TREELESS MOUNTAIN (Directed by So Yong Kim)
Out of school for the summer, 6-year-old Jin and her kid sister Bin are left to fend for themselves after their overextended mother abandons them with drunk Big Aunt in a desperate attempt to find their estranged father. Clinging tightly to a promise that their mother will return when their piggy bank is full, the sisters set out on an entrepreneurial venture of catching-grilling-selling grasshoppers to the local kids--only to be shuffled off again to their grandparents' farm far away from their hometown of Seoul.
Told from the vantage point of the young narrator Jin, writer/director So Yong Kim's second feature film quietly unfurls the inner workings of two little girls searching for home and trying to make sense of the erratic adults around them. Kim's deeply felt direction (perhaps inspired from the semi-autobiographical story) of the two young non-actors captures the subtleties of disorientation, despair and, ultimately, resilience. The delicate emotional tenor is achieved through the cinema verite aesthetic and stunning cinematic compositions of extreme close-ups and panoramic interludes of South Korean urban and countryside landscape.
BARKING WATER (Directed by Sterlin Harjo)
Irene and Frankie have been on-again, off-again lovers for more than 40 years. Although they mean everything to each other, he keeps leaving her, and she keeps not forgiving him. Now Frankie is dying, and Irene, like so many times before, is going to help him just this once. Together, they break Frankie out of the hospital and set off on a road trip home so that he can make amends and see his daughter and new grandbaby.
Spurred by such road-trip dramas as what music gets played and how loud, their winding route drives a profound reflection on their fractured relationship. Writer/director Sterlin Harjo's sage second feature establishes him as a mainstay in American cinema for articulating the multiplicity and subtleties of Native experiences. Resisting any temptation to neatly absolve Frankie of his mistakes because of his terminal illness or surrender Irene to a sentimentally motivated...