Emerging Talents of World Cinema: Perry Lam previews the 2017 Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival

The Golden Koala Film Festival is back for its 2017 edition, the festival is known for showcasing interesting films from Chinese speaking countries shows no signs of stopping after an extremely successful 2016 edition. The 2017 Golden Koala Chinese Film Festivals pulls out all the stops, unlike the cinematic offerings of the festival’s history, where there was an emphasis on introducing a form of cinematic experience to Australian shores, the 2017 edition does not break the rules as change them.

Equally ambitious is the festival schedule. The festival screenings take place in 6 different Australian cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra). With a designated screening location in each city, offering ample opportunity for Australian audiences to experience how Chinese speaking countries such as China, Taiwan and Hong Kong interpret genres that we are familiar with.

The Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival’s President, Mr. Ray Shen, mentions that the aim of the 2017 edition of the Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival is to showcase new, up and coming directors, especially in their creative prime. As noted by Mr. Shen, he believes that a director’s purest, most powerful works are within the first three films of their careers.


Hence, this focus on new directors has created an extremely intriguing festival line up of horror, comedy and dramatic films. Fitting into this new approach is The Bride by Taiwanese director Lingo Hsieh, whose short film work has been selected for the prestigious Golden Horse Film Festival in 2014. The Bride weaves a tale of unintended consequences and dealing with the supernatural, reminisces of the terrifying cinematic offerings of the Asian horror movie boom of the late 90s and early 2000s. From its strong, distinctive use of colour and shadowy cinematography, Hsieh’s debut feature hits all the right notes in terms of sheer genre thrills and will be one of the films to watch in the upcoming Golden Koala Film Festival.

New directors are also represented in the experimental and arthouse genre, such as The Dog by twenty year old Lam Can-Zhao. The film follows a stray dog as it journeys through modern Guangzhou. Shot in black and white and heavily influenced by documentary and guerrilla filmmaking in its execution, The Dog is an intriguing exercise in stylistic and narrative experimentation. The frequent use of long takes and static cinematography by Lam Can-Zhao stretches the limits of our cinematic expectations, creating a robust neo realist examination of Chinese ‘ordinariness’.


The Dog is also being screened at the 32nd edition of the distinguished Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, with its selection in two illustrious film festivals and featuring such bold stylistic stabs at cinema, Lam Can-Zhao is fast becoming not just one of China’s emerging talents of cinema but also the world’s.

On the other end of the genre spectrum is the comedy-thriller Robbery. Ping is down and out and in desperate need of cash, he takes a night shift job at a convenience store and together with his co-worker, their night escalates as they serve the eccentric and flamboyant customers of the night, before things finally come to a head when the convenience store gets robbed.

A neon drenched, vulgar romp of a film filled with eccentric characters, shoot outs and cops and robbers. It is directed by the equally flamboyantly named director, Fire Lee. Who has previous worked as an actor in Hong Kong films and has now transitioned to a role behind the camera. It will be interesting to witness how Lee’s stylized approach adds to the popular and well-worn genre of comedy thriller.


Finally there is the Song of Cotton, a dramatic tour de force based on the American National Book Award and Hemingway Award winner Ha Jin’s novel ‘A Pension Plan’. Mian Hua takes up a job as a caretaker for an aging boxer, as Mian Hua continues her work, she has to come to terms with the aging boxer’s absent and distrustful family while at the same time struggle to provide the old man with much needed care.

Song of Cotton has garnered multiple accolades, sweeping the 19th Shanghai International Film Festival with Best Film, Best New Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress wins. It also served as the closing film for the 6th Beijing Film Festival. With a plethora of awards, Song of Cotton is one of the cornerstones of this year’s festival and in a festival filled with genre thrills and stylized narratives, stands out for its sheer dramatic simplicity.


These films are just four of the many great films that are in competition for prestigious awards at the festival. With a tough selection process headed by Mr. Ray Shen, the Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival brings to Australia the best Chinese language films this season in both thought provoking cinema and light wacky entertainment. The festival itself kicks off on the 2nd of February in Sydney, before screenings open up for the rest of the month in Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra, before ending on the 20th of February. For more information on the film festival and the terrific film that are part of its official selection as well as to book tickets, do visit the Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival website at:  http://www.cff.org.au/homepage/


Perry Lam is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review and a film and commercials director. He directed the documentary short film BLACK RAT,  which has been screened at over 10 film festivals and showcases and won 3 awards, including Best Documentary at Phoenix Comicon 2016.  His latest short film Hard Vision, is currently on its festival run. You can follow him on Instagram at: perrylam29


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