Adam’s SFIFF56 Report: Day 7 – “Animation Shorts”, “Our Homeland”, or “Kazoku no kuni” and “Computer Chess”

TRAM_04Some animation with a little Christopher Plummer narration, a glimpse into a heartbreaking repatriation situation, and a nostalgic 1980s’ stylization of computer nerds playing chess. Let’s begin.

Shorts Program 3 – Animation

Shorts_3_Kali_The_Little_VampireI’m learning that arriving at this festival super early is not such a bad thing. I get to enjoy some complementary steaming hot cups of coffee, sharing notes about the festival with festival workers, friends and anyone who will listen, and best of all, I have time to watch a movie in the screening room that I either missed or couldn’t fit into my regular schedule. Case in point, this morning I saw the animated shorts program.

For the most part, these films were really good, though as is to be expected with almost any block of short films there were a few bumps in the road. From an artistic appreciation point of view, every entry ought to be admired, it’s just that some of them – mostly the ones without a narrative – weren’t my cup of tea.

Rather than focus on the negative I’ll touch on the ones that really stood out as being noteworthy: Kali le petit Vampire (pictured above) – Another sympathizing look at the vampire, this time through a boy vampire’s perspective, whose thoughts are voiced by Christopher Plummer, and who wants nothing more than to revel in the sunlight with human children.

Tram (pictured at top of post) – Joyously perverse, in a Ken Russellian sort of way, with a catchy video game-esque score to boot, I had a hard time holding back my own head bobbing (perverted pun not intended) while watching the big bouncy breasted tram driver get the most out of her job.

Eyes on the StarsRonald McNair was one of the NASA pilots who died on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. Carl McNair (Ronald’s brother) tells a couple of anecdotal stories about what Ronald’s life was like growing up an African-American boy in the 1950s. Funny and heartfelt.

Our Homeland

Our_Homeland_02three-stars15After watching this you might want to call up every member of your immediate family, if you don’t already live with them, and tell them how much they mean to you. Or, maybe not.

This is the story of a Japanese family whose son, having been repatriated to Pyongyang, North Korea for the past 15 years is granted a 3-month stay in Tokyo in order to seek more advanced treatment for his serious medical condition.

In director/writer Yong-hi Yang‘s first fictional account of this very personal story she does a great job of exploring just how polarizing ideologies can actually be. Her use of the immediate family as a microcosm for communist capitalist relations clearly struck a chord with the country of Japan, as it was the country’s official submission to the Best Foreign Language category at the 85th Academy Awards 2013. However, for as interesting as the subject matter was, and as well acted and framed as it was, I can’t say it struck a chord with me. While I did find the drama of this family’s situation intriguing, most of the time I was wishing that this was a documentary. That criticism might seem a bit unfair, but hey, that’s how I felt. Thankfully, there are at least a couple of documentaries on this subject that I can seek out, Sona, the Other Myself (2009), and Dear Pyongyang (2005), both of which were made by this director.

One more thing, I thought I recognized the actor who played the sister, Sakura Andô, and that’s because she also had a big part in Penance, another SFIFF movie. I’m going to keep my eye out for her in the future. She’s that good.

Computer Chess

Computer_Chess_02one-star2As soon as the gimmick of having an entire feature be filmed with 1980’s technology on Sony portable video tapes wore off so to did my patience of seeing this one through to the end. Unfortunately, this was the only movie in the festival where I wasn’t positioned in my usual front row seat. That meant leaving would require me disturbing the people next to me, who judging by their laughing, were mysteriously enjoying this crap. I was caught in checkmate.

The movie takes place during a chess tournament in where computer programming teams compete against each other to see who has the best combination of hardware and software. Conversations are had, certain characters are followed, charmless and terrible acting ensue, and at the end of it all I leave the theatre wanting my money back, even though my ticket was comped.


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Categories: Reviews, San Francisco International Film Festival


  1. Filmbalaya’s Guide to SFIFF56 2013 | - May 5, 2013

    […] Homeland – “In director/writer Yong-hi Yang‘s first fictional account of this very personal story she does a…” – […]

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