The Asian Weekly at the movies — Staff picks for SIFF 2013, part three

By Staff
Northwest Asian Weekly

Each year, the Northwest Asian Weekly sends a team of intrepid film reviewers to the Seattle International Film Festival to pick out the best Asian and Asian American films. Starting this week and running through the end of May, we will be reviewing our picks for the most interesting APA films at this year’s SIFF.

“Wolf Children”
Directed by Mamoru Hosoda
Reviewed by Andrew Hamlin

Director Mamoru Hosoda, hailed in Japan following 2006’s “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” and 2009’s “Summer Wars,” returns here with an oddly family-friendly story of death, alienation, resilience, and steadfastness so endearing that I forgive its occasional visual excesses.

The film opens with a young college coed, Hana (voiced by Aoi Miyazaki), who falls in love with a sullen, perpetually sad fellow named Ookami (Takao Osawa). Ookami eventually reveals the secret behind his distance from the world: He is a wolfman, the only-known survivor of his hybrid species.

The couple produce two children, a daughter, Yuki (Haru Kuroki), and a son, Ame (Yukito Nishii). The two children “breed true” and can change into wolves at will — which poses a few problems since young children are quite willful.

Without warning, the wolfman Ookami disappears, and Hana is alone with her children. Since they are neither fully human nor fully wolf, she’s at a loss as how to raise them. She eventually relocates to a deserted, dilapidated country house.

The children struggle with their own identities, and all three of them struggle to work the land, grow their own food, and repair a home. The screenplay, by Hosoda and Satoko Okudera, has a great deal to say about family and community relationships in relation to a sense of self.

“Wolf Children” is the first Japanese anime feature I’ve watched that aims to incorporate 3-D effects into the footage seamlessly, as opposed to a few select scenes. Unfortunately, the movie goes overboard with elaborateness, and the scenery can at times resemble a gaudy, underlit video game. But the film has enough evenly balanced beauty and plenty of charm. It ranks as one of the most impressive anime features of this year.

“Wolf Children” show times:
June 1 at 11:00 a.m. at the SIFF Cinema Uptown
June 3 at 7:00 p.m. at the Egyptian Theatre

“Aayna Ka Bayna”
Directed by Samit Kakkad
Reviewed by Jason Cruz

In the film Aayna Ka Bayna (“Victory is ours”), a young female dance instructor helps nine delinquents overcome their issues through dance. Even if you suspend your disbelief, you probably still won’t understand the premise for Aayna Ka Bayna. But if you are a fan of dance, this may be a movie to check out.

The plot finds nine teens escaping a detention center run by a ruthless warden to compete in a national dance competition.  Dance, taught by Shivani (played by Amruta Khanvilkar), a beautiful young counselor at the reformatory, provides them an outlet from their troubled lives. They dream of winning a dance competition to thank her for being one of the only people to positively affect their lives.

The boys’ histories, life paths, and mistakes are revealed through flashbacks. The detention center guards are portrayed as ruthless thugs who use a harsh approach in handling the boys and are quick to beat them down to make them act right.

The movie presents a couple of ideas: 1) Dance is transformative, and 2) Instead of treating troubled youth like criminals, people should work to reform and guide them.

The best parts of the movie are the dance routines sprinkled throughout, which highlight the skill of the boys. The choreography is strong, including a Jabbawockeez-type routine and several breakdancing sets.

If you like television shows like “So You Think You Can Dance,” you will like Aayna Ka Bayna’s dance routines.  However, if you are looking for a substantive plot, this may not be your movie. (end)

“Aayna Ka Bayna” show times:
June 5 at 9:30 p.m. at the Egyptian Theatre
June 7 at 6:00 p.m. at the Kirkland Performance Center

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