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New Zealand, 1998 (MIFF 1998, International Panorama)

Director: Niki Caro

Memory and Desire is a beautifully framed, intimately observed love story. At its core is a mystery surrounding the tragic death of a young husband, Keiji, on his New Zealand honeymoon. He and his wife, Sayo, had travelled to New Zealand to get away from Keiji's intimidating and disapproving mother. During their honeymoon the pair had explored the intimate nature of the island's beautiful coast as well as their sexual and spiritual union. After Keiji's death, Sayo returns to Japan but can find no peace amongst her dead husband's family.

Niki Caro's haunting tale is based on a story from Peter Wells' Dangerous Desires - inspired by a news item regarding a young Japanese woman found living in a cave on a New Zealand beach. Moved by the impact of the young woman's devotion to the memory of her husband, Caro used the story to explore the strength of the heart.

Memory and Desire discards lush sentimentality, relying on a mood reflective of the loneliness and despair at the heart of Sayo's situation. Japanese honeymoon tours form a backdrop upon which this highly charged scenario is set. Niki Caro's debut feature - which was the closing film at the Critics Week at Cannes this year - is set to cement contemporary New Zealand cinema's position on the international stage.

"It's a love story, about a couple who are mismatched. Despite their differences they're intensely in love. It's also about a love triangle. A mother's love versus a lover's. It's an intoxicating proposition really. It's only in the last few years that I've seen films that talk to me about what it's like to be a female... The emotional terrain is enormous - they can be so rich, and so dark... For Sayo it's just this huge journey that she takes; in some ways it's a really normal journey, but in that personal way, it's very heroic." - Niki Caro

Niki Caro is a young New Zealand filmmaker. Memory and Desire is her first feature.

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