenges you faced making this movie compared to Already Tomorrow In Hong Kong, which also has elements from your own personal journey?

The two movies are such different beasts, and both had totally different challenges. Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong was shot in very uncontrolled environments and situations (running around the streets of Hong Kong). We didn’t have any control of the weather, traffic, or the people on the streets. Every day was unpredictable. But it was a very simple movie in terms of coverage, because we just had two people walking and talking. We shot the film in 14 days and only worked 6 – 8 hours on most days. For Go Back to China, the locations were all very controlled, since we shot mostly in locations that my family owned, but it’s a much more complicated film in terms of coverage. This is a much bigger story, with a lot more characters and scenes. We just had so much more to shoot in order to get all the coverage we needed. We shot for 21 days and worked the maximum 12 hours every day. And this is also a much more personal film for me than the last one. This film is about my family and not just a random encounter. It felt more meaningful and the stakes higher.

On set with Lynn Chen and Anna Akana

7. Lastly, with the release of Crazy Rich Asians and The Farewell in the past couple of years, and the ongoing diversity/inclusion discussion, do you think the cinematic landscape has changed for Asian filmmakers? 

I definitely think that Crazy Rich Asians opened a lot of doors and the industry is more receptive to Asian American stories. At least now, they can’t use the excuse that Asian stories can’t attract an audience. I have been having a lot of general meetings with companies that are actively looking for Asian content or Asian filmmakers, and it’s certainly an encouraging trend. But at the end of the day, Crazy Rich Asians and The Farewell are still the rare anomaly and not the rule yet. However, I’m much more optimistic about the future than ever before.


Thank you for chatting with me, Emily!


TCFF screening times of Go Back To China:
Wednesday October 23rd 12:15 PM

2019 TWIN CITIES FILM FEST arrives this week! What to see Wednesday-Sunday

Hello FC readers, it’s Ruth here!

TWO MORE DAYS until TCFF arrives on Wednesday, and I’m so excited for this 11-day of great films, insightful educational events and awesome after-parties! Not only can film fans watch a variety of films, both studio fares and indies, we also get to learn from filmmakers and network with actors, directors, producers, etc.

CHECK OUT THE DAILY SCHEDULE!

So. Many. Great Films! These are what TCFF has in store this week from Wednesday, Oct. 16 – Sunday, Oct 20. I’ll post the daily schedule for next week sometime this weekend.

If you missed my last post on TCFF,  I talked about that there are more than 60 percent of 2019 program are driven by female filmmakers and a bunch of films about environmental responsibility, the fest’s social justice cause this year.

Now behold the DAILY SCHEDULE. If you still haven’t got your tickets yet, well, what are you waiting for??

Wednesday, October 16

It’s tradition that TCFF opens with a bang… and for its 10th anniversary, it does not disappoint!! Two very strong films opens the film fest, plus special guests coming to the WORKING MAN screening!

6:00p.m.:  JoJo Rabbit, Taika Waititi

 

8:30p.m.: Working Man, Robert Jury
Special guests: Talia Shire – Actor, Peter Gerety – Actor, Robert Jury – Director


Thursday, October 17       

12:45p.m.: When We Were Apollo, Zachary Weil

1:00p.m.: Chameleon, Marcus Mizelle

2:45p.m.: Well Groomed, Rebecca Stern

3:10p.m.: CRSHD, Emily Cohn

5:00p.m.: Shorts – In All The Wrong Places, Various Directors

One of the films is Master Servant, which I helped produced. Check out a clip from the film here.

