By Christopher Bell | The Playlist January 10, 2011 at 5:49AM
10. "In the Qing Dynasty" - China - dir. Jia Zhang-ke
Synopsis: A "kung fu epic" set in the early 20th century.
What You Need To Know: Yet another example of an auteur playing in the big leagues, Jia hasn't changed his mindset to accommodate his first genre jaunt. When asked why he was doing something as different as this project, he explained that he was interested in examining the roots of Chinese modernization; their move from feudal society to their introduction of locomotives and other technologies. It honestly doesn't sound too different from most of his work, but then there's that old kung-fu thing. How his patient sensibilities will mesh with action remains to be determined, but if anything it should be an intriguing experiment.
Release Date/Status: Shooting began October 1st.
9. "Surviving Life (Theory and Practice)" - Czech Republic - dir. Jan Svankmajer
Synopsis: Eugene leads a double life, one in reality and one in dreams. When a psychiatrist interprets the latter, the protagonist unearths some unsettling information about his past.
What You Need To Know: Fans of the director's bat-shit creations won't be disappointed: the teaser trailer dropped and, though not subtitled, showcased the same affinity for disturbing sound design and stop motion animation that we've all come to know and love. Sporting a seemingly lighter tone than 2005's horror, "Lunacy," some reports claim it to be extraordinary and the director at his finest, showcasing much humor and enjoyment. Also, the majority of the film is animation, as explained in a introduction monologue by Jan himself. One thing's for sure, there'll be none like it, not this year and probably not ever.
Release Date/Status: Appeared in Venice 2010, likely to have a small festival rollout in 2011.
8. "The Sleeping Unit" - Germany - dir. Ulrich Kohler
Synopsis: Velten is in Africa studying a sleeping sickness while his wife, Vera, yearns to be back in Germany with their 14-year-old daughter. Velten is struck with fear and subsequent fatigue as the day of his return home approaches rapidly.
What You Need To Know: Few have gotten the chance to see Kohler's excellent "Windows On Monday," the reserved attack on middle-class materialistic life that he completed in 2006, but that remains undistributed. His style owes more than a little to fellow filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and this one - the inability to return to industrial society after languishing in the nature of Africa - is no different, sharing much of the Thai director's disposition and ideas. That said, his sharp criticism of modern life and society is firmly rooted in his home country; he's just one of the German film-makerswho seems to have the impression that people are akin to the living dead, coasting along with little ambition and few values. The story won't be cheery, but his wide angle lens is sure to capture the sheer beauty of the African continent.
Release Date/Status: Shooting is expected to end at some point in 2011. Maybe this one will receive more love.