As previously mentioned, Shanghai’s 11th annual International Film Festival kicked off this weekend (albeit not too smoothly) with an eclectic mix of movies showing all day and night at its 23 theaters. In a place like China that receives so small a selection of international features, this is an incredible opportunity to see works you otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to catch in a theater. We only made it to two screenings, but both were well attended and received by diverse international audiences. Below are brief descriptions of what we saw and we encourage readers to add any films that they would recommend seeing in the remaining week of screenings.
Mongol, dir. Sergei Bodrov, Kazakhstan.
This movie is a loose retelling of the early years of Temudjin (a.k.a. Genghis Khan), focusing particularly on his relationships with wife Borte and blood brother Jamukha. It’s your typical Mongol warlord meets girl story, where we learn what we probably knew all along: love yurts. Despite being a half hour too long and containing some incongruous supernatural moments, the film succeeds as a whole through its breathtaking aesthetics and thoughtful treatment of its subject. The director is also wise enough to satisfy those viewers looking for some good old-fashioned epic Mongol battle sequences. Remaining show times and a detailed description can be found here.
The Girl by the Lake, dir. Andrea Molaioli, Italy.
‘The Girl by the Lake’ is a remarkable film about the murder of a well-liked girl in a small northern Italian Alpine town where a complex network of relationships makes everyone a suspect. Though initially the film superficially resembles ‘Twin Peaks,’ director Andrea Molaioli does a remarkable job of weaving complex and often intersecting threads into a cohesive and haunting narrative exploring the concepts of loss, guilt, and compassion. Also noteworthy are the minimalist and often jarring soundtrack as well as a standout performance by Toni Servillo as the investigating detective Giovanni Sanzio. Remaining show times and a detailed description can be found here.