5:15p.m.: Current Revolution, Roger Sorkin

7:00p.m.: The Aeronauts, Tom Harper

7:15p.m.: Max Bishop, Jack Beranek

9:25p.m.: Last Call, Gavin Michael Booth

9:35p.m.: Greener Grass,  Jocelyn DeBoer & Dawn Luebbe 


Friday, October 18

12:30p.m.: Juice: How Electricity Explains the World, Tyson Culver

12:45p.m.: Salvage, Amy C. Elliott

2:30p.m.: Raising Buchanan, Bruce Dellis

2:45p.m.: Killbird, Joe Zanetti

5:10p.m.: The Soviet Sleep Experiment, Barry Andersson

7:10p.m.: The Truth About Marriage, Roger Nygard

Special Guests: Roger Nygard – Director, Billy Sullivan – Producer, Composer

7:20p.m.: Inside the Rain, Aaron Fisher

9:30p.m.: Greywoods Plot, Josh Stifter

I featured Josh on the blog in January when he talked about The Good Exorcist, that he shot as part of the reality show for El Rey Network. Check out the trailer for his new movie:

9:40p.m.: Wade in the Water, Mark Wilson


Saturday, October 19

9:30a.m.: Youth Unstoppable, Slater Jewell-Kemker

9:45a.m.: Screenagers, Dr. Delaney Ruston

11:30a.m.: Like Harvey Like Son, Rudy Harris

11:45a.m.: Food Coop, Tom Boothe

2:00p.m.: Chameleon, Marcus Mizelle

2:15p.m.: What Lies West, Jessica Ellis

Special Guests: Jessica Ellis – Writer/Director, Sean Carroll – DP/Producer, Jennifer Milliman – Producer, Actors – Nicolette Ellis, Anna K. Peterson

4:15p.m.: Shorts – Age of Innocence, Various Directors

4:25p.m.: Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach

6:30p.m.: A Perfect 14, Giovanna Morales Vargas

7:25p.m.: International Falls, Amber McGinnis

Stay tuned for my interview with Amber!

9:10p.m.: The Field, Tate Bunker

9:45p.m.: Puppet Killer, Lisa Ovies


Sunday, October 20

10:00a.m.: Science Fair, Cristina Costantini & Darren Foster

10:10a.m.: Warrior Women, Elizabeth A. Castle & Christina D. King

12:00p.m.: The Wall of Mexico, Zachary Cotler & Magdalena Zyzak

12:20p.m.: 8 Seasons of Art, Phil McGraw

 

2:30p.m.: Go Back To China, Emily Ting

Stay tuned for my interview post with Emily. Her first film Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong is available on streaming, including Amazon Prime.

3:15p.m.: Oildale, David Mueller

5:00p.m.: Shorts – Documentaries, Various Directors

5:40p.m.: The Protectors, Ben Hughes

7:10p.m.: A Hidden Life, Terrence Malick

8:00p.m.: Into the Void, Wayne H. Johnson, Jr.


Stay tuned for the Daily Schedule for the rest of the film fest!

Download 2019 TCFF Schedule Grid


FREE EDUCATIONAL EVENTS!!

How many film festival offers FREE educational events!! Well TCFF does, and there are also a variety of fantastic panels featuring acclaimed filmmakers! Click on the image below to learn more about our educational offerings.

Here is one I’m looking forward to this week:

Sunday, October 20th 3-4pm:
SCRIPTWRITING MASTER CLASS Jeffrey Hatcher (Scriptwriter) The Good Liar, Casanova, The Duchess.


GET YOUR TICKETS!

To buy tickets, learn more about TCFF, events, or to donate, visit twincitiesfilmfest.org

Ticket prices are $13 for General Admission & $20 for Spotlight Films. Festival Passes can also be purchased as follows: Silver Pass – $55 (5 pack of non-Gala tickets); Gold Pass – $90 (10 pack of non-Gala tickets); Platinum Pass – $130 (12 pack of non-Gala tickets + 2 Gala tickets); Spotlight Pass – $100 (6 tickets to any Spotlight Film).

The passes are such an incredible deal!! Get it soon so you can order your tickets right away. Trust me, it’s SO worth it!!

PLUS… All tickets guarantee admission to that evening’s afterparty in the TCFF Lounge located onsite at The Shops at West End.

