Stone's throw: Young Iranian director Hana Makhmalbaf's "Buddha Collapsed out of Shame" eloquently traces the determined journey of 6-year old Afghan girl to learn to read. (Photo courtesy Center for Asian American Media)

Ten SFIAAFF Picks From Judy Stone

Susan Gerhard March 13, 2008

A name familiar to longtime readers of the San Francisco Chronicle, where she once worked, Judy Stone came out with Not Quite a Memoir two years back, offering audiences conversations on film from around the world. This week, she offers readers her top picks for the SFIAAFF’s collection of films from around the world—films screening at the Sundance Kabuki as you read this. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Ramparts, for over 40 years, and Stone has two other books out as well, Eye on the World: Conversations with International Filmmakers and The Mystery of B. Traven.

The problems of communication are central to three beautifully understated, poignant and powerful films. Wayne Wang, returning to his independent roots, leads the way with

1. A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, in which a Chinese father can’t begin to talk with his hostile Americanized daughter.

2. In Chinese director Zhang Lu’s Desert Dream, a lonely Mongolian father whose only desire is to reclaim the desert by planting trees, finds a strange silent companionship with a North Korean widow who arrives at his door with her son, seeking temporary refuge.

3. And young Iranian director Hana Makhmalbaf’s Buddha Collapsed out of Shame, eloquently traces the determined journey of 6-year old Afghan girl to learn to read, only to be caught in the terrifying war games of boys playing the roles of Taliban fighters.

4. Joan Chen is a marvel in Australian director Tony Ayres’s The Home Song Stories as a bad-luck mother whose sexuality is the only means of survival for herself and her children.

5. And it’s great to see again the pint-sized imp with a stolid air in Edward Yang’s Yi Yi: A One and a Two. There’s a lot to learn about both Chen and Yang in my book Not Quite a Memoir.

Two extraordinary documentaries explore the degradation and courage of women, past and present.

6. The hopeless lives of young Cambodian prostitutes are conveyed in Rithy Panh’s gripping Paper Cannot Wrap Up Embers.

7. And Anthony Gilmore’s Behind Forgotten Eyes salutes the elderly Koreans who were once the "comfort women" abused by Japanese soldiers in World War Two and are now fighting back to obtain formal apologies from the reluctant Japanese government. While the U.S. government quietly abets that official silence, three former Japanese soldiers confess to their shameful exploitation of the women. What a profile in courage these forgotten victims are and a reminder—one can only look to Darfur—to observe once more how rape of the innocent is a gain supported by government policy.