Departures (2008) ☆☆☆☆(4/4): His new occupation

Japanese film “Departures”, which was re-released in South Korean theaters around the end of last year, touched me to laughs and tears more than once. When I watched it for the first time not long after it won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in early 2009, I did not expect much from the beginning, but then I soon found myself absorbed in its story and characters a lot more than expected. When I watched it again at the 2010 Ebertfest in next year, I was surprised to see how much it touched hundreds of audiences around me, and, again, I found myself automatically overwhelmed again by those genuinely human moments in the film. When I recently revisited it this afternoon, I was delighted to discover that it is still one of the most moving films about life and death, and I admired again how effortlessly and thoughtfully it shifts itself along the rich spectrum of many different emotions including joy and sadness.

At first, the movie merely seems to be about one unexpected personal struggle in the life of Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki), a young cellist who belatedly comes to learn that his orchestra has been disbanded only after what turns out to be their latest public performance. While facing the impending financial difficulty resulted from that, Daigo comes to have more doubts on his music career which has been middling to say the least, and then his ever-supportive wife Mika (Ryōko Hirosue) suggests that they should go back to his hometown in Yamagata for a new start. Although he is initially reluctant, Daigo eventually agrees to his wife’s suggestion, and we soon see them moving into an old bar house belonging to his recently deceased mother.

When Daigo is looking into the advertisement section of a local newspaper for his ongoing job search on one day, he happens to notice an advertisement from some local company looking for someone willing to “assist departures”. Innocently assuming that that local company in question is a sort of tourist service company, Daigo subsequently visits that local company, but, what do you know, it turns out that the main business of that local company is preparing bodies for a ceremony known as “encoffinment”, and Daigo is aghast to discover that he will be hired as a “nōkanshi”, a traditional Japanese ritual mortician.

Daigo understandably declines to be hired after belatedly realizing what he actually applied for, but Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki), a laid-back middle-aged man who is the boss of the company, promptly gives an offer he cannot possibly refuse, so he reluctantly agrees to be hired by Sasaki without telling anything to his wife. While he surely fumbles assignments a lot right from his very first day (There is a silly but undeniably hilarious scene where he has to assist his boss for shooting a certain educational video for their business field, for example), Daigo gradually finds himself getting more accustomed to his new occupation day by day, and, as already shown to us from the opening scene, he eventually becomes as professional and dedicated as required by his boss.

Through Daigo and his boss’ professional viewpoint, the movie calmly and courteously observes many different human reactions to death while dexterously balancing itself between humor and drama. In case of the opening scene, there is an unexpectedly humorous moment of surprise and embarrassment in the middle of the ceremony, but we subsequently get caught off guard by the surprisingly emotional aftermath from the grieving father of the dead person, who sincerely and tearfully thanks Daigo and Daigo’s boss for handling his kid’s body with care and respect. As watching this and many other emotional moments from his various clients, Daigo comes to discern more of how important his new profession really is, and he consequently feels far less shame about it than before.

Of course, there eventually comes a moment when Mika comes to learn of how her husband has earned money, but the screenplay by Kundō Koyama wisely takes its time for the expected resolution of its two main characters’ conflict. After listening to some words of wisdom from his boss, Daigo becomes more confident and less unsure about his new occupation in addition to playing a cello from time to time, and then there comes a sudden incident which lets his wife and several other supporting characters have an epiphanic moment of understanding and appreciation on his new occupation.

I initially thought another plot turn later in the movie was rather contrived, but I still remember well the undeniable emotional power of the following scene on me and many other audiences during the screening at the Virginia Theater of Urbana-Champaign, Illinois on the third day of the 2010 Ebertfest. Yes, a certain visual touch during this scene is unabashedly sentimental, but it sublimely works in the context of what has been steadily and thoughtfully built up during the rest of the story, and then the very last shot of the film will remind you of how we all are with death in the midst of life.

