My Love, Don’t Cross that River

My Love, Don’t Cross That River opens the same way it closes, with an elderly Korean woman sitting in the snow sobbing in anguish. But between the documentary’s beginning and ending is the sweetest love story ever seen onscreen. Byong-man Jo, 98, and Gye-Yeul Kang, his 89-year old wife, have been married for 75 years, yet they still cling to each other like young lovers. Whether they’re raking leaves or shoveling snow together, they can’t help but play like kids—tossing foliage or snowballs at each other.

In their ramshackle house near a river, they cook as a team. Gye-Yeul sometimes spoon-feeds her husband and even bathes him as if he were a baby. Holding hands while they sleep with the lights on, they emanate love. Even when recounting the deaths of several of their younger children, or when they endure arguments among some of their surviving adult kids, the couple never allows their love for each to be overshadowed. Wearing colorful, matching traditional clothes, they pick flowers, go on outings with other seniors, or play in the yard with their dogs, Freebie and Kiddo. But an ominous cloud looms nearby. Soon, we’re the horrified witnesses to this intimate fairytale’s abrupt ending. The biggest grossing independent film in South Korea, this movie touches the heart and reminds us of the fragility of life.  

‘My Love, Don’t Cross That River,’ screens August 12–14 at SIFF Film Center.

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Parched is the name of this feature narrative, but it also describes the women in the rural Indian village of Ujhaas who thirst for freedom from the aridness surrounding them. Relegated to being sex objects or servants for the men in their homes, three women friends slowly come to the realization that they need a drastic change. Even though Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee) herself suffered as a teen bride, the widow is blind to her misogynistic 17-year-old son. Buying him a 14-year-old girl, Janaki (Lehar Khan), Rani verbally abuses her especially after she discovers the girl cut off her beautiful hair in an effort to escape the marriage. In their hut, Rani derides the teenager even as she comforts Lajjo (Radhika Apte), her best friend who constantly suffers at the cruel hands of her alcoholic husband. Unable to conceive, Lajjo is shocked when their liberated prostitute friend Bijli (Surveen Chawla) suggests that Lajjo’s spouse just might be the sterile one—for how could it not be the woman’s fault? An outsider, Kishan (Sumeet Vyas), who helps the women sell their embroidery is even beaten for attempting to financially liberate them. Long-ruling traditions flanked by male dominance finally overcome the three friends as they seek the well of life they’ve been forbidden to drink from for so long.

‘Parched’ was released on home entertainment platforms this summer after its limited theatrical run.

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In Breathin’: the Eddy Zheng Story, the viewer is taken behind the scenes at San Quentin prison for a stark encounter with the failures of the criminal justice system. Eddy Zheng was just 16 years old when he helped commit a robbery and kidnapping. Tried as an adult, he was sentenced to seven years to life. But even though he was a model prisoner, he was turned down for parole 10 times. In prison, Zheng, who emigrated from China with his family, learned about his roots and understood that lack of knowledge had gotten him in trouble in the first place. After circulating a petition to get Asian studies onto the prison school curriculum, Zheng was thrown into solitary confinement. Filmmaker Ben Wang follows Zheng into parole board and deportation hearings, court appearances, and community centers where at-risk youth are warned to avoid actions that could cause them to end up behind bars like Zheng.

The Seattle premiere of ‘Breathin’: the Eddy Zheng Story’ features a Q&A with Eddy Zheng and Ben Wang on August 4 at 6:00 p.m. at Wing Luke Museum.

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With its alluring production design, Train to Busan keeps the viewer captivated and on edge. Things are just too pretty not to be dangerous. When Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) agrees to take his daughter, Su-an (Kim Su-an) on the train from Seoul to Busan so she can spend her birthday with her mother (the wife he’s divorced), little does he dream of the nightmare awaiting them. Scorned as a fund manager with little empathy for people, Seok-woo yearns for a materially satisfying life for both himself and his daughter. But the cost is spending so little time with her that he doesn’t even realize he’s given her the exact same gift twice. At the train station, a passenger jumps on at the last minute along with a sinister-looking man. Soon, an attendant is attacked. As passengers and crew fight, they become infected and turn into zombies. Outside, whole cities go up in flames as bloody zombies rush alongside the tracks. Stopping at the stations is out of the question. As the passengers thin out, the remaining survivors include a muscular blue-collar tough guy with a pregnant wife, two elderly sisters, two teens that started out with a bunch of noisy school kids in their baseball uniforms, and a cold-blooded businessman. Determined to survive at any cost, Seok-woo admonishes Su-an to stop helping those weaker than themselves. But when the survivors arrive at a safe zone, they sing the peaceful surrender of “Aloha Oe” written by Hawai‘i Queen Lili‘uokalani.

‘Train to Busan’ is now playing at AMC Loews Alderwood Mall 16, Cinemark Century Federal Way, and SIFF Cinema Uptown.

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One Night Only takes place on one night only—the longest one night ever. From the time he’s released from a Thai prison until the movie ends, Gao Ye (Hong Kong pop idol Aaron Kwok) is on a constant gambling spree. When a prostitute, Momo (Zishan Yang), appears at his door, he dupes her into one moneymaking scheme after another on a quest to hit the jackpot. From betting on MMA fights to street racing wearing a blindfold, Gao thrives on high stakes. As the couple wins, loses, then wins and loses again, they find themselves romantically drawn to each other. But a surprise revealing their entangled past awaits them on this endless night.  

‘One Night Only’ screened at Regal Meridian 16 in June.

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