Festival du Nouveau Cinema Wrap-up: Triple Feature

I don’t usually do double features for any movies that I see at Festivals, let alone triple features, however after having a hard time really fleshing out my thoughts and the festival already behind us almost 2 weeks, I decided that these three films that I saw at Festival du Nouveau Cinema actually is a great fit together as it looks at teens and friendships and coming of age in one way or another. All of them have a snippet of the lives of these characters in all three stories.

Sticks and Stones (2018)

Brakland Sticks and Stones

Director: Martin Skovbjerg

Cast: Jonas Bjerril, Vilmer Trier Brogger, Natalia Reyes, Patricia Schumann, Emma Sehested Hoeg, Benjamin Kitter, Laufey Eliasdottir

Simon arrives in Vesterby from Copenhagen. He is an outsider in a brand new place and alone until he meets Bjarke – Vesterby’s alpha male and heir to the local speaker factory. The two start challenging each other in intimate and transgressive actions as they forge a friendship. But when embezzlement forces Vesterby’s speaker factory to close, the town is bereaved of its livelihood, and Bjarke’s family is blamed. The anger thrust upon him by the locals triggers the beast in Bjarke, and Simon is faced with either having to turn away or save his friend from self-destruction. – IMDB

Its hard to put into words why I felt that Sticks and Stones is a really great film. In fact, I had such a blast being captivated by this friendship that started quite abruptly through being paired up for a project. Comparing everyday lives of grown-ups and the people around them to apes. At the same time, boys will be boys and these two definitely had their share of shenanigans as they go from a creative angle to going overboard in their video project. At the same time, reflecting possibly their feelings and contained emotions in their personal life. The two characters draw a parallel to what is going on in their lives and explains why their friendship works but it also highlights the differences in some friends cross our lives for a moment but can’t stay because of whatever reason and in this case, its a toxicity. Everyone sees it but themselves and you choose to put them behind or wait for them to constantly hurt you. Everyone has gone through friends like this, and its probably because of that, it resounds to me.

In the end, Sticks and Stones was able to channel some very intense feelings in whichever endeavors they were portraying. There is a lot of thought in using their documentary style filming for class and meshing it with the traditional filming as we watched the film unfold. There’s a lot of youth experiences and emotions especially with teens that go through sudden loss and other hard times. The acting is raw and it has to go to these young main actors, Jonas Bjerril and Vilmer Trier Brogger. There are situations of being a newcomer, being an alpha male, young love, family issues and so many conflicting issues that take these two for such a ride and in the end, one of  them needs to make a decision. Let me tell you, this film was a subtle hit for me. I didn’t really think I connected with these two so much as some of the things were over the top but in the final scenes, there was so much there that did hit me really hard emotionally.

Tourism (2018)


Director (and writer): Daisuke Miyazaki

Cast: Nina Endo, Sumire

Fun fact is that after I saw this movie, I have talked and tried to summarize this film to at least two other people and it turns out sounding so basic that it doesn’t quite seem to work as a movie.

During the opening message to the audience, Daisuke Miyazaki hoped that his film will make the viewers want to go on a trip or an adventure (I can’t remember the exact word). Tourism falls into this fun like day adventure. Just like how we see Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is very fun to watch, Tourism sees Nina, one of the girls on this trip to Singapore who loses her friend and her cellphone and ends up wandering around the city and meeting interesting characters but also being immersed in the culture and everyday lives. The way Miyazaki brings to life the characters is to take some time in the beginning to highlight these roommates and how the trip came out.


One of the best moments which hooked me in completely was how they chose their destination. There’s a joy in travelling with a companion (that you get along with) and seeing the landmarks but also another one when you wander the city alone and see the beauty and detail of the culture. That is the power of travelling and the adventure of communicating and meeting new people and learning more about the world around us. Sure, the story doesn’t sound like its anything intriguing but sometimes with all the technology and everything available at our fingertips, we forget the rush of beauty of the simple things in life. The hours Nina spends searching to get back to her friend or the hotel is not only a message about our reliance on technology but also the most entertaining parts of the film.

The premise might be simple but sometimes its in the simple joys that do pack in a lot of genuine feelings. This one is a pleasant surprise.