Under the skillful direction of director Yōjirō Takita, whom I was honored to meet when he was invited to the 2010 Ebertfest, the main performers of the film leave indelible impressions on us in each own way. While Masahiro Motoki dutifully holds the center via his plain but sensitive performance, the other main performers including Ryōko Hirosue, Kimiko Yo, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, and Tsutomu Yamazaki are also solid on the whole, and Yamazaki is especially wonderful as a no-nonsense boss who surely knows a lot about life and death via his particular set of skills.

Although it has been more than 10 years since it came out, “Departures” has not lost any of its emotional power in my trivial opinion, and I am still in awe for its numerous profoundly humane moments to be admired and appreciated for their simple but graceful presentation on the screen. Yes, this is basically a tearjerker which is quite sentimental and melodramatic to the core, but it is also one of the best human comedy drama films during last 20 years, and it surely earns all the laughs and tears in the story.

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In the Mood for Love (2000) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4): That sublime restraint in their romance

It is always more interesting to observe lovers desperately held in restraint and hesitation, and Wong Kar-wai’s 2000 film “In the Mood for Love”, whose recent 4K restoration version happened to be re-released in South Korea a few days ago, is a definite example of that. The two lead characters in the film are surely well aware of the growing mutual feelings between them, but these two lonely people still hesitate to get closer to each other while never directly expressing their secret love to each other. Along with the lush and poetic style and mood of the film, their complicated romantic situation certainly elevates their story far above many simple-minded romance films out there, and we are both touched and saddened by the inevitable end of their graceful affair.

At the beginning, the movie succinctly establishes how Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung), who is also known as Mrs. Chan, and Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) happen to be accidental neighbors in one old neighborhood of Hong Kong, 1962. While both of them are fairly affluent middle-class people, they can only afford to rent a small apartment room due to the rising value of real estate in Hong Kong (It is still quite expensive to live in Hong Kong, you know), and we soon see them moving into their respective apartment rooms shortly after visiting their respective landlords.

While Mr. Chow works as a journalist, Mrs. Chan has been employed as the secretary of some company executive, and both of them are married without having any child, so both of them can freely work without much interference from their respective spouses, who are incidentally not shown to us a lot throughout the film. While Mrs. Chan’s husband is frequently absent due to running his business outside, Mr. Chow’s wife usually works late at her workplace, and both Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan often find themselves alone in their respective current residences.

As Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan slowly get accustomed to their new neighborhood, the movie presents a series of poetic repetitive moments to be absorbed and savored. We see them often individually walking up or down the shabby concrete stair of their apartment building. We see them separately walking down to an old noodle shop for buying a dinner for themselves at times. We also see them passing by each other during these and other daily routines. Nothing significant seems to be happening between them on the surface, but we cannot help but look at them closer as cinematographers Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping Bin’s camera intensely focuses on these two beautiful people from time to time, and, whenever the gorgeous main theme by Shigeru Umebayashi is played on the soundtrack, we cannot help but wonder whether they are simply recognizing each other as new neighbors.

And then they happen to meet together at a restaurant during one evening. Recently becoming more aware of their respective spouses’ glaring daily absence, Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chen have suspected that their respective spouses have been cheating on them, and they soon find themselves confiding a bit of their doubts and concerns to each other. As they tentatively talk more and more, it does not take much time for them to confirm their respective spouses’ infidelity, and they also come to realize that their respective spouses have actually been having an affair together behind their back.

However, while not so surprised by this revelation, Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chen are not that upset to learn of their respective spouses’ affair. Showing more sympathy and compassion to each other, they gradually come to sense the romantic feeling grown between them, but they also know well that they should be discreet about this romantic feeling of theirs as much as they can because of not only those busybody neighbors of theirs but also their own high moral standard. At one point, Mrs. Chen says, “For us to do the same thing would mean we are no better than they are.”

