The Forum is a refuge for courageous, unconventional filmmakers and in 2008 again presented a diverse selection of films, both extraordinary in formal terms and politically daring. “The filmmakers whose work we show in the Forum want to go beyond the usual.” A look at the 2008 programme shows that a distinct interest in socio-political processes is often the driving force behind these works. We talked to Christoph Terhechte, director of the section, about the continuing strength of Asian cinema, kids with no freedom and the significance of passion and memory to making films.
I noticed that the certain motifs arise again and again in the Forum programme. For example, one finds a theme that is fundamental for the medium: memory, the past and the relationship between individual and collective history. Do the films you’re showing take a new, contemporary approach to this theme?
How contemporary that is remains to be seen but I do see a parallel between several Asian films in the programme. Here “memory” is addressed on several different levels, sometimes on a private level, sometimes on the public level. Invisible City, for example, is more about history than private stories whereby that, too, is also about individual people. Here, a central question is how many historical testimonies are still available and what should one keep and what not. The fact that humanity keeps so much, not just testimonies but also objects is relatively new. And if we keep on going this way, at some point we’re going to drown in memorial objects – the entire world will be a museum. Questions like these are brought up in the film. It’s very interesting.
Private and political memory
In the Asian films there is a strong focus on Japan’s dominance in 20th century Asian history. That’s true for a film such as Yasukuni, which talks about the Yasukuni shrine – where all sorts of war criminals have been honoured since the 1970s – from the point of view of a Chinese man who has lived in Japan for years. The Japanese argue that they are simply honouring their dead who died for their country, and that it’s not the business of foreign countries to interfere. The counterargument goes: If you honour war criminals, we can’t take your apologies for war crimes seriously. That’s also reflected in a film like Invisible City, that shows how a place like Singapore also suffered under the Japanese occupation.
Or take the Korean film Grandmother’s Flower, which brings together private and political memory. On the occasion of the death of his great uncle, the filmmaker begins to ask questions about his family history and discovers the tragedies found in practically every Korean family, but which the older generation is not actually able to communicate to the younger generation. Beginning with the Japanese occupation, the division of the country through the Russians and the Americans, the war and the subsequent societal split, to the escape of many Koreans from the military dictatorship and the subsequent repression in Japan. All these films deal with the past and allow political and private memories to flow into one another.