By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly
The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), running from May 15 through June 8, always brings fascinating Asian films to our town, many of them not available for viewing elsewhere. Here are three preview picks for the following week at SIFF.
“Patema Inverted,” which plays May 28 and May 30, is the only Japanese anime film in the festival, which is a bit odd considering the festival’s support of anime in the past. It’s the feature film debut of director Yasuhiro Yoshiura, and it began life as an ONA (Original Net Animation), broadcast over the Internet.
The anime tells the story of Patema (voiced by Yukiyo Fujii in Japanese, Cassandra Lee Morris in English), a princess who presides over a subterranean kingdom composed of tunnels through Earth. She is a fair and wise princess, but she also has a wild streak, constantly venturing past the “safety zone,” much to the chagrin of her elders.
One day, while exploring off-limits, Patema “falls” through a passage and finds herself on the surface of the planet. She also discovers, much to her peril, that gravity is reversed on the surface, and she almost falls away into the sky, but is rescued by a boy named Eiji (voiced by Nobuhiko Okamoto and Michael Sinterniklaas).
The two form a most unlikely friendship, as Patema needs to find her way back to her own people, and Eiji tries to protect her.
Also from Japan, but about as far removed from “Patema Inverted” in style and story as you can get, is “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” showing on May 24 and May 26.
The director, Sion Sono, has a long-running career as a director, screenwriter, and occasional actor, since his first feature film, “Bicycle Sighs,” which he shot on 16mm film in 1990.
A constant, though distinctive and lyrical, critic of Japan’s perfectionist ways, Sono’s stories often feature misfits, underachievers, criminals, and various aspects of the counterculture.
Several of these aspects appear in “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” The plot concerns a filmmaking/performance art crew with the lively name of the F*uck Bombers, who stir up mayhem on public streets and film the results.
It’s all designed for art, thrills, and giving the establishment a kick in the pants, but the Bombers eventually decide to commit a “happening” on the same street where two Yakuza gangs happen to be duking it out.
This makes the Bombers witnesses, with criminal evidence on their cameras. Trouble soon follows…
“Liar’s Dice,” an Indian film directed by Geetu Mohandas, plays on May 26, June 3, and June 5.
This is Ms. Mohandas’ first feature film as a director, although she has a long career as an actor going back to 1986, when she was just 5 years old. The title relates to a dice game popular throughout the world, where the player can see his or her own dice, but not the dice held by other players.
The film centers on a small village where a woman, Kamala (played by Geetanjali Thapa), hasn’t heard from her husband, who’s gone to Delhi for work. She goes in search of him, taking her small daughter, Manya (Manya Gupta), who, in turn, insists on taking her pet goat.
The mother, daughter, and goat meet up with a soldier, Nawazuddin (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who’s gone AWOL and promises to help the little family. But he may not be what he seems, and complications lie in wait on the long road to the big cities. (end)
The Seattle International Film Festival runs through June 8. For more details, show times, and venues, visit http://www.siff.net/festival-2014.
Andrew Hamlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.