Although they let themselves mired more in this exquisite romantic agony of theirs while admitting almost nothing to each other, Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chen cannot help but enjoy being with each other. When they happen to be stuck together in Mr. Chow’s room as their neighbors are boisterously playing ma-jong outside the room, their mood is a bit awkward at first, but it becomes more apparent to us that they are slyly savoring this extending private moment of theirs. Later in the story, they decide to go to a hotel for avoiding getting noticed by their neighbors, but they still maintain the distance between themselves because, well, they are simply content with being alone together.

Of course, there fatefully comes a point where Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chen will have to make each own decision on their adamantly unrequited romance, and then the movie accordingly hops from one bittersweet moment to another without never losing any of its grace and beauty. Although the last scene unfolded in Cambodia several years later feels a bit jarring at first, it eventually fits to the overall narrative arch of our two lead characters, and the movie is also held well together by its two charismatic lead performers, who effortlessly embody the deep sense of affection and yearning as sensitively revolving around each other throughout the film.

I must confess that I am still not that enthusiastic about many of Wong’s works such as “Chungking Express” (1994) and “The Grandmaster” (2013), but I admire his distinctive mood and style at least, and I can assure you that “In the Mood for Love” is the culmination of what he has steadily attempted to do during last 33 years since his first feature film “As Tears Go By” (1988). In my humble opinion, the movie is deceptively simple but undeniably sublime in its haunting romantic tale, and it was really a pleasure for me to see it on a big screen at last.

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Evaporated (2019) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4): Since his daughter was vanished

South Korean documentary film “Evaporated” is shrouded in somber desperation and frustration right from the beginning. Closely observing a father’s longtime search for his vanished daughter, the documentary calmly and sensitively observes that overwhelming psychological burden on not only him but also his other family members, and it also makes some subtle but powerful points on the serious failure of the social system in helping not only his family but also many other unfortunate families out there in the South Korean society.

The main human subject of the documentary is a middle-aged man named Choi Yong-jin, and the early part of the documentary shows us how he has still been looking for his vanished second daughter Joon-won, who was suddenly gone missing from a playground near her home during the afternoon of April 4th, 2000. As shown from their respective interviews, not only Choi but also his other family members still remember well when they belatedly came to realize Joon-won’s disappearance around the following evening, and that was the beginning of a very long nightmare which is still hovering over their lives even at this point.

Of course, once it was apparent that something terrible might have happened to Joon-won, her father instantly reported to the police, and this case was soon widely reported on the media, but the police as well as her father could not find anything helpful for the following investigation. During next several years, Choi and his family had frequently received heaps of phone calls from here and there, but many of them turned out to be merely mean frank calls, and that surely broke their heart more.

Although the hope of finding his missing daughter has been decreased year by year, Choi has never given up his private investigation as reflected by his several small old notebooks full of clues and tips he managed to gather during more than 10 years. He still believes that he may discover something important among these rather unreliable pieces of information, and the documentary patiently follows his recent searches during last several years. Via an unexpected anonymous phone call, he recently came across another small possibility of finding Joon-won, and we see him visiting some island located around the southwestern coast of South Korea more than once. He diligently asks here and there around the island for more possible clues, but he is only reminded of how much time has passed since his daughter’s missing, so he comes to explore some other possibilities in the meantime.

However, those other possibilities do not lead him to anywhere either. At one point, Choi comes to wonder whether his missing daughter got herself unluckily involved with some juvenile delinquents in their neighborhood in Seoul, so he subsequently attempts to delve into this possibility for a while, but, not so surprisingly, he soon finds himself reaching to a dead end again, while still having no idea on what really happened to his daughter.

At least, there comes an unexpected help from the police around 2017. The detective newly assigned to the case seems to be really interested in helping Choi, and he has a very plausible theory on what happened to Choi’s missing daughter. In the detective’s theory, Choi’s missing daughter might be kidnapped for being raised up as somebody else’s daughter, and all he and his colleagues will have to do is doing some extensive search on a bunch of dubious birth records in Seoul and other cities.

