Remote Control: Busan Review

"Remote Control"
A competent debut that effectively showcases the possibilities of Mongolian cinema.

Mongolia director Byamba Sakhya’s first film revolves around a rural teenager trying to connect with city life and urban dwellers.

With its central premise being a young man’s fascination with a woman living in a tower block across the street, Remote Control’s premise reads like a retreading of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Love, which tells the tale of a young man’s obsession with an older woman. Byamba Sakhya’s film offers a teenage epiphany in ways different than the Polish auteur’s -- the first-time Mongolian director has offered a rite of passage less fatalistic than Kieslowski’s -- and with a modicum of a comment on the changes in his home country as well.

The film revolves around Tsogoo (Enkhtaivan Bassandorj), a young man hailing from a broken rural family -- alcoholic father, cold stepmother, a crooked elder brother who has long bolted to the city -- whose regular milk-selling trips to Ulan Bator has opened his eyes to a life (possibly) less ordinary. After one bust-up too many with his parents, he leaves for the city and camps atop an apartment block where he surveys everything below and begins to dream of leading the lives he sees.

It’s more than halfway into the film that the central relationship emerges: Tsogoo spots the lonely Anya (Nergui Bayarmaa), and his attempt to connect with her leads to him nicking a remote control and playing with her gigantic TV. His heart will soon be broken however, as his intervention into her life actually helps mend her relationship problem.

The film does take some time to get into gear, and yields some hammy acting that diverts some unintentional comedy. Still, Sakhya and his team have crafted a competent debut that effectively showcases the possibilities of Mongolian cinema.

Busan International Film Festival, New Currents
Cast: Enkhtaivan Bassandorj, Nergui Bayarmaa, Chagnaadorj Ganbaatar
Director: Byamba Sakhya
90 minutes