Helsinki Cine Aasia 5th anniversary programme offers reflections on societal antagonisms and family


Helsinki Cine Aasia has announced its programme for 2017. The festival will feature 18 films in total from 10 different East Asian and Southeast Asian countries. The opening film of Helsinki Cine Aasia is The Net (2016), by the South Korean director Kim Ki-Duk. The gripping drama is an upfront depiction of the current state of the Koreas, and people living in the shadow of the ongoing conflict. Other films at the festival which deal with borders created either by nation states, societal norms or traditional gender roles, are, for example Rithy Panh’s Exile (2016), a partly autobiographical portrayal of the Khmer Rouge regime; Come, Together (2016) by Shin Dong-il, which portrays an ordinary nuclear family struggling to keep up with increasing demands of competitive society; and Japanese Girls Never Die (2016) by Daigo Matsui which offers a feminist view of sexism, the pressure to marry, and the pay gap between the sexes in Japan utilising the colourful language of pop culture.

Themes emerging from the festival programme include the status of families in contemporary society, what it means to be young, as well as journeying into the mind. For instance, Koji Fukada’s Harmonium (2016) sheds light on the dynamics of the nuclear family via a dramatic thriller storyline. Nontawat Numbenchapol’s #BKKY (2016) draws from interviews conducted with one hundred Bangkok youths to create a film that combines elements from fiction and documentary and presents a lighthearted exploration of identity, sexuality and gender. Zhang Yang’s depiction of a Tibetan-Buddhist pilgrimage Paths of The Soul (2016) is an impressive and empowering experience in its asceticism and dedication.

A special treat for Helsinki cinema-goers is Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song while I Wait (2016) by the Bhutanese director Khyentse Norbu. The actors in the film wear masks and rely entirely on their body language to tell the story. The inspiration for this surprising approach according to the director was the anonymity of online chat rooms. The film is currently under the threat of censorship in its home country and even its arrival to Helsinki Cine Aasia was secured only at the last moment.

Returning to the programme in 2017 are several directors who have become familiar names during the festival’s five-year journey. Shunji Iwai is included with his most recent offering A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (2016) which is expected to become a cult classic, Midi Z features with the stylistically realistic portrayal of undocumented migrant workers The Road to Mandalay (2016), and the Watanabe brothers with POOLSIDEMAN (2016) – the winner of the Japanese Splash -award at the 2016 Tokyo International Film Festival.

This year’s Helsinki Cine Aasia programme features a Parent & Baby Screening for the first time. Shown at the Parent and Baby Screening on Friday the 17th of March will be The World of Us (2016), a delicate portrayal of friendship, bullying and the social pressures of school life by the South Korean director Yoon Ga-eun.

In preparation for planning of the programme for this year’s festival, the Helsinki Cine Aasia team visited the international film festivals of Busan and Tokyo, among others.

“The quality of East Asian and Southeast Asian films is currently very high. We are happy that we are able to present Helsinki cinema-goers with real gems and introduce rising talents of Asian cinema. In these times of violent contradictions and antagonisms, film can play a role in bringing faraway countries and peoples together,” says Eija Niskanen, the artistic director of the festival.

See the full festival programme here >>

All films have subtitles in English. Online ticket sales for Helsinki Cine Aasia will start on Thursday the 2nd of March and will continue throughout the festival. During the festival, tickets may also be purchased at the box office at the festival cinemas.