Busan: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Star Asian Auteurs Unveil Youku.com Shorts

Color of Asia Still 2 - H 2015
Courtesy of Busan International Film Festival

The Cannes winner as well as Im Sang-soo, Naomi Kawase and Wang Xiaoshuai offer short films about South Korean ferry victims and lyrical discourses, soon to be released on China's largest streaming site.

Color of Asia—Masters, a collection of short films by renowned Asian auteurs Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Im Sang-soo, Naomi Kawase and Wang Xiaoshuai, premiered Thursday through a gala presentation at the 20th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). Unlike most such festival-driven omnibus projects, however, these s were specifically created for online streaming.

Color of Asia is the South Korean film festival's joint venture with Chinese web giant Youku Tudou and its film arm Heyi Pictures. The shorts will be released on Youku.com, China's largest streaming site, along with Color Asia—Newcomers, comprising of four shorts by new Asian directors, created under the auspices of the master filmmakers.

"The films aren't about competing but are rather meant to be about sharing and enjoying the unique color of each filmmaker. I believe this project marks an important step in changing the way in which media is consumed," said Wang, the Chinese director best known for his Berlin Silver Bear-winning drama Beijing Bicycle.

Wang brings yet another film replete with social commentaries, The Cornfields, set in the Chinese countryside that is emptying out as people migrate to cities. "There was a recent case where children aged five to 15 committed suicides in a Chinese rural village, but no one knew for days," he said, adding that he shot the film in the very village where his father lived during the Cultural Revolution. "I believe it's wrong to think that everything is possible with wealth."

The director expressed support for The Vampire Lives Next Door by Im, saying that the film inspired by the 2014 South Korean ferry disaster will "resonate strongly with Chinese youths."

The Vampire Lives Next Door, about a drowned teenage girl meeting a vampire in the mortuary, initially seems to mark the Korean director's foray into genre films. However, Im, best known for satirical Cannes competition title The Housemaid, said the short film was a gesture of deference to the ferry victims.

"I wanted to mourn long and hard with a sorrowful sense of guilt, just like any other Korean," Im said about the tragedy that claimed over 300 lives, mostly high school students.

He added that he was "not concerned" about possible controversies the film could ignite. Last year, a documentary about the sinking, The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol, became the center of debate in Busan, and recent budget cuts for the festival have been linked to the controversy.

Cannes-winning auteurs, Weerasethakul and Kawase, meanwhile, delve into the nature of human interactions and (mis)communication in opposing ways: Weerasethakul (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Live) brings a muted, dialogue-free piece, Vapour, about mysterious vapors enveloping a small town, while Kawase (Suzaku) explores the limits of conversation through a journalist's interview with a designer in Lies.

Weerasethakul said he shot Vapour in a village he resided for eight years, where conflicts ensued between the authorities and the locals. "I wanted to focus on the problem itself and emphasize the movements. The absence of sound sharpens one's sense of vision," explained the Thai filmmaker.

Kawase, on the other hand, presents endless dialogue. "I wanted viewers to think about truth and lies by showing how two people would give the same answer to different questions and such. I also wanted to show the flow of people's emotions," said the Japanese filmmaker.