Two Asian films explore burden of past violence at Berlin Film Festival

Two southeast Asian films competing at this year’s Berlin Film Festival explore what violence does to human beings, one through painful historical narrative and one through fantasy.

Indonesian director Kamila Andini’s Nana shows the impact of years of war on the life of a woman in the Javan town of Bandung. After losing her first husband and family to war in the 1940s, she remarries and lives to face the chaos of the mass-killings of the 1960s.

The film keeps a tight focus on the impact of violent times on the lives of Nana, played by Happy Salma, and the women and children around her, showing her controlling outward emotion with a discipline as tight as the long, winding garments she must wrap herself in for formal occasions.

“As women from Indonesia we are always told we have to hide problems to save the image of the family in society,” Andini told a news conference of her film, only the second feature film ever made in the Sundanese minority language.

Unable to take solace in victimhood, and frustrated at her new husband’s infidelity, she finds strength in an unlikely quarter, by bonding with her husband’s mistress.

Cambodian-French director Rithy Panh takes a very different approach, asking how a world in which animals had come to power would look in Everything Will Be OK. Would they consume to excess, would they oppress their peers, and how would they treat their human predecessors?

“I wanted to make a world come alive,” said Panh, who came to Paris in 1990 after fleeing the Khmer Rouge’s genocide in his home country.

“I had hundreds of clay figures made and painted and then filmed them to explore history through the tragedies and struggles that have punctuated and tainted it,” he said.

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