However, this approach also does not produce much result, and Choi becomes quietly frustrated again. He surely understands that the detective and other cops have tried their best, and he does appreciate their efforts, but their efforts are bound to be discarded away when some other detectives come to take over the case later. He will keep trying as before, but he remains isolated without much support in his ongoing search, and there is a small quiet but harrowing moment later in the documentary as he comes to let out a bit of his longtime pain and frustration in front of the camera.

Meanwhile, the documentary also observes how Choi’s other family members have been damaged and devastated as much as him. His wife, who is not shown to us much throughout the documentary, left him a long time ago because she could not stand the seemingly endless pain and suffocation in her family anymore, and his two other daughters have been dealing with each own emotional scars from Joon-won’s disappearance for years. While Joon-won’s younger sister Joon-hyeon, who was only a little baby at that time, was less affected by Joon-won’s disappearance than her other family members in comparison, Joon-won’s older sister Joon-seon has struggled a lot with lots of anxiety and depression, and, though they are still living together in their old shabby apartment, she and her father have been quite estranged from each other as reflected by a number of revealing shots captured from their melancholic daily life.

As firmly sticking to its restrained attitude, “Evaporated” continues to engage us with many achingly bleak moments observed from its main human subjects, and director Kim Sung-min, who willingly spent no less than 6 years for financing and shooting the documentary, did a commendable job of never letting his documentary fall into cheap sensationalism or sentimentalism. Yes, this is a rather depressing experience to say the least, but its haunting last scene will linger on your mind for a while, and you may come to reflect more on its quiet but urgent social message.

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A Sun (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): Ordinary People

Taiwanese film “A Sun”, which was selected as Taiwan’s entry for the Best International Feature Film Oscar in this year, is a sprawling family drama with many ups and downs throughout its slow but engaging narrative. Although some of its melodramatic moments do not entirely work, the movie still never loses the human dimension of its story and characters, and we come to care more about its seemingly simple main characters as they come to show more of each own pain and struggle along the story.

The story mainly revolves around one family living in Taipei. A-Wen (Chen Yi-Wen), who works as a driving instructor, and his hairdresser wife Qin (Samantha Ko) have two sons, and they particularly have lots of expectation on their older son A-Hao (Greg Hsu), who is your typical model son and is currently preparing for his upcoming medical school entrance examination along with many other students. In contrast, their younger son A-ho (Wu Chien-ho) has been nothing but a troublemaker for many years, and the opening scene strikes us with a shocking moment of violence involved with him and his more problematic friend.

When his younger son is soon arrested and then charged with what he and his friend committed, A-Wen is certainly becomes angry and furious although he has not expected anything from his younger son. When his wife asks him to say something during the following trial, he is not so willing to do that, and he eventually tells the judge presiding over the case that his younger son deserves to be punished for what he has done.

Anyway, A-ho comes to receive a lighter sentence compared to his friend because he was technically an accessory in their felony, and we soon see him sent to a correctional facility for juvenile delinquents outside Taipei. Not so surprisingly, his father still does not give a damn about him, but his mother often visits him because, well, she still cares about him as his mother.

While A-ho is going through a series of rough moments as he frequently clashes with several inmates with whom he happens to share a room, his family faces a couple of serious matters outside because of him. On one day, Qin is visited by a young girl around A-ho’s age and the girl’s legal guardian, and it turns out that the girl has been pregnant with A-ho’s child. While Qin is trying to deal with this matter, A-wen has to deal with the father of the victim of A-ho and his friend’s felony, and his unflappable position on their issue subsequently leads to a silly comic moment which feels rather jarring compared to the phlegmatic overall tone of the film.

In contrast, an unexpected incident involved with A-Hao is effectively devastating because we already come to sense what has been slowly accumulated inside him. He is a kind and thoughtful lad who has surely been loved and adored by his parents, but, as reflected by a tale told to his accidental friend by him at one point, he has often felt isolated and suffocated as constantly aware of his parents’ affection and expectation on him, and there is no one to whom he can confide on that.