Firecrackers (2018)


Director (and writer): Jasmin Mozaffari

Cast: Michaela Kurimsky, Karena Evans, Callum Thompson, David Kingston, Tamara Leclaire, Scott Cleland, Dylan Mask

Lou and her best friend Chantal plan to get out of their isolated, run-down town and move to a city far, far away. When Chantal’s unstable and possessive ex violates her during a night of partying, the girls decide to exact their revenge on him through a night of vandalism and debauchery. The consequences of their actions are devastating, threatening the girls’ chances of ever leaving. The more Lou fights tooth-and-nail to save her friendship and hold onto her dreams, the more she spins out of control as she begins to realize that freedom will come at a high cost. – IMDB

I still remember the reason why I added this movie into my viewings despite its late hour and knowing that I had to run home in a hurry to catch the last bus home as it was compared to Fish Tank which is one of the movies that I like a lot. To be honest, there are some parallels to the film but in some ways, this one is a different movie. In fact, if you took something like Sticks and Stones and used it in a friendship between girls, you might arrive at this one. However, this one is about two best friends who want to leave behind their messed up lives in this small town. What turns out to be a perfect plan ends up having these bad turn of events. Lou is the main character here and we follow a lot of her character development with each road block that occurs and we see this coming of age development as she sees clearer the consequences of what she is leaving behind as well as the tough decisions between her friendship and also the teen angst as well as the sudden aggression or lack of thought in her actions.

Firecrackers takes on this snippet of Lou and Chantal’s life and their friendship in a genuine and raw way. It never feels over dramatic and honestly, makes us truly feel for these two girls on screen. It can remind us of the hurdles of growing up and wanting more and fighting for everything you can to make things better. There are bad decisions and bad life choices but its all part of growing up and these girls have it particularly hard but at least, they have their friendship.

This wraps up this triple feature and the Festival du Nouveau Cinema’s last three films I saw.
In some ways, this was the best way to talk about them as there isn’t much to say but rather its a movie experience.
There’s a lot to love about these films for both their similarities and their differences as it embraces this true and genuine snippet in each of these stories. 


Festival du Nouveau Cinema: Socrates (2018)

Socrates (2018)


Director (and co-writer): Alex Moratto

Cast: Christian Malheiros, Tales Ordakji, Caio Martinez Pacheco, Rosane Paulo, Jayme Rodrigues

After his mother’s sudden death, Socrates, a 15-year-old living on the margins of São Paulo’s coast, must survive on his own while coming to terms with his grief. – IMDB

During the Q&A session afterwards, director Alex Moratto talked about this movie as being a movie personal to him in memory of his mother. At the same time, he also talked about the partnership with Unicef Brazil to get this project to represent the youths in the Sao Paulo and surrounding areas while also having the camerawork and cast done through 16 to 20 year olds in the community in their program. Both are honorable reasons for this project to come to life. As with many of these types of passion projects, there is always an uncertainty to how they deliver. Socrates delivers really well.

Its hard to pinpoint how it delivers well because it feels like an journey for the main character Socrates as he embraces the different sides of him and his life as he deals with his grief for the loss of his mother which is literally the first scene of the film. Talk about casting a gloomy cloud over the audience. To be honest, as poignant as each of the unfortunate events that Socrates goes through they never quite feel like it pieces together in the plot of coming to terms with his grief at times. Everyone has a different journey in how they deal with grief however, Socrates definitely does take us for a ride through his troubles and everything that seems to go wrong all at the time especially the amplified feeling after his tragic loss.

A lot of the credit here goes to the actors here especially Christian Malheiros who delivers an outstanding role as Socrates. There is a quiet yet raw feeling to his performance that truly helps in here. The second aspect very awesome are how the camera moves and how it focuses as well as choosing when to blur and focus the scenes as well as capturing the location of where this is set. There is such a beautiful attention to how each shot accentuates each moment but how it is approached.

Overall, Socrates is a poignant journey which has its main theme somewhat get lost in the events that happens. However, its filming style and the raw performance by young actor Christian Malheiros definitely makes this one well worth a watch.

