2019 Busan International Film Festival
2019 BUSAN IFF - NEW CURRENTS AWARD
Tran Thanh Huy
Tran Thanh Huy
Tran Anh Khoa, Nguyen Phan Anh Tu, Wowy
14-year-old Rom (Tran Anh Khoa) is a runner. That is, he runs lottery numbers for the indebted inhabitants of a dilapidated tenement, a network of interconnected homes soon to be demolished by greedy developers. The bookie climbs and zips through its many alleys, down streets, up balconies and staircases and other unstable contraptions – in order to be the first to give his clients’ numbers to the teller. Doing so, he hopes to amass enough money to finally meet his parent one day… But between his rivalry with Phuc (Nguyen Phan Anh Tu), who will not hesitate to backstab his friend, the approaching eviction of his community, and encounters with gangsters, life is anything but easy. In fact, the wellbeing of the entire neighbourhood might just be in Rom’s young hands.
Winner of the New Currents Award at the latest Busan Film Festival, Tran Thanh Huy’s ROM is an electrifying debut: a jolt of a film, shot with a great, street-savvy energy, and constant forward momentum. Carried by virtuoso, dizzying camerawork (recalling the stylized work of Anthony Dod Mantle on films such as SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE), ROM plunges the viewer headfirst into the underbelly of Ho Chi Minh City. Rom’s world is one of resourcefulness and petty criminals, labyrinthine concrete and shallow rivers – a milieu translated here neither as a tragedy, nor as cautionary tale. Instead, ROM avoids the pitfalls of the slum film by simply exploding onto the screen as a genuine, lived-in jolt of adrenaline: a thrilling coming-of-age about the drive necessary to survive the hustle. – Ariel Esteban Cayer
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