The San Diego International Film Festival (SDIFF) hosted its annual event once again for fans of independent cinema from around the world. Organizers provided a unique experience for attendees with their return to both the Virtual Village and physical screenings. They showed a wide array of films from different countries but we will be featuring South Korea’s “My Son” and “Everything In Its Right Place” from Japan.

“My Son”

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Jang Minseok (Jang Hyunsung, “Vampire Prosecutor”) is a hardworking man doing his best to take care of his son Hyunjae. Hyunjae (An Seounggyun, “Andante”) is a clever high schooler with a lot of wit and has a motorized wheelchair due to his disability. His father is very protective of him but the 19 year-old wants more freedom though he’s also well aware about his condition. Thanks to his newest government personal assistant Kichul (Yang Heejun), Hyunjae’s plan gains some momentum. However, everything halts when Minseok falls down the stairs. The accident leads to a shift in responsibilities but also revelations about this unique family.

“My Son” director and screenwriter Equan Choe presented a family drama with disabilities but also other complications beyond the ones on their bodies. Each member, including Hyunjae’s aunt (Kim Kookhee, “The Season of the Next Step”) have personal struggles and secrets they bear in order to maintain their stable life. Viewers discover that the characters can only evade and suppress the issues for so long until things give way. Through the harsh words and painful moments, we see humans who are trying to understand the ones they love and care for instead of broken members of society. “My Son” has some funny scenes but will definitely tug on your heart to tears. It also brings awareness to how some disabled people deal with things others take for granted, especially the things Hyunjae wants to experience during his student life. It includes some of the less noticeable afflictions such as fetal alcohol syndrome and the stigma some people think they are. Still, they push away the prejudice and try to provide for each other.

“My Son” deals with some mature content including sexual activity and talk about it, nudity and suicide. Viewer discretion is advised for those sensitive to those matters. Though the film is a fictional story, it contains some of the heaviness and harshness that life may bring to people, able-bodied or not. 

“Everything in Its Right Place”

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Genos Films’s 2021 short “Everything in Its Right Place” focuses on the reunion of two brothers. Kenji (Keita Arai, “Keep Your Hands Off Eikouzen!”) finishes his decade-long sentence after killing his father. His younger brother Keita (Keita Jimmy Hara) meets him at the prison entrance and they celebrate his release. They go to a local restaurant and catch up while enjoying a meal until two guys come in to rob the place. The thieves are nothing compared to the powerful loan shark that still has a hold on the brothers’ lives.

Filmmaker Williy Lau works once again with Keita Jimmy Hara after the 2020 short “BLANK”. Hara plays once again a son but this time also a brother trapped in a web of dark chains. “Everything in Its Right Place” is like a modern film noir and fits well in its assigned program “
Dramatic Fanatics”. The production team’s use of lighting effectively conveys the story’s dark atmosphere and also emotions through colors. As a short, it feels like viewers get a chapter out of the longer narrative concerning the two men. Some may want more in the form of a full feature but it provides adequate information to understand what is going on. 

According to Genos Films’s website, Lau’s latest work “Echoes” is set to be out in 2022.

We thank SDIFF for letting us review and enjoy these films. Check out the festival’s website for its upcoming events. For those interested in submitting their own piece, submissions will be accepted starting in January 2022.