This month two morality tales will make you question whether doing the right thing is always the best thing to do.
A master of creating intense drama out of minor domestic disputes, Iran’s Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, About Elly) solidifies his reputation as a world-class dramatist with The Salesman, an Oscar-winning film that examines the effects of the damaged male ego.
When cracks in the building force Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) to evacuate their home, they move into a new apartment that was previously occupied by a single woman who may have been a prostitute. Soon, trouble comes to their door when Rana is suddenly attacked at home by a mysterious man. Enraged, Emad transforms into an amateur detective looking for revenge.
Farhadi meticulously maps out the various narrative pieces building up to a big reveal. The Salesman takes longer to find its dramatic footing than his previous films, but Farhadi’s careful planning finally culminates in a gripping 40-minute finale that makes you doubt the reasoning of Emad’s actions. Farhadi’s camera acts as a silent, neutral spectator, watching the drama unfold without telling his audience how to feel. The Salesman is an emotionally demanding work that will continue to prompt debate.
Meanwhile, Chinese-Canadian director Johnny Ma shows how honesty can lead to bad consequences in Old Stone. Showing a taxi driver’s descent into madness after choosing to take responsibility for a car accident, Old Stone is a gripping psychological drama set in a dog-eat-dog world where good deeds are often punished.
Shot on a minuscule budget in Anhui province by Hong Kong-born cinematographer Leung Ming-kai, Old Stone has a gritty look that matches the story’s noir tone and its grimy small-city setting. However, it’s easy to imagine the story of Old Stone happening outside China (the original script was set in Detroit in the US). It’s a parable that feels appropriate for the cynical, uncertain times we live in.
ALSO PLAYING ONBOARD NOW
Goblin: The Lonely and Great God
TV Asia, playing until June 30, 2017
The writer and director of Descendants of the Sun reunite for this high-concept fantasy romance, about an immortal goblin (Gong Yoo, Train to Busan), the woman (Kim Go-eun) who is destined to break his curse and the Grim Reaper (Lee Dong-wook) who becomes a friendly rival. Thanks to some word-of-mouth marketing, Goblin became one of South Korea’s most-watched cable series of all time.
I Like Food Trucks
HKTV, playing until June 30, 2017
This spring, food trucks arrived on the streets of Hong Kong. This programme introduces the 16 restaurants-on-wheels stationed at different spots around the city and the mouthwatering dishes they’re taking on the road – from multicoloured dumplings to a hamburger made with pineapple buns and barbecued roast pork.
Real Husbands of Hollywood
Comedy, playing until September 30, 2017
Inspired by the glut of reality TV docu-soaps, this savvy comedy co-created by and starring US comedian Kevin Hart sends up the genre to hilarious effect. Playing a fictionalised version of himself, Hart tries desperately to climb the Hollywood social ladder but is invariably left in the shade by his more successful celebrity friends.
The Young Pope
Drama, playing until September 30, 2017
Written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino, the Italian maestro behind Oscar winner The Great Beauty, The Young Pope is a lavish drama about pontiff Pius XIII (Jude Law), the first American to lead the Catholic Church. Raising intriguing questions about belief, power and control, The Young Pope lingers in the mind long after the shocking finale.
To Be Human
TED, playing until July 31, 2017
Entrepreneurs, technologists, activists and artists share experiences that make us human in this fascinating series of TED talks. From inventive low-tech engineering projects to turning rejections into positive experiences, these amazing stories address some of life’s toughest questions.
Documentary, playing until June 30, 2017
Completed seven months before the deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, Bright Lights is a tender portrayal of their complex mother-daughter relationship. It’s also a brutally honest documentary about the pain of growing up in the limelight of a showbiz family.
The Incredible Hidden Gems
TV Asia, playing until May 31, 2017
Taiwanese television personality Marco Liao, who won a Golden Bell Award in 2014 for his travelogue show Discover the Great Silkroad, finds new destinations in his latest travelogue series. Travelling to Israel, Liao visits Tel Aviv’s Silicon Wadi, Haifa’s Bahá’í gardens and the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
The Good Place
Comedy, Season 1, playing until September 30, 2017
Delivering a quirky vision of the afterlife, this comedic fantasy follows the post-death fortunes of Eleanor (Kristen Bell), a woman who is accidentally sent to a utopia – The Good Place – after dying in close proximity to an altruistic lawyer of the same name. Ted Danson stars as Michael, the angel who tries to ensure Eleanor’s eternity is just as divine.
Drama, playing until August 31, 2017
From The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to The Killing, Nordic crime thrillers have been a hot ticket in recent years – and Midnight Sun is the latest to make its mark. Written by the duo behind fellow ‘Scandi noir’ The Bridge, this gripping thriller begins with a grisly murder in a remote Swedish village in the Arctic Circle.
Stupid Man, Smart Phone: Morocco
Lifestyle, playing until May 31, 2017
Comedian Russell Kane believes that the internet has everything we need for our survival, and he’s setting out to prove that by going around the world with only his smartphone. In the first episode, Kane and ‘video prankster’ Arron Crascall are tasked to take a camel across the Sahara Desert. Will search engines and GPS be enough for them to complete the mission?
Catfish (Season 5)
Entertainment, playing until May 31, 2017
After turning his online dating experience into the subject of a hit documentary, Nev Schulman and his creative partner Max Joseph take to the road to help other people discover the truth about their own virtual relationships. Addictively entertaining and sometimes scary, Catfish is a sobering reminder that not everything on the internet should be taken at face value.
Beware the Batman
Family, playing until May 31, 2017
After The Brave and the Bold, Warner Brothers and DC Comics decided to bring Batman back to a darker realm with Beware the Batman. Co-produced by Glen Murakami (Batman Beyond), the animated series is set during Bruce Wayne’s early years as Batman. In addition to his butler Alfred, Batman also gets a little help from Alfred’s goddaughter Tatsu Yamashiro, better known to comic book fans as Katana in the DC Comic universe.