Festival du Nouveau Cinema: The Guilty (2018)

The Guilty (2018)

The Guilty

Director (and co-screenplay): Gustav Moller

Cast: Jakob Cedergren, Jessica Dinnage, Omar Shargawi, Johan Olsen, Jacob Lohmann, Katinka Evers-Jahnsen, Jeanette Linkbaek

A police officer assigned alarm dispatch duty enters a race against time when he answers an emergency call from a kidnapped woman. – IMDB

Suffice to say that I know nothing about Danish films. The Guilty is a one location thriller which sets an emergency office dispatch who picks up a call at the end of his shift from an abducted woman. Right away, we can think about movies like The Call (review) but while the concept of it is similar, The Guilty stays true to its one location. Other than a few random conversations with his colleagues in the same office, the bulk of the film is through different phone conversations. Its also pretty much a one man show and a rather thrilling one at that.

The Guilty

One location is just a set up and because of it, it creates the mystery of the unknown. Who is on the other line? Are they trustworthy? What is happening on the other side of the screen? Being a thriller, it also adds the expected desire to decipher the twist as we grab on to as many details in the conversation and the nature of the conversation and the character reactions through the dialogue. A convincing voice cast and a compelling main character is essential along with a captivating dialogue and pacing of the events and reveals to create a hook. Luckily, The Guilty achieves that almost completely. It drops reveals and hints and at the same time, the abducted woman is a vessel to somehow understand our main character better as we see that he has some secrets of his own that he is trying to come to terms with. All these elements gives him depth and development. Just as the abducted woman also has another level of depth to be discovered and where do these stories compare.

The Guilty

With that said, Jakob Cedergren is fantastic in this. We see closeups and how he emotes. His feeling and emotions despite having no dialogue. There is so much strength and conviction to his performance that we believe in the urgency of the situation and the logic behind his actions. At the same time, we can’t neglect the voice work from Jessica Dinnage who voices Liben, the abducted woman as well as the the myriad of characters, especially the young Mathilde, voiced by Katinka Evers-Jahnsen.

Good thrillers are hard to come by. By staying to the one location and having a strong main cast and compelling character arcs and gripping dialogue, The Guilty does a lot of things right. Its not complicated and the twist might be slightly expected but buying into the characters makes all the difference here.

Festival du Nouveau Cinema: Mirai (2018)

Mirai (2018)


Director (and writer): Mamoru Hosoda

Voice cast: Moka Kamishiraishi, Haru Kuroki, Gen Hoshino, Koji Yakusho, Kumiko Aso, Mitsuo Yoshihara, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Masaharu Fukuyama

A young boy encounters a magical garden which enables him to travel through time and meet his relatives from different eras, with guidance by his younger sister from the future. – IMDB

Every festival I like to add in an animated film in the middle. Call it the desire to cut through the depth in a lot of indie films or just to have a fun little family friendly experience. Mirai was my pick for this festival. I don’t watch a lot of Japanese animation outside of festivals (except for rewatching classic Studio Ghibli films). Mirai is a cute and funny one. Its charm is in its story which talks about a little boy and his inner conflict of accepting his little sister’s birth and how her existence suddenly means sharing his parents’ attention and patience and love. However, it is wrapped up in a cute adventure that values siblings and family as a whole as he finds his way through imaginative sequences from different past family members that helps him understand how to be a big brother.

The imagination here is grounded in a magical world because it reflects the idea of a family tree and how its roots affects how Kun is now. As we dive into the stories of the other members of his family, there is a reality to his little trips like past characters or younger or older selves taking him for a trip like the ghosts in A Christmas Carol. It reflect directly to the challenges and each of these bring us closer to his meeting with the future Mirai who strives for his acceptance as well to prove that she is worthy of their sibling love and the importance of it all while also teaching him a lesson on being understanding of his parents as well. And the scenes of parents and their pressures set in some scenes filled with familiar parental turmoil.

For the execution and colorful appearance and cute and funny ideas packed with a little drama and positivity, Mirai is a fun movie experience for both adults and kids. It has an imaginative and magical aspect that reflects into an familiar reality for both parents and kids and siblings.

