ASFF selects five films for release this week and available on demand. A truly international selection of films, set in China, New Zealand, Denmark, Bosnia and France, this mix of documentary and fiction broaches a wide array of topics, including pregnancy, war crimes and communal responsibility.
Baby Done (Vertigo Releasing)
Comedienne Rose Matafeo and former Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis are terrific in this New Zealand-set tale of impending parenthood from director Curtis Vowell. With Taika Waititi behind the movie as executive producer – his offbeat sense of humour seemingly shines through this – it’s a smart-and-sweet comedy about facing up to responsibility. Very funny in places, with Lewis and Matafeo forming a perfect on-screen partnership.
From Chinese documentary film-maker Hao Wu, 76 Days plunges viewers into the chaos of an ICU in a Wuhan hospital during the city’s lockdown in the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic. Right from the opening, as a woman screams to see her father in his final minutes, it’s a harrowing watch, but the courage and compassion of the medical staff is a credit to the hospital. The moments of humanity on show here are quite something.
Persian Lessons (Signature Films)
Director Vadim Perelman (House of Sand and Fog) return with Persian Lessons, an adaptation of a short story by Wolfgang Kohlhasse. Nahuel Pérez Biscayart plays a Jew living in Nazi-Occupied France in 1942 who claims to be a Persian to escape death when he is arrested and taken to the concentration camps. Once there, he’s instructed to teach the camp commander Farsi and has to ‘invent’ a version of the language to keep his flimsy lie – and himself – alive.
The Sarajevo-born filmmaker Jasmila Zbanic, who won Berlin’s Golden Bear with her 2006 film Esma’s Secret: Grbavica, is back with another hard-hitting drama. It’s set in the lead-up to the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 during the Bosnian war – the worst civilian atrocity since World War II, when more than 8000 unarmed Bosnian Muslims were murdered. Jasna ?uri?i? plays Aida, a translator caught up in the chaos and carnage.
Adapted from the 2006 novel by Christian Jungersen, this Danish thriller from Jesper W. Nielsen (The Day Will Come) is set around a Copenhagen NGO that specializes in genocide. Borgen’s Sidse Babett Knudsen stars as the newcomer to the office upon whom suspicion falls when threatening e-mails are received. Amanda Collin, seen in the recent show Raised By Wolves, co-stars in this moody Scandinavian effort.
All films released on 22 January.