THANKS to Can Can Wonderland, our lounge is now TCFF Can Can WonderPark!! It’s designed to give festival goers a space to network, relax and discuss film, so come on down and join us during the fest!


Stay tuned for reviews/interviews with various filmmakers!

Three days away until #MSPIFF38 – Check out the MINNEAPOLIS ST. PAUL INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2019 lineup!

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival returns for its 38th year, presenting more than 250+ bold, exciting, and moving works from new and veteran filmmakers from around the globe.ar, presenting more than 250+ bold, exciting, and moving works from new and veteran filmmakers from around the globe. #MSPIFF38

OPENING NIGHT: ICÍAR BOLLAÍN’S YULI

Yuli is a dazzling dramatization of the early life and work of legendary Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta. Inspired by Acosta’s 2007 memoir No Way Home, which detailed his rise from the streets of Havana to the heights of classical ballet. The film was helmed by the distinguished Basque director Icíar Bollaín and adapted for the screen by her frequent collaborator Paul Laverty. The Opening Night Ticket includes the film screening, complimentary champagne and popcorn, and the after-party.

WOMEN + FILM INITIATIVE

The MSP Film Society also announces the expansion of their WOMEN & FILM INITIATIVE for the 38th Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival and the launch of a new Fiscal Sponsorship Program for local women filmmakers, which will charge a mere 1.9% fee, instead of the industry standard of 5- 10%.

“When we read that women accounted for only 1.9% of the directors of the 100 top-grossing US films in 2014, this statistic propelled us to find ways within our organization to begin to address this disparity and inequity,” says Susan Smoluchowski, Executive Director of the MSP Film Society. “In 2015, we developed and launched a major MSPIFF program entitled Women & Film to highlight the work of women filmmakers from around the globe. Every year since, a growing number of films directed by women and programs highlighting the work of women directors have been included in our annual MSPIFF line-up, and in 2019 we expand that commitment.”

The 38th MSPIFF will include 75+ films directed by women filmmakers spanning all programs, from the Opening Night film Yuli, directed by Spanish actress, director and screenwriter Icíar Bollaín, to the Nextwave program of shorts directed by aspiring teen filmmakers.

LUMINARY TRIBUTE to the ORIGINAL WOMAN IN FILM:
ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ – Saturday, April 13, 2019

The MSPIFF Luminaries Tribute will include a screening of the riveting documentary Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice GuyBlaché, directed by Pamela B. Green and narrated by Jodie Foster, followed by the MSPIFF Centerpiece Party at the A-Mill Artist Lofts to celebrate all the women filmmakers and special guests attending this year’s festival, including Ann Hornaday, Chief Film Critic from the Washington Post.

BROWSE THE FULL LINEUP

The 38th MSPIFF runs April 4 – 20, 2019 and showcases over 250 dynamic narrative films, engaging documentaries, and innovative shorts by both emerging and veteran filmmakers hailing from 70+ countries around the world.

WOMEN & FILM FEATURE TITLES

RAISE HELL: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins

Six feet of Texas trouble, Molly Ivins took on Good Old Boy corruption wherever she found it. Director Janice Engel charts her early days, from the Minneapolis Tribune, where Ivins was the first woman police reporter covering the turbulence of the late 60s, to joining the New York Times in the mid-70s, and freelancing everywhere from The Nation to TV Guide. Ivins served up her quality reportage with a heaping dollop of humor, and by the height of her popularity in the early 2000s, she was a best-selling author of seven books, and over 400 newspapers around the country carried her column. Raise Hell premiered last month at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. *DIRECTOR WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE!

PERSONAL STATEMENT

Director, Producer and Cinematographer Julie Dressner’s debut feature-length documentary follows three seniors from Brooklyn who are determined to get their entire class to college, even though they aren’t sure they are going to make it there themselves. They are working as peer counselors because many of their friends have nowhere else to turn for support. They struggle and they stumble, but refuse to succumb to the barriers that prevent so many low-income students from attending and graduating from college. Personal Statement premiered at the 2018 AFI Docs, where it was the Opening Night Film. *DIRECTOR WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE!

