Photograph: IMDb (After Sun, dir. Charlotte Wells, 2022)
It’s been a minute since we last went to an offline SIFF screening—two years exactly. Cancelled last year due to you-know-why, the much anticipated 25th edition of the Shanghai International Film Festival is making its return to the Shanghai culture scene next month. The 10-day festival will open on June 9. Hundreds and thousands of film submissions will compete for the Golden Goblet Awards.
Photograph: Tima Miroshnichenko via Pexels
To learn more about the selection of films they will be showcasing this year, check out SIFF’s official website www.siff.com where they will soon announce the full lineup as well as the screening schedule. Past records show that it’s incredibly difficult (if not nearly impossible) to snap up a ticket to a SIFF screening. We felt the need to list out a few films that you should look out for so you’ll have time to plan out a ticket-grabbing strategy—let’s be hopeful. Here are 7 films we can’t wait to see at SIFF 2023.
Chess of the Wind is a masterpiece of the Iranian New Wave. The film had only few public screenings before getting banned in the 1979 revolution and was lost shortly thereafter. Miraculously rediscovered by director Mohammad Reza Aslani’s son some forty years later in a junk shop, the film is now restored thanks to Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project and brought back to the big screen. Set in the 1920s Tehran, the gothic period drama unveils a murder mystery in a wealthy family where the potential heirs vie for the deceased mother’s inheritance.
Shanghai-born, Hong Kong-based student director Ye Sisi’s documentary made the list for the SIFF Documentaries this year. The documentary follows two seniors in their eighties living in Shanghai who are optimistic about life and have made plans to travel abroad to visit their family and friends. The documentary was shot over five years and its dialogues are entirely in Shanghainese dialect, which makes it a must-see for those interested in the local culture.
In the 2022 psychological drama-thriller directed by Todd Field, Cate Blanchett plays a classical music virtuoso entangled in accusations of sexual misconduct. Her performance as a determined, paranoid and arrogant musician is one of great sensitivity, for which she won the Best Actress at the Venice Festival, Golden Globes and BAFTAs.
Belgian director Lucas Dhont’s second feature is a rare piece of coming-of-age artwork that presents the subject of adolescence queerness as at once innocent and cruel. 13-year-olds Léo and Rémi grew up together and have always stayed close friends. As they enter middle school, their closeness is made fun of and the two are alienated. The story then takes a dramatic turn with a catastrophic event that would leave the friendship in ruins.
Internationally acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s latest feature is a self-reflexive film about filmmaking, presented in yet another personal-as-political metanarrative. Panahi plays himself in the story, a dissident and oppressed filmmaker trying to direct a film remotely, who later finds himself entangled in an unresolvable conflict. Panahi in real life was arrested not long after the completion of this movie, and was sentenced to six years in prison for protesting against the system.
From Ukrainian director Antonio Lukich comes the comedy film, Luxembourg, Luxembourg, about twin brothers’ trip to Luxembourg to attend their absent, foreign father’s funeral. Partially inspired by the director’s own upbringing, whose relationship with his absent Croatian father played a big part in driving the plot, the film presents a sense of escapism amidst a time of suffering and war. The casting of real-life twins who speak a rare, funny-sounding dialect also contributes to the comedic effect.
A notable one in SIFF 2023’s “Global Village” unit, Indian director Mahesh Narayanan’s fourth feature tells the story of a struggling couple who recently relocated to Delhi to pursue big-city dreams. Their future is threatened when a provocative video is leaked and circulated in a WhatsApp group. As the couple struggle to resolve the situation and regain respect, they are met with humiliation and hostility from every aspect of the society. Here the director presents the issue of discrimination, misogyny, and class conflict present in modern-day India.