Springtime in a Midwestern City

The 23rd edition of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival describes itself as “the largest film festival in the upper Midwest,” presenting more than 150 films from more than 50 countries during its run from April 1-16.

Despite that region’s reputation for white-bread flavors and exclusively Caucasian content (based on “The Mary Tyler Moore” TV show in the 1970s and FARGO more recently), the festival has a wonderful record of screening Asian films. Last year they debuted one of my favorites, PIRATED COPY from Mainland China, and this year several titles stand out (all notes courtesy of the festival).

Min - Image courtesy of M-SPLIFFMIN (Malaysia; d. Ho Yuhang) U.S. Premiere
“Min, a 20 something Chinese schoolteacher adopted by a Malay family when she was a little girl, finds herself at an impasse and decides to go look for her birth parents. She enlists an old school friend to help track down her birth mother. … Along with Amir Muhammad (The Big Durian, in the Non-Fiction Feature section of this year’s fest), and James Lee, Ho Yuhang leads the charge in reinventing a new wave of Malaysian independent cinema. Stylistically minimalist and oblique, Min is one of the harbingers of what promises to be an innovative filmmaking culture.”

The Soup, One Morning - Image courtesy of M-SPLIFFTHE SOUP, ONE MORNING (Japan; d. Izumi Takahashi) U.S. Premiere
“A simple story of an ordinary couple’s failing relationship, this intimate no-budget DV feature exposes a complicated tangle of truths of our modern era. … TAKAHASHI’s debut feature is a visceral portrait of an era in which panic and anxiety disorders are ubiquitous–an era riddled with medication, self-obsession, and hyper-analysis in which our own banality is a luxury.”

Splendid Float - Image courtesy of M-SPIFFSPLENDID FLOAT (Taiwan; d. Zero Chou) U.S. Premiere
“Rose/Roy alternates his time between his life as a drag queen that travels around with a troupe that takes the place of his family and his ‘real’ life as a Taoist priest. … CHOU’s rumination on what it means to belong is a moving character study given heart by a pitch-perfect performance by James CHEN.”

At least half a dozen documentaries from Asian filmmakers dot the non-fiction category:

15 (Singapore; d. Roystan Tan)
AND THEREAFTER (US/South Korea; d. Hosup Lee)
THE BIG DURIAN (Malaysia; d. Amir Muhammad)
IDENTITIES IN TRANSLATION (Vietnam/Israel/US; d. Vu Tran, Joanna Kohler)
THE SHAPE OF THE MOON (Indonesia; d. Leonard Retel Helmrich)
YANG BAN XI-THE 8 MODELWORKS (China/Netherlands; d. Yang Ting Yuen)

Most of the other Asian films have played elsewhere, generally to acclaim, but it looks like the festival has chosen well:

3-IRON (South Korea; d. Kim Ki-Duk) Will see limited release from Sony Pictures Classics beginning April 29
ABOUT LOVE (Japan/Taiwan/China; d. Ten Shimoyama, Yee Chih-yen, Zhang Yibai) U.S. Premiere; co-director Yee made BLUE GATE CROSSING and Zhang made SPRING SUBWAY, both excellent features
CRYING LADIES (Philippines; d. Mark Meily) Read review
THE FLOATING LANDSCAPE (Hong Kong; d. Caroline Lai) From the director of GLASS TEARS
KUNG FU HUSTLE (Hong Kong; d. Stephen Chow) Will see limited release from Sony Pictures Classics beginning April 8 before expanding April 22
MC DULL, PRINCE DE LA BUN (Hong Kong; d. Toe Yuen) Animated; from the director of MY LIFE AS MCDULL
ONE NIGHT HUSBAND (Thailand; d. Pimpaka Towira) Festival favorite
OSEAM (South Korea; d. Seong Baek-yeong) Animated
THE TASTE OF TEA (Japan; d. Katsuhito Ishii) From the director of SHARK SKIN MAN AND PEACH HIP GIRL
THE WORLD (China; d. Jia Zhang-ke) From the director of UNKNOWN PLEASURES and PLATFORM

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