HUGH HEFNER’S AFTER DARK: Speaking Out in America

In the wake of both Hefner’s death and the #MeToo movement, Academy Award-winning Filmmaker Brigitte Berman returns to a familiar subject, Hugh Hefner, this time focusing on the Playboy icon’s brief but impactful television ventures. Penthouse and Playboy: After Dark were talk shows that aired in the late 50s and 60’s, respectfully, and featured numerous celebrity guests, musicians, public figures and more. Told through interviews and a collection of riveting archived footage, this documentary makes it clear how and why Hugh Hefner deserves a spot in television history. *DIRECTOR WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE!

CRYSTAL SWAN / Хрусталь

The year is 1996. Young Belarusian DJ Velya dreams of starting a new life in Chicago, the place that first inspired her love of music. Desperate to claim her own version of the American Dream, young Velya is instead stuck in farcical limbo. From Director Darya Zhuk, who previously directed the documentary Gogol Bordello NonStop, Crystal Swan is her first narrative feature film, and premiered at the 2018 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. *DIRECTOR WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE!

HAIL SATAN?

Director Penny Lane charts the meteoric rise and influence of The Satanic Temple, a religious group catapulted to the spotlight in 2015 after pleading for the removal of the Ten Commandments from the Oklahoma State Capitol in exchange for an 8-foot tall statue of occult deity Baphomet. Both controversial and widely misunderstood in the public consciousness. Lane follows members of the religion with an unbiased gaze as they tell the real story. Hail Satan? premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival.

AFTERWARD

An examination of the trauma shared between victims and victimizers alike, director and trauma expert Ofra Bloch serves as her own subject director as she visits to Germany, Israel and Palestine to confront her own demons in the wake of the recent surge of anti-Semitism. Afterward premiered at 2018 DOC NYC.

4 KATE NASH: Underestimate The Girl

Director Amy Goldstein’s unfiltered documentary follows English punk renegade-turned-TV wresting star Kate Nash through the tumultuous highs and lows in her life, alternating between explosive live performances and vulnerable moments of personal betrayal and insight. Kate Nash: Underestimate The Girl premiered at the 2018 Los Angeles Film Festival.

ANTHROPOCENE: The Human Epoch

Travelling across twenty countries and six continents, filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky explore and investigate the vast, undeniable and lasting human impact on the planet. Anthropocene premiered at 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, followed by Sundance and Berlin.

CORE OF THE WORLD / Serdtse Mira

Egor is a vet at a training facility for hunting dogs in a remote region of Russia, where he is surrounded by foxes, deer, and badgers. He cleans the kennels, oversees the workers, and meets with the clients and treats their dogs. Egor is willing to take on any job to get closer to the facility’s master, and his near and dear. He wants the impossible —to become a member of that family. Core of the World premiered at 2018 San Sebastian, followed by Toronto and Rotterdam International Film Festivals.

THE DAY I LOST MY SHADOW / Yom Adaatou Zouli

In the war torn Damascus countryside, a Syrian pharmacist named Sena is separated for her son. Forced to venture outside of town alongside to siblings, Sena navigates a landscape of brutality, loss and trauma. Working primarily with exiled Syrian cast and crew, first-time director Soudade Kaadan’s cinema vérité style is melded with touches of magic realism. The Day I Lost My Shadow premiered at the 2018 Venice Film Festival, where Kaadan received the Lion of the Future award.

FIG TREE

Ethiopian-Israeli writer-director Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian makes a startlingly confident feature debut with this story of 16-year old Mina, whose Jewish family is planning to flee war-torn Ethiopia for Israel. But this plan leaves out the person Mina loves most: Eli, her Christian boyfriend. Fig Tree premiered at the 2018 Haifa Film Festival, followed by Toronto International Film Festival.