Even after that narrative point, the movie steadily maintains its leisurely narrative flow, and the screenplay by the director/co-writer Chung Mong-hong (He also handled the cinematography of his movie as Nagao Nakashima, by the way) and Chang Yao-sheng tentatively observes its main characters’ respective emotional damages and their following healing process. While Qin decides to take care of A-ho’s pregnant girlfriend in addition to teaching some hairdressing skill to her, A-ho comes to have more reflection on his longtime emotional issues, and he is ready for a second chance when he is about to be released from his correctional facility a few years later, though, not so surprisingly, it is very difficult for him to get a job due to his criminal record. Initially quite uncomfortable about A-ho’s return, A-wen is eventually reminded of what he should do via a little personal moment with A-Hao, and he and his younger son later have a sort of reconciliation between them.

During its last act, the movie takes another plot turn, and the mood becomes quite tense and melodramatic as A-wen and A-ho suddenly find themselves facing the consequences of their respective choices in the past. Although this part feels a bit too heavy-handed at times, the movie still holds our attention as before thanks to Chung’s skillful direction, and his four main cast members are uniformly excellent on the whole. While Chen Yi-wen is the most compelling one in the bunch as a father stoically but palpably mired in complicated feelings and thoughts on his two different sons, Samantha Ko steadily holds the ground for her fellow cast members via her stable performance, and Wu Chien-ho and Greg Hsu are convincing as two very different sons in the story.

Although it was quietly released on Netflix several months ago, “A Sun” recently happens to draw considerable attention as receiving lots of praises from a number of American critics including Peter Debruge of Variety, who incidentally named it the best film of 2020. While I am not so enthusiastic about the film compared to them, the movie engaged me more than expected in addition to reminding me a lot of similar other drama films such as Robert Redford’s Oscar-winning film “Ordinary People” or Trey Edward Shults’ “Waves” (2019), and that is more than enough for me to recommend to you this rather overlooked film.

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Sylvie’s Love (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): A little old-fashioned romance set in Harlem

“Sylvie’s Love”, which was released on Amazon Prime in last week, is a little old-fashioned romance tale which is more charming and engaging than you may think. Mainly set in New York City during the 1950-60s, the movie presents your average tale of two star-crossed lovers, but it engages us with its good mood and details, and then it touches us via the genuine sense of love felt from its two main characters.

After the prologue scene which shows an accident reunion between a young married African woman named Sylvie Parker (Tessa Thompson) and her ex-lover Robert Halloway (Nnamdi Asomugha), the movie moves back to when they happened to come across each other for the first time in 1957. As a struggling jazz musician in Harlem at that time, Robert had been looking for any job to earn some money, and he happened to notice a sign in front of a small local record shop, and that was how he came to meet Sylvie, who was taking care of the shop during her father’s temporary absence.

While she has aspired to be a TV producer someday as frequently watching TV shows, Sylvie also knows a lot about jazz music thanks to her father, who was once a promising jazz musician but chose to give up his music career for supporting his family. As she and Robert enthusiastically exchange their common knowledge on jazz music, their mutual attraction is palpable to us, and that is also apparent to her father, who instantly hires Robert although he was actually reluctant to hire anyone before that.

Robert later invites Sylvie to a place where he and his colleagues have played, and his considerable potential as a jazz musician is evident to not only her but also others watching his performance at the spot. As a matter of fact, there is a rich Caucasian woman who has been watching his performance for a while, and, as an avid jazz enthusiast, she is quite willing to help him and his colleagues advance more in their music career.

When this unexpected backer of his later arranges a new contract with some famous jazz club in Paris, Robert is certainly excited, and he expects Sylvie to go along with him, but there is one problem. As Sylvie told him from the beginning, she has a fiancé who will return once he finishes his military service in South Korea, and her mother fully expects her to marry her fiancé, who is incidentally quite an ideal suitor as the son of a rich and respectable family.

