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June Movies at Saigon’s Alternative Film Venues

This month’s films show us that it’s possible to make a great sequel from an 80s classic, that Twilight has accidentally done something good for cinema and that Hollywood producers can’t always constrain indie filmmakers.

3rd June @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Future Shorts Vietnam

The biggest international pop-up short film festival is back in town. Now into its sixth year, Future Short Vietnam was the first of its kind in Southeast Asia and, to this day, continues to bring the work of international and new local talents to Vietnamese audiences. And who knows, maybe we will find our next Whiplash among the award-winning films in this season’s programme.

4th June @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Chappie (USA 2015) 

Neill Blomkamp (District 9) returns behind the camera for another futuristic, robot-led, sci-fi spectacle. Chappie makes reference to other classics of the genre, such as Asimov’s I, Robot, the 80s film Short Circuit and Cameron’s Terminator.

In a world where the law enforcement has commissioned the creation of robots to bring down the level of crime, Deon (Dev Patel) wants to create an AI that can read, think and love, not just kill. After his intelligent droid is kidnapped, it returns as an angry, child-like robot (now named Chappie) that has been trained to kill.

Chappie is not as dystopian or socially relevant as District 9, but it showcases beautiful action scenes with the recurring question of whether artificial intelligence can develop human ideas and emotions.

10th June @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

What We Do in the Shadows (New Zealand 2014)

When it debuted at Sundance Film Festival last year, What We Do in the Shadows was already considered one of the best comedies of 2014.

A mockumentary about the daily life of four vampires, who share a flat in New Zealand (the film opens with a fake logo from The New Zealand Documentary Board), the film follows the bland and mundane chores of these undead, from their arguments about who is not doing the dishes to what outfit to wear on a night out.

The creator of Flight of the Concords and the director of Boy (Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi) have written, directed and acted in this wickedly funny rendition of a classic cinematic and literary genre. The film does not simply see the succession of one gag after another; it also steadily adds character, back-stories and twists during the narration. It also manages to pack in thrills, romance and contemporary social themes of racial discrimination (the rapport between the vampires and werewolves is more than entertaining). 

11th June @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

The Lion King  (USA 1994)

No amount of technology or new techniques from Pixar have managed to dethrone The Lion King as the most loved and accomplished Disney musical of all time. The announcement of a long feature animation with no human characters was received with scepticism and many believed that The Lion King would be a hard sell to audiences. Boy, were they wrong.

The journey of Simba, from a young cub dealing with the loss of his father by the hand of power-hungry uncle Scar to his redemption and self-affirmation as an adult, is one of the most dramatic yet uplifting within Disney’s productions. Although it was not nominated for best film (like The Beauty and the Beast), the film took home two Oscars for a soundtrack led by Hans Zimmer and Elton John’s song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”

17th June @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (USA 2001)

The glittery punk-musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch has been a successful play on Broadway (including performances by Neil Patrick Harris) and on the silver screen, but it is unquestionable that John Cameron Mitchell’s performance as Hedwig (both on stage and on film) is the most explosive and captivating of all. Mitchell wrote and directed himself on screen in the role of an East-Berlin transgender singer who takes on a journey through the States in order to find an ex-lover who stole her songs.

Now over20 years old, Hedwig has become a sort of indie-cult film, whether due to its irreverent LGBT themes, the dazzling soundtrack or the sharp script, one thing is for sure, Hedwig has been a breath of fresh air within the often-dull musical genre.

18th June @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Mad Max: Fury Road  (USA 2015) 

At a time where film producers seem determined to destroy our childhood cult films, the Mad Max series sees a worthy addition to its saga. George Miller, who also directed the original two instalments of Mad Max, managed to gain the love and appreciation of both critics and audiences for his post-apocalyptic adventure film.

With the support of powerhouse performances by Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, Fury Road is an action-packed film in which Imperator Furiosa (Theron) is chased across the desert after stealing something she should not have from a warlord. Although Max (Hardy) joins her in her quest, it is reinvigorating to see a female hero equal as her male counterpart.

Miller might have just shown action filmmakers that it is possible to combine explosions with well-developed characters and a solid storyline.

24th June @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Prisoners(USA 2013)

After the success of Incendies and Enemy, Prisoners was the first Hollywood-produced film by Canadian-director Denis Villeneuve (the man now tasked to deliver the Blade Runner sequel).

Starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, the film follows the kidnapping of two young girls. Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) is in charge of the investigation, which initially leads to a young suspect, Alex (played by a restrained yet poignant Paul Dano). When no charges are brought against Alex, one of the girls’ fathers, Keller (Jackman), decides to take matters in his own hands.

Prisoners is a thriller ripping with guilt, a sense of responsibility and violence, but Villeneuve is not one of these filmmakers that uses the latter gratuitously. He knows that what is not shown is more powerful than what the eyes see, but when violence is on screen it is as raw and realistic as it gets, allowing the audience to embrace the demons that motivate and control his characters.

For once, Hollywood producers did not take a successful indie filmmaker and mould him to fit commercial cinema.

25th June @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

The Fisher King (USA 1991)

Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams lead this magical tale by Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam (Brazil, Twelve Monkeys).

Bridges is Jack, a radio DJ who decides to end his life after a terrible mistake he makes during his show. Parry (Robin Williams) is a vagabond who saves Jack’s life and takes him on a quest around Manhattan to find the Holy Grail, an obsession of his.

Jake sees Parry as his way to redeem himself from his past mistake and helps him in his quest and also to win over the woman he loves.

Compared to many other Gilliam’s films, The Fisher King is the best produced while retaining the fancifulness of the eccentric filmmaker. 

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