Monday, October 28, 2002

"Tongan Ninja," from New Zealand, stars Linda Tseng and Sam Manu. It shows Saturday and Nov. 5 and 8.

From pulp thrillers and
new wave to indies and low-fi

Movie magic
Movie award nominees cover wide range of drama
Salute to the Kamaes

Here are some selected highlights of the Hawaii International Film Festival 2002, some recommended by festival film and education coordinator Anderson Le:


"Fulltime Killer" (Hong Kong/ China): A hypnotic and hyperactive pulp thriller from acclaimed directors Wai Ka-fai and Johnnie To about a lonely assassin named Q who lives in an isolated world of crime and despair after the death of his true love. A flamboyant and reckless hit man challenges Q for the status of No. 1 Killer.

"Musa -- The Warrior" (Korea): Set in 1375, the film tells the true story of a delegation of exiles that kidnaps a a princess from the army of the rival Yuan Dynasty. Le calls it an epic Korean "Braveheart."

"Wasabi," a Japanese/French co-production, stars Michel Muller, Jean Reno and Ryoko Hirosue. The action film shows Nov. 7 and 10.

"Wasabi" (Japan/France): Jean Reno plays yet another "tough guy with a tender heart," this time a hard-nosed cop who learns that, when he was in Tokyo, he fathered a daughter with a woman who has since disappeared. He returns with his old police partner to unravel the mystery.


"Mon-rak Transistor" (Thailand): A realistic portrait of modern Thai culture, this tale is of a down-on-his-luck singer who tries to navigate a circuitous route back to his one true love. "6ixtynin9" was director Pen-ek Ratanaruang's last HIFF offering back in 2000, and the Bangkok-born, U.S.-educated filmmaker brings his third feature to this year's festival.


"Unknown Pleasures": Director Jia Zhang-ke focuses on China's aimless and lonely young adults, sons and daughters of the single-child family policies instituted in 1980, and how their life stories unfold without real purpose.


"Tongan Ninja" (New Zealand): A combination homage and spoof of the Hong Kong action/martial arts genre, this broad action/comedy features Sione, the Tongan Ninja, doing battle with a colorful bunch of baddies, taking time out for musical numbers that take off on nightclub go-go scenes.


"Lolo's Child": A standout independent film by director Romeo Candido. This concentrated portrait of Canadian Filipino culture was filmed, edited and given an inventive soundtrack by a visionary filmmaker.

"An Untold Triumph: America's Filipino Soldiers": This world premiere will be screened at the Blaisdell Concert Hall at 6:30 p.m. next Monday, with surviving veterans of the U.S. Army's 1st and 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiments in attendance. The film documents the critical role played by Filipino immigrant recruits in Gen. Douglas MacArthur's covert plan to retake the Philippines from Japan.


Le says the "Hawaii Panorama 8" program is particularly strong, with 'Ohina Short Film Festival entrants "I Scream, Floats & Sundays" and "Chicken Skin Tales: The Lost Little Girl of Manoa Valley" being showcased, along with "Eagle Song" (a music video featuring renowned poet Joy Harjo), "Forgotten Promise," "Longbranch: A Suburban Parable" and "Obake Yashiki: A Japanese Ghost Story."


"Charlotte Sometimes": Le is also very high on this stylish and sexy film about an auto mechanic who is secretly in love with his best friend and tenant, only to question his longings when he meets a mysterious, free-spirited woman. The Asian-American cast features Michael Idemoto, Eugenia Yuan and Jacqueline Kim.

"Love in the Time of Money": Rosario Dawson, Carol Kane, Jill Hennessy and Steve Buscemi star in this episodic movie about nine New Yorkers looking for connection and intimacy in the big city. A Sundance Film Festival entrant from this year.

"Way Past Cool": It's "The Little Rascals" brought to the inner city streets of Oakland. A group of 12-year-olds must cope with a teenage drug dealer intent on manipulating them for his gain. Both lightly comic and street tough, this daring and innovative gem is from Cannes Palm D'Or-winning director Adam Davidson.


Le thinks this 90-minute program of short films shot guerrilla-style will be entertaining, all done on professional Beta SP videotape. The audience will meet the right-wing Border Patrol guard "Buford Gomez," check out the prospects of romance in "On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning" and "How to Do the Asian Squat," see how rap mixes with anime in "Swap Meat," get spooked out looking through the "Rear-View Mirror," see how Zen Buddhism relates to gastronomy in "Monk," experience a very low-budget version of a certain J.R.R. Tolkien tale in "The Gamers" and see the pioneering work of one Dr. Albert Chung in the animated "Profiles in Science."


"Peach": A dialogue-free film that unfolds through song and cinematography. Music communicates the film's emotion and action through a selection of instrumentals, ballads and pop songs. The movie introduces a crazy, sexy, cool Tokyo rarely seen, from its club vibe to drag queen shows, and is inspired by music videos and American musicals.

China's "Eyes of a Beauty" stars Qianqian Yang as teenager who dreams of life in Hong Kong. The Golden Maile nominee shows Sunday and Nov. 7.


"Men with Brooms": An off-beat comedy about a motley crew of curlers from a small northern town (curling, by the way, is that strange sport only seen in this country during the Winter Olympics, where specially made "stones" are slid across ice toward a target, with only brooms to direct them). It stars Paul Gross, Molly Parker and Leslie Nielsen.


"Cowboy Bebop: The Movie" (Japan): One of the more innovative and revered anime television series in a big-screen adaptation.

"My Life as McDull" (Hong Kong): The experiences of a piglet growing up amidst hardships and failure.

"Millennium Actress" (Japan): From renowned anime director Satoshi Kon, a compelling romance/adventure about a director's obsession with a superstar actress who abruptly ended her career and vanishes from the limelight.


Besides the opening night "YMCA Baseball Team," other fine Korean-made features are being showcased in this, the year of the 100th anniversary of Korean immigration to the U.S.:

"Barrier Device": A U.S. short directed by Grace Lee (who'll be here for the festival) and starring Sandra Oh ("Last Night" and HBO's "Arliss") as a female condom researcher who discovers that one of her subjects is dating her ex-boyfriend.

"Chow Yun-Fat Boy Meets Brownie Girl": Director/screenwriter Nam Ki-woong turns a traditional fairy tale on its head. An apprentice gunsmith, enamored by the image of Chow Yun-Fat in John Woo movies, meets a timid, domestic drudge in this visually delirious parable of modern-day Korea. It shows with the Finnish short "Pyongyang Robogirl," which documents the highly regimented routine of traffic police in the North Korean city.

"One Fine Spring Day": Described as a Korean version of Wong Kar-wai's "In the Mood for Love," this cinematic torch song lingers over the developing love between two lonely people and the memories it leaves in its wake.

"Robot Stories": Called by Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang "an exhilarating ride by a masterful filmmaker," this U.S.-made feature comprises four short stories that consider our fascinations and interactions with ever-progressing technology (and, of course, the feature was shot with digital cameras). Greg Pak directed Tamlyn Tomita, Sab Shimono and Wai Ching Ho.

"The Way Home": An award-winner in its home country this year, this film is about a city boy who moves to the countryside to live with his grandmother after his parents' divorce. It's an endearing portrait of the often idiosyncratic family relationships between the youngest and oldest generations and the ways they're remembered.

Hawaii International Film Festival

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