Eventually, Sylvie decides not to leave along with Robert, so they bid farewell shortly before his eventual departure, but she subsequently finds herself becoming pregnant with his child. Fortunately, her fiancé still loves her despite that, and we later see her alternating between her housework and a menial job in some big TV broadcasting company five years later.

When she happens to get a chance for participating in the production of one popular TV show, Sylvie is naturally delighted, but that puts some strain on her relationship with her husband, who wants her to be happy but is usually occupied with his company work. At one point, he expects her to prepare a dinner for not only them but also his Caucasian boss and the boss’ wife, but she is unfortunately busy with her new job right now, and we get a little laugh when she luckily manages to find a way to solve this problem at once.

However, Sylvie is not so happy with the current status of her life, and that is when she come across Robert again. After performing along with his colleagues in Paris, Robert has been a bit more famous than before, and Sylvie is certainly glad to see how things have been going well for him during last several years. Although they are supposed to spend a brief time together just for a little talk, Sylvie soon finds herself swept by the rekindled passion inside her, and so does Robert, who does not say no when she later appears in front of his hotel room.

As the screenplay by director/writer/co-producer Eugene Ashe leisurely proceeds from one expected narrative point from another, the movie keeps holding our attention via its several strong elements. Its bright and lovely period background and details are authentic enough to evoke those old American classic movies in the 1950-60s, and this aspect is further accentuated by the cinematography by Declan Quinn, who deliberately imbued the screen with grainy texture as shooting the movie on 16mm film.

Above all, the movie depends a lot on the good chemistry between its two lead performers. Tessa Thompson, who has steadily advanced since her breakout supporting turn in “Dear White People” (2014), gives a likable performance as a young woman who becomes more confident and independent via her bumpy emotional journey, and she and Nnamdi Asomugha, who also participated in the production of the movie, click well together during their several key scenes in the film. They are also supported well by a number of good supporting characters around him, and Lance Reddick, Ryan Michelle Bathe. Aja Naomi King, and Eva Longoria bring some colorful personality to their respective roles.

On the whole, “Sylvie’s Love” may not be that fresh in terms of story and characters, but its earnest storytelling mostly works thanks to Ashe’s competent direction as well as the solid efforts from its main cast members. Yes, it is quite typical in many aspects, but it is surely a suitable product to warm you a bit during these cold winter days.

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Giving Voices (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): Young students channeling August Wilson’s legacy

Netflix documentary film “Giving Voices”, which was released in last week, follows a number of different participants of one significant annual cultural event commemorating and enlivening the legacy of one of the greatest American playwrights in our modern time. Simply following the progress of the event through its several participants, the documentary did a solid job of presenting its human subjects with respect and admiration, and this surely reminds us of the importance of racial/cultural representation in US.

The playwright in question is August Wilson, who was called the “theater’s poet of black America” for a number of monumental plays including “Fences” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”. Although he died at the age of 60 in 2005, he is still regarded as one of the giants in American modern literature, and I must tell you that one of the prominent Broadway theaters was actually renamed the August Wilson Theatre shortly after his death (It is the first Broadway theater to bear the name of an African American, by the way).

Since it was founded a few years after Wilson’s death, the August Wilson monologue competition has been steadily advancing with more participants, and the early part of the documentary gives some glimpses into how those young participants prepare for the competition. Each of them selects a monologue from Wilson’s plays, and then, after lots of preparation and practice, they will perform each own selected monologue in front of several judges to evaluate their performance.

Before the national competition to be held on Broadway in the New York City, the participants must pass the regional competition held in their respective cities, and the documentary later introduces to us different young students who respectively have each own background and personality. In case of an African American lad named Freedom, he has been quite passionate about acting since he played a small supporting part in one of Shakespeare’s plays, and his deep love of acting is evident from the walls of his art high school dormitory room. In case of an African American girl named Nia, her aspiration for acting has always been supported by her mother despite their economic hardship during recent years, and the same thing can be said about Gerardo, a Latino boy who is simply following his childhood dream with considerable dedication.

