BERLIN: One man’s bid to hold back the desertification of the Mongolian steppes set against the looming background of the North Korean nuclear programme gave Asia its third competition entry at the Berlin Film Festival on 15 February.
“Hyazgar” (Desert Dream), a low-budget South Korean/French production, tells the story of Hangai, a farmer who is determined to continue planting trees to stem the march of the sands even when all his neighbours have given up the struggle.
When his wife also leaves to seek treatment for their daughter’s hearing problem, Hangai’s desperate life in enlivened by the sudden arrival at his yurt of a mother and her son who have fled North Korea.
Although they do not speak the same language, Hangai strikes up a touching friendship with the boy, Chang-ho, while his mother joins in with the planting of saplings which are invariably destroyed by sandstorms.
The boy happily sketches North Korean missiles, while the radio in the yurt crackles with reports of test firings.And the outside world is about to intrude in a more immediate way in the shape of a Mongolian soldier whose friendly demeanour masks danger for the North Korean woman.
Chinese director Zhang Lu oversees a film with dialogue as sparse as the wind-swept terrain.“Hyazgar” follows the South Korean sci-fi comedy, “I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK” and the well-received Chinese film “Tuya De Hunshi” (Tuya’s Marriage) among Asian entries at the Berlinale.
The final Asian competitor in the 22-film field, “Ping Guo” (Lost in Beijing), has its eagerly awaited premiere on Friday.Festival organisers were awaiting word of which version they are allowed to show after the original cut fell foul of Chinese censors for showing what they deemed an unflattering portrait of the Chinese capital.