GIRLS ALWAYS HAPPY / 柔情史

A hilarious and heartfelt telling of the relationship between mothers and daughters, Yang Mingming’s feature film debut follows duo Wu (played by Yang) and her mother (Nai An) as neurotic writers who are as rebellious as they are codependent. Girls Always Happy premiered at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival.

THE GOOD GIRLS / Las Niñas Bien

This stunning feature from director Alejandra Márquez Abella highlights the stark reality of Mexico’s financial crisis of 1982 through the eyes of a young couple, Fernando and his socialite wife Sofia (beautifully portrayed by Ilses Sala.) With the world now spinning on its head, they are forced to adjust to a life without wealth. Las Niñas Bien premiered at 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

THE LITTLE COMRADE / Seltsimees Laps

This poignant coming-of-age story shows the effect of the Stalinist terror visited on the Baltic countries in the 1950s from the point of view of a traumatized six-year-old Estonian girl, who sees her school principal mother arrested and taken away at gun-point. Based on autobiographical novels by Tungal, who is one of Estonia’s most beloved writers.

LOVE THEM FIRST: Lessons from Lucy Laney Elementary School

Principal Mauri Melander Friestleben grew up just blocks from the school she now leads, Lucy Laney Elementary School in North Minneapolis, which is facing the state’s harshest penalty for failure in a state where the achievement gap between black and white students is the largest in the nation. By building a culture of unconditional love and high expectations, test scores rise for the first time in two decades. World Premiere.

NOTE: My personal friend and composer of my short film Hearts Want, Charlie McCarron, is one of the two composers working on this film!

MUG / TWARZ

Carefree metalhead Jacek is engaged to beautiful Dagmara and working construction on what is supposed to be the world’s tallest statue of Jesus when a shocking accident completely changes his life. This tragi-comedy offers a powerful indictment of provincial Poland’s hypocrisy, prejudice and fear of difference, as a young man’s face transplant brings out the worst in his small town neighbors. Mug premiered at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival.

THE SHARKS

Director Lucía Garibaldi’s film features the unusual conceit of a rumor of actual sharks storming the beach where a pair of young lovers also happen to be taking their first measured steps towards a lasting romance. Unfazed, Rosina pursues Joselo as a self-aware heroine of her own hopes and agency. The Sharks premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

THE SILENCE OF OTHERS / El Silencio de Otros

Filmed over six years, Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar’s gripping documentary explores the aftermath of General Franco’s 40-year dictatorship of Spain through a group of citizens whose parents were disappeared, whose newborn children were taken, or who were imprisoned and tortured by the regime, as they pursue the groundbreaking ‘Argentine Lawsuit’ against the Spanish government. The Silence of Others premiered at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival.

SOFIA

Honor and social appearance prove more important than the truth in this caustic look at contemporary Moroccan society, where it is still a crime for a woman to give birth out of wedlock. Faced with this dilemma, the title character, a 20-year-old from a middle-class family, has little choice. Sofia premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

THE THIRD WIFE

In 19th century Vietnam, 14-year old May has been married off to a rich landowner, becoming his third wife. Her husband is kind to her, so long as May produces the male heir she is all but expected to. But when May witnesses a taboo affair happening behind closed doors, the discovery spurs a flood of new emotions that she never knew existed. The Third Wife premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG / Tarde Para Morir Joven

Chilean director Dominga Sotomayor Castillo third feature-film is a dynamic tale of adolescence set in a rustic community of artists. It’s almost New Year’s Eve and Sofía, Lucas and Clara are navigating the complicated road of growing up, a road littered with first loves, dysfunction and all-too adult stakes. Too Late to Die Young premiered at the 2018 Locarno International Film Festival.

