HAWAII INT'L FILM FESTIVAL
Golden Maile nominees
Five films are up for the festival’s top prize, the Golden Maile, to be awarded Oct. 28.
BACK TO TOP
Tale of cell-phone terror has soul
Adam's life sucks, but it's about to get much, much worse.
In English and Tagalog, with subtitles
Screens at 4 p.m. Oct. 27, Dole Cannery
His mind-numbing job, his girlfriend problems, every annoyance of his dead-end San Diego life fades to nothing when he returns to the Philippines and steps into a nightmare.
Waiting at curbside in the steamy Manila heat, growing more and more prickly because his mother hasn't shown up, Adam is startled by the ring of a cell phone. He doesn't have a cell phone, but one is in his bag, and the call is for him.
In a few harrowing moments, Adam realizes that his mother and sister are hostages to the man whose voice has found him through this phone.
So it begins. Call him a rebel, guerrilla, terrorist or plain old criminal, the man on the line is after money and destruction. Adam is his tool, compelled by fear for his family.
"Cavite" belongs to its star, Ian Gamazon, who also wrote, directed and produced this tight, compelling thriller. His co-director, Neill dela Llana, also wielded the camera, following Adam's forced mission through the coastal town of Cavite. Together they have crafted a relentless and powerful story.
The only dialogue takes place between Adam and the voice in his phone headset. Yet the film teems with human souls, as Adam is directed through impoverished, sweaty streets, in and out of a cockfight arena, past scenes of filth.
Some of the most desperate moments take place purely in voice-over -- Adam's frantic conversations -- as the camera instead follows an anonymous little boy leisurely walking the streets while consuming a McDonald's meal. It is effective imagery, although its meaning is left to the beholder.
"Cavite" never lets up. It will leave you exhausted, much as Adam's tormentor leaves him.
BACK TO TOP
Disability unleashes hell on film
"Wouldn't it be interesting to see a film about a handicapped killer?"
In Japanese with subtitles
Screens at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23, 9:45 p.m. Oct. 26 and 3:15 p.m. Oct. 27, at Dole Cannery
That query was the impetus behind writer-director Go Shibata's sophomore film. A graduate of Osaka's Arts University, his "Late Bloomer" is a haunting and disturbing film that successfully walks the thin line dividing art-house and exploitation cinema.
Your response to this murky film -- both in look and emotion -- depends on whether you're comfortable with the premise that a severely disabled man can be driven to murder, despite receiving affectionate care.
A man like Masakiyo Sumida appears, to all the world, harmless. He lives on his own, tooling around his cluttered neighborhood in his motorized wheelchair, buying toys from outdoor vending machines and getting "happily" drunk on beer. But there's a single defining character shot early in the film of his gnarled hand clutching a toy soldier, representing the man of action he cannot be. In halting, electronically expressed speech, he relates his profound disappointment to his closest friend, a bedridden man who has come to terms with his immobility.
When his friend tells Sumida San to "break down the walls," the result is not a heartening, feel-good triumph for the audience, but a descent into a private hell, fraught with sexual frustration. All the good intentions of the people who come to know him -- including his young caretakers -- aren't enough to save him.
Shibata shot "Late Bloomer" on digital video with three cameras, using available lighting. He then chose to strip all color from it, aptly depicting Sumida's dire straits. But for all the explicit violence, Sumida chooses to finally offer a bit of hope about life in general -- in one last shot inserted during the end credits. It's a quiet but effective grace note by a maverick director.
BACK TO TOP
"A Bittersweet Life":
Despite a title that hints of romance, this film is all blood and guts, the tale of a gangster and his mission of vengeance against his former master. It's true to its action genre, but a critic or two has found it weak where it counts: story line. Ray Bennett, writing in the Hollywood Reporter, called it "an exercise in the old neo-violence with more ammo delivered in this soulless, Seoul-set bombardment than, perhaps, the entire shellings around the 38th parallel during the Korean War." In Korean with subtitles. Screens at 9 p.m. Oct. 24, Hawaii Theatre, and 12:15 p.m. Oct. 30, Dole Cannery.
"Sa-Kwa": This story is about love, loss, marriage, loss and love again, from the point of view of a jilted woman who responds to her situation by cutting loose with another man. It can be seen as a chick-flick adventure, but in the course of its travels it deals with deep issues of self-deception and self-discovery. In Korean with subtitles. Screens at 4 p.m. Oct. 23 and 7:45 p.m. Oct. 27 at Dole Cannery.
"Season of the Horse":
"Season of the Horse," filmed on the steppes of Mongolia, is one of the Golden Maile feature film nominees.
This film made on the steppes of Mongolia has been called "a requiem for a disappearing culture." It tells of a Mongolian shepherd, struggling to protect his family, his one horse and his way of life in the face of drought and the advance of modern civilization. Sympathetic yet unsentimental, "Season of the Horse" is a necessary account of a dying culture. In Mongolian and Mandarin with subtitles. Screens at 4 p.m. Oct. 22 at Dole Cannery.