The most memorable figure among the participants shown in the documentary is probably Cody, an African American lad who had a fair share of gloomy experiences as living in an urban slum area of Chicago. Although his high school does not have a drama class, his interest in acting has been encouraged a lot by his supportive English teacher, and both of them are surely delighted when Cody later passes the primary competition preceding the regional one where only 20 contestants can participate.

The documentary subsequently gives us a series of clips showing the regional competitions held around various cities in US, and you will notice how enthusiastically and passionately those contestants try really hard in front of their judges. Yes, they are all nervous around the time when they are about to enter the stage together and then deliver each own selected monologue one by one, but they go all the way with Wilson’s rough poetry when time comes for them, and I must say that I was very impressed by some of the performances shown in the documentary. They bring bits of their own experience and personality to Wilson’s words for making these words feel alive and exciting on the stage, and their good efforts may make you want to see any of Wilson’s plays performed on stage someday.

Wilson’s plays are revered for not only their artistic qualities but also their cultural significance, and several prominent performers including Viola Davis, who incidentally participated in the production of the documentary as one of its executive producers, and Denzel Washington willingly talk about why Wilson’s work have been so important to millions of African Americans including them. Through his acclaimed plays about various African American characters, Wilson contributed a lot to the cultural representation of African Americans in US, and his works still resonate with the present status of the American society because, despite lots of social changes, the American society is still not a very good place for its African American citizens due to that lingering social virulence of racism and social inequality.

Wilson was really serious and passionate about giving cultural voices to African American people, and he was particularly dedicated to completing the Pittsburgh Cycle, which consists of 10 different plays ambitiously exploring the African American culture and society during the 20th century. Around the time when he was about to finish the last play of this series, he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer, but he chose to focus more on completing his last work instead of getting any medical treatment, and he did complete it shortly before his death.

Directed by James D. Stern and Fernando Villena, “Giving Voices” is an engaging documentary which not only gives a wide look into a valuable American cultural event but also informs us enough on the significance of August Wilson’s plays, and I was entertained and moved by the passion felt from those young participants shown in the documentary. Sure, it goes without saying that not all of them will be actors in the future, but they all are touched by Wilson’s enduring art in one way or another, and they will certainly be the keepers and givers of the flames ignited by his works.

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10 movies of 2020 – and more: Part 3

Now here are 11 South Korean films of this year.

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10 movies of 2020 – and more: Part 2

And here are the other 5 movies in my list – with other films good enough to be mentioned.

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10 movies of 2020 – and more: Part 1

Here are the first 5 movies in my list.

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10 movies of 2020 – and more: Introduction

2020 has been pretty hard and difficult for many of us. At the beginning of this year, COVID-19 merely looked like a problem for several countries including mine, but then it has been spread all around the world during last several months, and our global world has been devastated a lot by its ongoing ramification which will be continued for next several years at least.

As we all know, many business fields have been seriously affected by the COVID-10 pandemic, and movie business has been no exception. Numerous new movies have been delayed in their production or theatrical release for several months while many theaters are closed down for public safety, and even major Hollywood movie studios came to surrender as choosing to release some of their latest products via streaming services instead. In case of South Korean theaters, many of them are still in business while releasing new movies every week as usual, but they are naturally restricted by the increasing level of social distancing, and the number of audiences has been considerably decreased despite a few notable local hit movies.

Anyway, there are still a considerable number of small and big films released in 2020, and I have managed to watch and review more than 290 movies during this year. As usual, I submit here the list of a bunch of good movies you should not miss, and I hope this list will help you have a more entertaining time later.

By the way, as an audience living in South Korea, I still cannot watch several notable films of this year including “Minari”, “The Father”, “Nomadland”, “One Night in Miami”, “Small Axe”, “News of the World”, “Another Round”, and “Promising Young Woman”. They all will soon be reviewed, and I will certainly mention them at the end of the next year if they are as good as others say.

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