VISION

From auteur Naomi Kawase, whose work spans over three decades and includes numerous award-winning and nominated documentaries and narrative features, Vision tells the story of Jeanne (celebrated French actress Juiliette Binoche) as a travel writer in search of a healing herb who is joined on her journey by a young translator and a local skeptic. Vision premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

WORKING WOMAN / Isha Ovedet

This riveting drama about workplace sexual harassment centers on a young Israeli mother of three whose successes on the job are accompanied by increasingly overt advances by her boss, a luxury real estate developer not used to hearing the word “no.” Director-writer Michal Aviad is widely acclaimed for her portraits of Israeli society seen through the prism of gender. Working Woman premiered at the 2018 Jerusalem Film Festival, followed by the Toronto International Film Festival.


7 MORE FILMS I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE

These films are made by female filmmakers or featuring strong female protagonists, which are in keeping with WOMEN & FILM INITIATIVE. But then again, I’ve always been a huge of supporter of #womeninfilm since I started this blog more than a decade ago!

Go Back To China – Emily Ting

Actor, filmmaker and Youtube sensation Anna Akana stars in this hilarious dramedy about wealth, heritage and overdue adulthood. After burning through her trust fund, Sasha Li (Akana) is commanded by her father (Richard Ng) to “go back” to China, where she will be forced to work at her family’s toy company. While the order seems like a devastating sentence at first, Sasha gradually takes steps beyond the self-serving life she’d known and grown accustomed to while living large in Los Angeles. Blending coming-of-age themes with family drama, Ting’s film sees Sasha reconnect with both her cultural heritage and her family, which includes her half-sister (Lynn Chen) and mother (Kelly Hu).

I love Emily’s first film Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, one of my favorites from Twin Cities Film Fest 2015. This film debuted at SXSW so I’m thrilled that it’s playing here at MSPIFF!

Red Joan – Trevor Nunn

Widely named as the “most important female agent ever recruited by the USSR” the story of Melitta Norwood (known in the film as Joan Stanley) is infamous. Here, Academy Award-winner Judi Dench brings history to life alongside famed theater and film director Trevor Nunn. Together, Dench and Nunn masterfully illustrate the life and career of “Red Joan”, including the various hardships and dangers she faced during her time of service. Dench plays Joan in the year 2000, where she is met with a danger she’s never faced before–a charge of treason. After the death of one of her former colleagues brings to light her work as a spy decades prior, Joan is forced to tell her side of the story. We are then transported to Cambridge shortly before the war, where a young Joan (Sophie Cookson) is about to take her first steps into the world of espionage.

Dame Judi as a former spy? YES PLEASE!! As a huge fan of the British thespian and a lover of the spy genre, this is a movie NOT to be missed!

NON-FICTION – Olivier Assayas

A literary editor is propelled into the future by changing industry demands and one particularly determined new employee. The editor in question, Alain (Guillaume Canet), is about to reject the latest from his longtime client, Léonard (Vincent Macaigne), due to its overweight narrative–to be frank–it’s a story he’s heard before. Pulling from the internet to pad his experiences, Léonard’s writing methods have not only bored Alain, but confused him. Alain’s wife, Selena (Juliette Binoche), is a famed television actress who is more accustomed, than her husband, to the modern age, and is also in the midst of a casual affair with Léonard. When Laure (Christa Théret) is hired by Alain’s publishing company to help propel them into a new age of modernity, the older characters find themselves in her orbit, which only complicates their relationships.

It’s tradition that I see a Juliette Binoche film nearly every year at MSPIFF. She always have something intriguing to watch, and I like two of Olivier Assayas films so far, so yeah I’m up to see this one!

OPHELIA – Claire McCarthy

A vivid retelling of Shakespeare’s classic drama, Hamlet, from the perspective of Ophelia, Claire McCarthy’s breathtaking drama stars Daisy Ridley (Star Wars) as the titular protagonist in a film that reinvisions the doomed young woman as the heroine of this tragic tale of love, loss and prophecy. Packed with a powerhouse cast that includes Naomi Watts, Clive Owen and George McKay, Ridley’s Ophelia is caught in a web of royal machinations and dark prophecies, all of which threaten the blossoming love between herself and McKay’s Prince Hamlet.

