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On the occasion of So Yong Kim's latest film Treeless Mountain, APA looks back on some of the best Asian films about children and the worlds they inhabit.
Many of the great film movements in world cinema include children playing an integral role: think Italian neorealism or the Iranian New Wave. Asian cinema is no exception, and the diversity of approaches to portraying children's lives is as diverse as Asian cinema itself: musicals, animation, art films, comedies. Here are some of our favorites from Asian film history:
Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955)
The most famous and acclaimed Asian film about kids is often remembered for depicting the plight of India's poor. But what wins our hearts are the kids in the state of play: hanging out, dressing up, and chasing each other to the beat of Ravi Shankar's score. The legendary coming of the train makes sense only because it catches the children's gaze in a moment of innocence.
Good Morning (Yasujiro Ozu, 1959)
Two brothers take a vow of silence until their parents buy them a television set. But the logic of the kids is best captured in sound: in this early scene, the boys master the art of farting on command, all with the composed simplicity that only Ozu can provide.
Summer at Grandpa's (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1984)
Hou Hsiao-hsien's early films frequently featured young people growing up in Taiwan, but Summer at Grandpa's is the most direct about letting that world of children come alive. In this film, based on reminisces by screenwriter-novelist Chu Tien-wen, the children visit the countryside and find new friends to play with. Hou captures that encounter in one of his most amazing long takes: an interrupted shot of the kids playfully driving a remote control car into a turtle.
My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)
One of the most faithful films to the world of kids is one that exceeds the limitations of live action. My Neighbor Totoro finds that one can best capture the fancy of youth and family via catchy tunes, flying creatures, and of course Hayao Miyazaki's magnificent animation.
Not One Less (Zhang Yimou, 1999)
This Venice Film Festival winner features a primary school class led by a substitute teacher barely older than her students. When one of the boys goes missing, the kids are determined to find him.
My Life as McDull (Toe Yuen, 2001)
In print, on TV, and on film, McDull was a huge hit in Hong Kong. But McDull is no ordinary screen kid. First, he's a pig. Second, he's an outsider at school and at home, his mind drifting to faraway places and impossible situations. Best of all is his droll speaking voice which bubbles to life in loopy songs that articulate modern Hong Kong in all its confusion and charm.
I Not Stupid (Jack Neo, 2002)
I Not Stupid captured the attention of audiences throughout Asia, leading to a sequel and a resurrection of homegrown cinema in Singapore. Without doubt, it's the cleverness, sentimentality, and of course cuteness of the kids which won audiences over, and shown hope amidst the stultifying world of the Singaporean education system.
Nobody Knows (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2004)
Spearheaded by Cannes-winning young actor Yuya Yagira, Nobody Knows follows the day-to-day interactions of a band of siblings living on their own. Their world comes to life through the details: a bowl of instant noodles, a toy piano, a soiled shirt.
Taare Zameen Par (Aamir Khan, 2007)
Winner of the 2009 Best Movie Filmfare Award, Taare Zameen Paar centers on young Ishaan who is having difficulty in school. Darsheel Safary carries the entire first melancholic half the film, until the art teacher (actor/director/producer Aamir Khan) shows up as the new (clownish) art teacher who has a special empathy for his situation.
Orz Boys! (Yang Ya-che, 2008)
Liar #1 and Liar #2 get no love from their family or teachers. Instead, they find love elsewhere: in the bonds of brotherhood, in the cute girl they encounter at school. At the end of this clip, their youthful dreams come to a breathtaking, slow-motion climax worthy of A Propos de Nice, one of the great classics about kids.
Additional reporting by Ada Tseng
Date Posted: 5/22/2009