Festival du Nouveau Cinema: La Version Nouvelle (World Premiere 2018)

La Version Nouvelle (2018)

la version nouvelle

Director (and writer): Michael Yaroshevsky

Cast: Sophie Desmarais

A woman spends her days editing the film of an absent lover. – IMDB

Festival du Nouveau Cinema described this one as experimental and that is definitely the word that I would describe it as. The movie is obscure but there are bits that somewhat abstractly make sense. The story focuses around a girl played by our sole actress Sophie Desmarais as she edits a montage with things that her past or absent lover has left behind. Why is this person missing? No idea. Maybe its for travelling because of where the images come from. But its not important because the movie revolves around an undefined abstract Russian word and I suppose how her current state in life reflects it: solitude, loneliness, thought provoking.

la version nouvelle

La Version Nouvelle is extremely slow paced and voiced with interview montages and our actress only has voice over images and videos from travelogues. Cryptic and well meant to be deep and thought provoking. I saw this in a respectful way. I was confused on what it was trying to achieve but after a few days of reflecting and considering what the Q&A session from the director, I feel like a somewhat knoe what it was meant to do. The issue here is its abstract nature and its pacing and nothing really feels like it happens as we observe this girl.

While the story and the message could be executed better, there are qualities here. Maybe not enough yo redeem it as a whole but the framing of each shot is incredible with its depth as we watch this girl move around the house. Sometimes its at a distance and others she is off frame doing something else and oddly it works well. The travelogue images and snippets are also really beautifully done. While most of the time, I failed to have the depth that the girl feels towards it, they were visually stunning. At the same time, there was a lot of thought and detail in the sound design on the scenes and behind the snippets and images that elevated the scenes from the montage.

La Version Nouvelle

La Version Nouvelle is a hard one to talk about. On a technical level, its filmed really nicely but the movie is paced so slow and so abstract that it feels like everything is lost and might need to be paired with an ending Q&A to make sense of it all. Even then, my takeaway is the ambitious desire for the director to interpret a Russian word with such a uncertain definition is what makes it even harder to understand. If it means something different for everyone, the audience will be left feeling the same way and hence, I can only call this experimental. I am not at the level of deep thinking like the director so I don’t want to say its a bad film because its done well but there was a lack of enjoyment in its pacing and disjointed and emptiness for myself.

Festival du Nouveau Cinema: Burning (2018)

Burning (2018)


Director (& screenplay): Chang-dong Lee

Cast: Ah-In Yoo, Steven Yeun, Jong-seo Jeon

Eight years after Poetry, Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-Dong adapts Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s novel on the coded twists and turns of a love triangle. After a chance encounter with Haemi, a former girlfriend, Jongsu, a young courier, agrees to feed her cat while she goes to Africa. To Jongsu’s chagrin, she returns in the company of a mysterious, rich stranger, Ben. A powerful social message and bewitching lyricism lies behind this patient but fascinating thriller. It is an odyssey to the heart of uncertainty and it will haunt you long after the credits have rolled. – Festival du Nouveau Cinema

First of all, lets clear the air that I have never read or heard of the source material that Burning is adapted from so there is no comparison to be made. What I offer is the film experience as a whole.

With that said, Burning is an intriguing story to say the least. Albeit, a slow paced, slow burning sort of film experience. The idea here is a really good one from its first act of our main character, Jongsu meeting again his high school friend, Haemi who he develops feelings for and ends up agreeing to feed her cat while she goes to a dream vacation to Africa. At the same time, he has a change in his life as he goes to take care of his father’s property and we slowly learn why as his back story unfolds bit by bit as well. Things change in the second act upon Haemi’s return with a new friend, Ben, an offputting yet social and rich young man. There are so many awkward and comedic moments that show off each of these characters. It also helps that the movie was generally in three or four acts. From meeting Haemi to Jongsu waiting for her to get back to their time spent with Ben and then Jongsu’s search.

Ah-In Yoo plays the young courrier Jongsu who seems very much like a wallflower. He doesn’t have a direction and follows around Haemi and easily follows others in what they do and doesn’t make a first move while he does find joy in some of the little things. He is a quiet and introvert character that we see have a decent amount of development throughout the film. On the other hand, Haemi is an odd ray of sunshine. She is expressive and very much an open book even in her weird obsession with her search for the hunger of the meaning of life and such. Which leads us to our final character and a familiar face, Ben played by Steve Yeun who I have never seen speak Korean let alone expect to be in a Korean film. His character is mysterious but its almost too obvious that he has something more because of just how he answers all questions vaguely. But there is a very great moment of reveal when things link together and that is what I liked about it.

