International Film Festival & Awards Macao: Our First Picks

10th December 2018

You will find us in the Far East this week, specifically in Macao where we've been invited to cover the International Film Festival & Awards Macao. Macao was previously a Portuguese colony up until the late 90s and since then it's been officially known as The Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, an autonomous territory on the western side of the Pearl River estuary in East Asia. Macao has become a vibrant city known for its Portuguese architecture, remanants of it colonial past, as well its influence on the local cuisine Macronese, a fusion of Portuguese and Cantonese, but most of all as a major casino city to rival Las Vegas, with the grandest of casinos spread around the city galore.
The International Film Festival & Awards Macao is now in its third year, with a focus on Chinese and Far East Asian talent, but also includes international films which have been making the rounds at festivals in recent months. We will be updating you with highlights on films we've managed to catch over the course of the week.
Football, fluffy puppies, pink clouds, refugees, evil twin sisters and man boobs are the secret ingredients to this off-kilter, hysterical comedy. Directors Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt first features have been inspired by and created a parody of famous Portuguese football star Ronaldo. This indie is so impeccably well made that, its DIY cinematographic aesthetic is utilized superbly as a stylistic prop, making all the visual randomness that assaults you, a thoroughly enjoyable experience. There are countless comedic moments in Diamantino with its outlandish Cinderella plot that veers into the sci-fi. Through all the film’s dream-like haphazardness, directors make light of various issues such as wealth inequality, far-right extremism and Trumpian wall rhetoric all added for good measure. After the death of his manager father, his evil twins’ sisters have sinister plans to clone Diamantino, in a bid to get rid of the original version, their actual brother, as he becomes a liability to their wealth after being ‘woke’ by the recent refugee crisis.

Suburban Birds
A rather leftfield offering that fluctuates from moments of greatness to moments of complete abstractness and tediousness. Suburban Birds debut by director Qiu Sheng explores non-linear narratives, of two sets of groups, an adult group who come to a suburban area to investigate ground subsidence and a group of children who live and go to school there. The two plot strands overlapping and set in present time yet simultaneously appear to take place at alternative realities, both chronicling of the ever-changing relationships between each group. An experimental film that at points naturally proves a difficult watch verging on the mind-numbing, specifically when focus is turned on to the adults. However, its salvaged when the focus is turned on the young, their buoyancy, innocent and mischievous natures and the naturality of the kids actors paired with the impressive naturistic vast industrial landscapes in the background are worth sticking around for.

All Good
All Good is an exceptional nuanced story of Janne (Aenne Schwarz) who believes she is in complete control of her life, professionally and personally, even when her bosses brother-in-law forces himself upon her, one night after a party. Janne keeps the rape under wraps from everyone, even herself, charging forward with her life, trying to brush it under carpet, only for it to continually rear its ugly head. Even when she confronts her perpetrator at her work space, on more than one occasion, there is still no relief. This simple yet supremely effective effort by director of Eva Trobisch and the terrific performance by Schwartz, manages to successfully zoom in on all the complexities and nuances of this very topical story. There manner in which Janne tries deal with the event is pragmatic and unfortunately the likeliest way many victims deal with rape as well as the painstakingly lengths she goes to, to convince herself that ‘all is good’, when in reality her refusal to recognise what happened fuels her psychologically unravelling. A poignant movie that deserves to be noticed.

The Favourite
We finally got to see The Favourite after missing it at the London Film Festival in October, (full review coming up on the site very shortly) and it was definitely worth the wait. The Favourite deserves all the hype, credit, awards it can get… A historical period comedy drama set in 1708, where Britain is at war with France, Olivia Coleman’s Queen Anne is in poor health, suffering from gout, she is unconcerned by governing her country and would rather engage in more eccentric activities such as playing with her rabbits. She absolves all her duties to her confidant, advisor and secret lover Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weicz), the Duchess of Marlborough, who is effectively ruling the country. However, the power dynamics change as Abigail Hill (Emma Stone with a perfected English accent), Sarah’s impoverished younger cousin, who arrives at the court in search for employment. Abigail quickly makes her way up to becoming the Queen’s lady-in-waiting and sure enough various reckonings and power shifting between the three ensues. Whether it’s the rich characters, the three actresses at the top of their game, the set, the audacious narrative, it is all perfectly fascinating; an over-stuffed, opulently baroque extravaganza.

The 3rd International Film Festival & Awards Macao runs from 8-14th of December, 2018.
Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_.
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