July 24, 2013

Annabelle Pendlebury

Everyone’s heard of the Melbourne International Film Festival. It’s a wondrous part of the cultural diversity of which we Melbournians should be so proud. We get to indulge in talent from across the globe, transported to us via the big screen – I mean, who doesn’t love a good movie, right? Yet a name that a lot of people may not be so familiar with is that of Next Gen, an equally integral part of the MIFF, responsible for presenting films that directly relate to the issues of young people (but most people in general will love them).

The idea of such a youth-centered concept caught my eye immediately and so I pounced upon the opportunity to see an advance screening of one of the Next Gen films. This early viewing of Capturing Dad proved itself to be 74 minutes of captivating cinematography, intriguing storylines and many welcome instances of black humour interspersed throughout the film. It was just one of many diverse films making up the Next Gen program, which “explore cultural and social issues that young people can identify with” while showing off various different languages, settings and concepts. Capturing Dad was no exception and was a fascinating and emotional tale of family conflict and the teenage struggle to find one’s self identity.

Capturing Dad is the product of Japanese director Ryota Nakano. Nakano had great ambitions for his very first feature length film, evidenced by his statement, “I hope the film makes you laugh and feel a lot”. Well Mr Nakano,because I know that you’re out there reading this (I don’t blame you, who wouldn’t want to read this piece of awesomeness?) I ought to let you know you are far too modest! This film actually went beyond being just a little touching. It was the kind of film with the ability to grab you and pull you along for the ride and so is truly worth commending with the highest of praise.

Centered around the story of two sisters sent off on a voyage to farewell their estranged father, now dying of cancer, this film takes the viewer through both the highs and lows of family duty and ties. The mother of the girls is still too distressed about the way her marriage ended to join Hazuki and Koharu in their travels, but her overpowering love for her girls is evidenced in this charming depiction of parental care. Making the film even more relatable is the typically human behaviours that are witnessed in the characters, such as the girls changing into their preferred outfits as soon as their mother is out of sight. I loved how this made the characters so very understandable, while also provoking a laugh. What’s more, one of my favourite elements of the entire film was the subtle inclusion of flashbacks, revealing crucial insight into how family life can crumble before divorce, tugging mercilessly upon the viewer’s heartstrings. So much more than just any old drama, the depiction of relatable family tensions and sibling love was enough to have me on the verge of tears one minute, only to find myself laughing the next.

While it may have been set in another country, in a language I do not know, it not only succeeded to break through the language barrier but shoved it aside and danced on top of the ruins, to make me feel completely involved in the story line. I think it’s safe to say I understand the brilliance of films in bringing something from a totally foreign land and harmonizing it with the ways of another culture. Perhaps this is where some of the beauty of the MIFF itself lies. It allows the sharing of something from one country to the next, making film and media something universal, particularly appropriate in today’s globalised world. Capturing Dad is a film that really speaks for itself, but I can only affirm how Nakano’s creation allows us to enjoy the magic of Japan to its fullest.

Next Gen as part of the The Melbourne International Film Festival runs from July 25 to August 11 2013, while Capturing Dad will be screened on August 7 and 9.

Annabelle Pendlebury


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