Mysterious phone calls, missing crush and dark secrets are the basis of Burning. Its a character study set in the midst of a thriller. At some point, it gets a little blurry in the second half as the movie drags on for longer than it feels necessary. It feels like a tighter execution might have rendered it more fun to watch. That really is the one complaint I have of this film. The cast themselves do a fantastic job and the director takes great care in framing the shots and the details with lighting and atmosphere. All things I like to watch and see in films.

Festival du Nouveau Cinema: Ash is Purest White (2018)

The 47th Annual Festival du Nouveau Cinema has started in Montreal and will be around until October 14th. I’m not sure why I’ve never thought about joining into this one before but this year had specifically this film that I wanted to see so I took a look at the other movies and ended up joining in the fun.

Ash is Purest White has been making its festival route and maybe theatrical screenings in China. The word about it is almost all positive which has me incredibly excited and one of my top picks for this year’s Festival du Nouveau Festival.

Ash is Purest White (2018)

ash is purest white

Director (and writer): Zhangke Jia

Cast: Tao Zhao, Fan Liao, Yi’nan Diao, Xiaogang Feng, Zheng Xu

A story of violent love within a time frame spanning from 2001 to 2017. – IMDB

Ash is Purest White is a movie that names itself as Jiang Hu Er Nu, which means in direct translation, Underworld’s Sons and Daughters. What seems like it is a crime and gangster movie quickly changes shape in its second and third acts.  Ash is Purest White is a slow-paced film that is essentially an epic romance that propels the life of a woman through a span of many years as she enters this world that she ends up being a part of because of her boyfriend. The story mainly revolves the perspective of Qiao, played by Tan Zhao where her boyfriend Bin, played by Fan Liao, only have scenes with her but rarely individual ones. At a runtime of over 2 hours, Ash is Purest White never feels like that despite its deliberate slow pace, in fact, it takes it time so that we get to know Qiao and her story and her emotions and especially  her strength and loyalty. Set in the beautiful outskirts of China in Datong in the Shanxi province, the cinematography also deserves a great nod as well as the fantastic soundtrack.

Ash is Purest White

With that said, the outstanding role here that definitely carries Ash is the Purest White is Tao Zhao. I’ve never seen her in anything else in my memory but she falls so beautifully into this role. Capturing her innocence and life in the early parts of the movie as she follows her boyfriend and supports him as he is the leader of his gang and fights off the opposing forces. There’s a loyalty and love here that binds them as individuals and makes their relationship strong. For a film to be carried by almost completely by one character is hard but Tao Zhao does it so fantastically. She has a strength to her character as she goes from her happiness of being under the protection of her boyfriend to when she stands up and sacrifices for him which changes her life around by then those things she learned from him becomes a circle and takes her to where she ends up years later when he needs her help. There is such a loyalty and commitment as well as regrets to their relationship that resounds.

Ash is Purest White

Don’t get me wrong though. As strong as Tao Zhao’s character is, Fan Liao’s Bin cannot be ignored. Even in his quiet expressions and his few words, he manages to show a lot of emotions. A sign of a great actor are in these skills. While his character might not be in a lot of the scenes in the second act for example. His character always has a presence in the other’s life and that is the power of this love story. However, there is something of a flip role as we see how both of their similar experiences has ended up with very different results. The debate in their character is what does “jianghu” does to them in some ways.

Overall, Ash is Purest White is a slow-paced romance that takes a fairly  unconventional route that brings about the loyalty, regrets of two people but their differences from what happens that changes them and also breaks them in some ways making them find and lose themselves respectively. There’s a perpetual aspect to their love even when they aren’t both on the screen. The story is crafted so delicately that it works to help us truly be bonded with these two characters. Even in two hours, it rarely feels like there are pacing issues but yet, every detail here is done to help the audience understand these characters and their experiences and think about it. There is a beauty and art here that is hard to ignore. Its one that might resounded to myself as I thought about it more and more.