Not sure why there isn’t a trailer yet since this film premiered at Sundance last year, but The Hollywood Reporter called this a “…vigorous, colorful and clever melodrama smartly rethinks both the play and the character, making her a far more proactive figure than Shakespeare did in addition to entirely re-imagining her fate.”  I quite like re-imaginings of classic tales and this cast is pretty awesome.

Claire Darling – Julie Bertuccelli

Director Julie Bertuccelli’s spirited adaptation of Lynda Rutledge’s novel brings mother/daughter duo, Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni (Deneuve’s own daughter), to the big screen. On a gorgeous summer day in the village of Verderonne, Claire Darling (Deneuve) makes a decision. She places various items from her spacious estate out on her front lawn for the garage sale of a lifetime, with no spoken reason other than the sunny weather. This prompts her neighbors to swarm her property, barreling over each other to swoop up the lavish items Claire has marked for sale at suspiciously low prices. As her neighbors shop, the reason for Claire’s abrupt change in lifestyle comes into view–she has decided to die. After alternating between Claire’s memories of love, loss, and an altogether eccentric life, the film takes another turn when Claire finds a long-lost face at her door, one that she has not seen in over 20 years; her daughter, Mary.

I enjoy French films (just listening to them speak is delightful). I haven’t seen Deneuve in ages, and I love Laure Calamy in Call My Agent! series, too!

This Changes Everything – Tom Donahue

Building upon the long-overdue Me Too movement and revelations of the rampant sexism in Hollywood, This Changes Everything continues the movements mission by breaking down and exposing the true depth of Hollywood corruption. Tackling the central, often unspoken, injustices that have plagued the industry for over a century, this documentary doesn’t leave anything under the table. Sexism, the unequal and often distorted representation of women in film, both in front of and behind the screen, and the big question of “what now?” serve as the the film’s main themes. While there is an understandable amount of anger associated with the Me Too movement and its cause, the film isn’t marred by conjecture–instead, it presents the factual and well-documented examples of corruption in film in order to inspire a brighter future.

This sounds like a well-balanced documentary about a timely topic that any female filmmakers and their allies should watch. I’m also curious as to find out more about ‘what now?’ now that this movement has been evolved since 2017 when sexual-abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein were first widely reported.

Stalag Luft III – One Man’s Story – Louise Woehrle

Stalag Luft III – One Man’s Story is told by WWII U.S. Eighth Air Force Bombardier Lt. Charles Woehrle, one of 10,000 prisoners in the German prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III, depicted in the iconic film “”The Great Escape.”” At age 93, this remarkable man and gifted storyteller takes us from Pine City, Minnesota to war-torn Europe as he relives his experiences with vivid detail that include his B-17 getting shot down, capture by the Nazis, an unexpected parcel from Geneva, and surviving two long years of uncertainty and tremendous hardship as a prisoner of war.

I LOVE World War II films and this documentary is billed as ‘A saga filled with grit and grace’ AND it has a Minnesota connection! Apparently the filmmaker Louise Woehrle is the niece of Charles Woehrle himself, one of the countless heroes from the Greatest Generation who has much to teach us about war and about life.


The Film Society programming screens at the St. Anthony Main Theatre 115 SE Main Street, Minneapolis, MN 55414 Film Society

Tickets: $15.00 General Admission | $11.00 Film Society Members | $8.00 Students

*special ticket pricing may apply for special presentations and other events

MSPIFF is presented by the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul, a dynamic 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to fostering a knowledgeable and vibrant appreciation of the art of film and its power to inform and transform individuals and communities.

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My Minnesota friends, I hope to see you at MSPIFF this year! As for the rest of you, which of these film(s) are you looking forward to seeing?