By: Jireya Bautista
This year, QCinema International Film Festival (QCinema) celebrates its tenth year of powerful film experiences with a strong line-up of films from the region and around the world.
QCinema screened more than 50 movies, including six short film production grantees, seven parts of feature-length movies, and three sections of short films.
SEA Wave has watched a few titles from the festival, one of which reaped trophies during QCinema’s awards night ceremony. Here are our capsule High Five reviews of Autobiography and You Can Live Forever!
Autobiography review (Asian Next Wave Competition)
A debut feature film on the allure of power and its consequences, Makbul Mubarak hits audiences with a father-son dynamic that builds up before a series of dizzying, dramatic scenes that ends with a bang.
The Son He Never Had
Makbul Mubarak’s masterpiece follows a young man named Rakib, introduced to us watching a chess match. Assigned as the caretaker of a mansion in the Indonesian countryside, he is surprised by the sudden return of General Purna after 19 years.
The General begins to take a special interest in him. He tries to mold Rakib, first giving him his old uniforms, then later teaching him to fire a gun. They two quickly build a close relationship, Rakib becoming like a son to the old General.
While it is clear that General Purna exerts authority over Rakib, the film has no shortage of scenes that show a deeper bond than just master and subordinate.
The actors have done a great job in bringing depth to the quiet moments, whether they are smoking on a balcony at night or sharing bowls of instant noodles. These poignant scenes build up an investment in what the General and Rakib have, which accentuates the latter parts of the film.
The Hierarchy of Power
The General’s interest in Rakib earns him the respect of people around him. While he was initially introduced as a pushover, Rakib eventually gained prestige among his old peers. Dubbed “Sergeant”, he uses this newfound influence when he gets an old friend to hunt down someone who defaced a General Purna poster.
Mubarak uses this film to show the deep-rooted effects of influence and nepotism present in Indonesia. From Rakib being the latest in a long line of caretakers for General Purna’s clan, to General Purna offering to spare Rakib’s Father’s land from construction. This is the main point of Mubarak in this film, and even the protagonist Rakib eventually takes part in this cycle.
A View of This Side of Indonesia
Mubarak’s choice of locations paints a bigger picture of the themes and plot of this film. The lack of electric lighting in many places and a bar that occasionally suffers outages give credence to General Purna’s political ambition. Electricity is not so common in the countryside and he seeks to remedy that with his planned hydroelectric plant.
Sprawling forests, worn down structures, a bus full of workers hoping to go abroad, large-scale construction by a cliffside. These set pieces come together to paint a picture of what the world is like for people living there. While the movie centers on Rakib, there are people around affected by a wider unjust system, and his own success would not ease their troubles.
Rakib is not the most active or charismatic of protagonists, but this film delivers strong messages and solid character. Supported by well-set backdrops and inspired camera work, the actors’ already good performances are elevated. It is critically acclaimed and it has every right to be.
You Can Live Forever review (RainbowQC)
Stories of a forbidden love are filled with tension and drama, and Mark Slutsky’s queer romance film is rife with it. The story throws two young adults, still finding their place in the world, into an internal crisis. The question is a big one—follow one’s heart or one’s faith?
Tension Thick Enough To Cut
It was love at first sight; the whole world stopped around Jamie when she first saw Marike. The preaching around her was drowned out and the congregation didn’t matter. When they hit it off, watching Jaime and Marike find every excuse to hang out is charming.
Slutsky introduced the idea of infatuation early, but made the next scenes drawn out. The director cruelly injected intense romantic tension between the pair, always so close to falling into each other’s arms but never quite there. Eventually, all of the walls broke down and the audience is treated to a cathartic release. The longing stares and reluctant embraces became an intense few minutes without inhibition.
Faith In the Way of Love
A major theme of the movie, the beliefs and practices of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are central to most of the cast. There are many scenes which showcase the bright side of the religion—the congregation with a strong sense of community, engaging outdoor activities, and Marike’s sense of hope. The promise of The New Order makes them all live lives of kindness and virtue.
However, the film also shows the other side of the religion, as it is the biggest hurdle to the main characters’ relationship. Marike’s father believes that the girls’ love is a test and while Marike does not accept that, she is swayed by those words. Both Marike’s sister and Jaime’s uncle see Jaime as a bad influence upon Marike, due to the clear lack of faith.
A Complex Side Cast
Besides the main characters, the rest of the cast have depth and it shows in each scene they’re on. Nate is Jaime’s only other friend in a place she’s unfamiliar with, who never judges her identity and beliefs. Jaime’s aunt wants to start a family, but her husband wishes to wait for The New Order. Marike’s sister Amanda has had to pretend her own mother has passed and cannot bear to do the same for her sister.
While the main characters have to contend with faith for their love, the other characters have their own struggles and experiences with it. The drama isn’t reserved for the two lovebirds.
While the ending of the film might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the film showcases an excellent romance. From the cute couple moments to the more intense and dramatic parts of their relationship, Slutsky keeps audiences wanting to see more Jaime and Marike. With an interesting problem and charming characters, this is a movie that gives representation while being entertaining.
What do you think of this year’s QCinema Film Festival? Share your thoughts below!