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October 22, 2019

The best cinema at OzAsia this year is made by young women

The OzAsia film festival is the only Australian screen program devoted to Asian cinema that isn't concentrated on a specific nation. Mercury Cinema director – Gail Kovatseff shares her favourites from the program.

For me, 2019 was the year of amazing documentaries told mostly by young women which explore big political agendas through the personal. All three on offer are said to be contenders for best documentary nominations at the 2020 Oscars.

For Sama, an intimate journey into the female experience of the 2016 Aleppo bombing, is the first telling of the experience through the soulful lens of a new wife and young mother. It is a journey into the hope of political change in Syria, and the collective social efforts to save it.


OzAsia on Screen

18 Oct – 3 Nov
Mercury Cinema
13 Morphett Street,
Adelaide SA 5000

View films and buy tickets here.

One Child Nation is a must-see story for those interested in global politics. Unravelling the complex nexus of ordinary citizens and Chinese policy, One Child Nation, as the name suggests, explores China’s one-child agenda and how the policy shaped the lives of a generation, led to violent medical interventions in family life, and impacted in the West via what was to become a booming business in child adoption.

Of the three documentaries shown as part of the OzAsia program, my absolute favourite is Honeyland.

What begins as a quiet observational documentary following the dying Macedonian tradition of wild honey collection in the Balkan Mountains, morphs into a powerful allegory about the survival of the planet in the time of mass extinction. The most awarded film at Sundance, it has created an incredible buzz, declared by a number of reviewers as one of the best films of the year.


Honeyland opened the 2019 OzAsia season at the Mercury Cinema on Friday, October 18, and cinema lovers were joined by TV chef and sustainability activist Simon Bryant, who officiated at the opening night screening of Honeyland before offering his very own very special honey cocktail.

Some are claiming Tarkovsky finally needs to move over, with a new generation of accomplished Russian directors storming the festivals, and we are likely in a renaissance of Russian cinema.

Certainly, the recent guest of the New York Film Festival, the 26-year-old Kantemir Balagov is making big waves as an auteur with skills significantly beyond his youth. His first two features have been featured at Cannes, winning 2019 Un Certain Regard best director with the film we are showing Beanpole.

It was also one of the highest-scoring films at last month’s Toronto International Film Festival. This is a visually breath-taking film about two young women trying to rebuild their lives in post-siege Leningrad. Again, like For Sama it shows the impact of war through the eyes of young women.

The genre conquering skills of Kiril Solokov are also being widely applauded with Why Don’t You Just Die. Not a big fan of violence, I surprised myself by finding the juxtaposing of clichéd Russian stoicism with splatterpunk tropes hilarious, but I am sure its slaughterhouse ambience won’t be for everyone

For arthouse lovers, there are several to choose from.

Those interested in or with a connection to Vietnam shouldn’t go past The Third Wife. A descendent of the earlier Vietnamese arthouse film, The Scent of Green Papaya, it shares its languid energy and beautiful rendering of traditional domestic life.

Made by female filmmaker, Ash Mayfair, who studied in both Australia and the US, it has been banned in Vietnam ostensibly because of the sex scenes involving an underage teenage actress. Based on Mayfair’s family history, it tells the story of a young girl arriving by boat to marry the son of the landowner as his third wife.

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