Who is Big River

Now the 56th Berlinale is over and critics and audience largely agree that they saw a good year. The Japanese cinema was unfortunately not represented in the competition this time, but entered the Panorama with two, in the Forum even with four and at the Children's and Youth Film Festival with one film each. Lovers of classic Japanese horror cinemas will surely appreciate the retrospective dedicated to Nobuo Nakagawa.

I personally regret again and again that modern Japanese filmmaking in Europe and overseas is often represented by stiffeners who are characterized by the excessive use of violence or sex. Unfortunately, I also had to see this confirmed in this year's film selection, in which the directors Takashi Miike, Sabu (violence) or Sion Sono (sex) should only be exemplary. For our current review, I therefore made a conscious decision to go for the rather inconspicuous road movie "Big River" by Atsushi Funahashi, which was shown in the forum.

First of all - the title “Big River” is misleading. The film is not set on a large river, nor has it anything to do with water. The story that Atsushi Funahashi tells takes place in the steppe, in the vastness of Arizona, in front of the impressive backdrop of the Grand Canyon, where three people meet who couldn't be more different. Teppei (Joe Odagiri) is a Japanese punk who tours the American West with little more than cigarettes in his luggage. Ali (Kavi Raz), a Muslim from Pakistan, is looking for his wife, who has left him and started a new life in America. And Sarah is a white American who lives in a typical American lower class wagon. They all find each other by chance, need each other - without ever admitting this - and lose each other again.

“America is like a great river. People from all over the world throw themselves into it; But swimming with the flow also means losing your roots. Can immigrants come together to overcome the walls that separate them? ”Is the question the director asked himself and who at the same time explains the misleading title to us.
The film doesn't really answer that question. Perhaps in the meeting of these three people it only symbolizes the simultaneity of the developmental non-simultaneity. They get together for a limited time, during which they exchange ideas, talk, help each other and fall in love. And they part again because each of them is at a completely different fork in his life. Funahashi describes this time of togetherness to us in wallowing images and leaves no doubt for a moment as to how much he would wish it did not end. But even if he said in a conversation after the film that he had considered different variants of the ending - no other conclusion was possible than the dissolution of the community. Anything else would have been a great illusion. And although Funahashi lives in New York, he seems to be rather skeptical about the usual happy endings ...

Conclusion: A pleasant, thoughtful film about the difficulties of interpersonal communication, friendship and love. Even if you've already seen the subject in one form or another, I would appreciate it if this plea for tolerance and peaceful coexistence found its way into our cinemas.

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