google-site-verification=-dZePfgWB2ZtA3dxPB_nPrOD55Shnmh0iXAEngMSTwE dZePfgWB2ZtA3dxPB_nPrOD55Shnmh0iXAEngMSTwE


China l 2010 l 128min

Director FENG Xiaogang

Aftershock: My Favorite Film thus Far at PIFF


China l 2010 l 128min

Director FENG Xiaogang

I’m a little late into the festival with this one, and the last screening was today at 2 p.m., but if there was any possibility for you to get a ticket to see Aftershock, I would advise you to do so (I might even suggest stealing a ticket). Aftershock has stuck with me long after my screening on Friday. It’s my favorite film from the Asian cinema selections thus far, and a contender for one of the best films of the year. It’s one of the biggest films to come out of China, coming from one of the most famous Chinese directors (some call him “the Steven Spielberg of China”). No doubt this film will be a hit with international audiences, and I’m sure a DVD release is not far off, so keep your eyes open for this film.

Aftershock follows one family’s emotional devastation which is a result of the very real 1976 Tangshan earthquake that killed nearly 300,000 people. The family is divided in the ensuing chaos, personified in a visual effects sequence that left my viewing audience completely breathless. I have a new found respect for the power of such an earthquake, and I think it’s safe to say that my ignorance of its effects have been completely erased. The father is killed while attempting to reach his son and daughter, and the mother is left alive in the aftermath to pull her children from the wreckage. She is put to a heartbreaking decision, choose one child to save, because lifting the massive concrete block off of both is impossible, but raising one side will save the life of the child of her choice, crushing the other in the process.

This moment is the catalyst for a story that follows this family for three decades and two generations after the earthquake. They continue on with their lives, picking up the pieces to the best of their ability, and effectively displaying the scars that remain. The film is a sight to behold, evoking cinematography that pops right off of the screen from the very first frame.  Everything from the production design, sound editing, score, and performances is top notch. Director Feng Xiaogang makes very little compromises in showing how these characters evolve beyond their unfathomable grief, giving life to each and every scene, and every spoken word. His ability to tiptoe around conventional melodrama and make a film that feels like a very earnest look at this tragedy is exquisite. There are a few minor missteps along the way, such as a few moments where the actors could have reeled in their performances a bit, and one randomly inserted foreign guy who absolutely did not need to be there at all (he’s simply there to marry one of the Chinese women, and he’s 16 years older than her, and his line delivery is painful, and he’s just plain creepy).

My minor nitpicks aside, Aftershock is my favorite film so far at this year’s Pusan International Film Festival. It is a near-masterpiece that sheds light on a tragedy that has been felt for generations, and the victims of this event are not only those who died, but those who continue on with their lives in the wake of their sorrow and grief.


Blood Ties

Philippines l 2010 l 85min

Directed by Kim Homer Cabagio GARCIA


Blood Ties seems good in concept, as if there is potential for an outstanding drama somewhere in the 85 minute run time. Unfortunately the film struggles to find its place among the more professionally executed Asian films on display at this year’s festival, falling victim to amateur camera work, poor editing and sound design, and inconsistent performances. It’s not all a lost cause, though, as the intrusive handheld camera work is somewhat intriguing in theory. It places us in the home of an expansive family who is seeing a wedding shortly after the burial of the father of the household. He leaves behind uneasy relationships between daughters and their mother, and the mistress who has decided to invite herself into their lives.

We see a sister-in-law who is bedridden with an unknown ailment, and charges her two sons, one a drunk and the other emotionally unstable, with her care.  In one particularly effective scene, we see the drunken son take his aggressions out on the other, only to see a psychotic burst of emotional rage from the mentally defective younger brother. The eldest brother is brutally murdered, and the family is left to deal with incarceration of their nephew, who is now seemingly split in personality. Only a fraction of the cast seems up to the task of conveying to us the emotions at hand, and the performances that do fall flat are so bad that they belong in a daytime soap opera. It’s frustrating to see a director’s true vision being held back by obvious budgetary constraints and a baffling disregard for steady-cam shots.  If Blood Ties had not one, but several coats of polish, it might have managed to impress audiences with its poignant insights into this unstable family.




Check Also


BIFF Photos: Opening Film “A Quiet Dream” Press Conference

The opening film of the 2016 Busan International Film Festival "A Quiet Dream" held their press conference this afternoon at the Dongseo University Centum Campus Hall.

Leave a Reply