HAWAII INT'L FILM FESTIVAL
"Linda, Linda, Linda" screens Friday and Sunday.
Springtime film fling
This year's collection of movies covers a world of viewpoints
Just as Hawaii is a popular tourist destination, so is the Philippines, in particular the southern province of Cebu. Like our island state, Cebu boasts lovely natural landscapes, evocative music and friendly "natives."
At the Movies
Ninth Annual Hawaii International Film Festival Spring Showcase:
Dates: Friday through April 6
Place: Dole Cannery Stadium 18
Tickets: $10; $9 military, students, seniors and children; $8 HIFF Ohana members, available at box office, by phone (550-8457), fax (536-8192) or online (www.hiff.org)
Coming up: For more reviews of festival films, see the Weekend section
Former Cebu resident Josabeth Alonso, who co-produced "Minsan Pa," one of the featured films at this year's Hawaii International Film Festival Spring Showcase, said drawing a Philippine audience to a serious film like this one is tough.
"My biggest misgiving ... is the fact that only commercial films become box-office hits in this country," she said via e-mail. "It seems like the 'serious/arty' films don't have an audience in our own country anymore, thus, it becomes extremely difficult to recoup on one's investment."
HIFF's spring fest begins Friday and runs through April 6 at Dole Cannery Stadium 18, featuring an international collection of 26 films -- from the opening-nighter, Japan's "Always: Sunset on Third Street," to "Zozo," the Hawaii premiere of a Swedish film about a Lebanese family. Prime among the films is "Tsotsi," the South African film that won this year's Oscar for foreign-language film (see review, D4).
"Minsan Pa" -- which screens at 3 p.m. Saturday and next Monday -- might look like one of those popular Filipino melodramas, the story of a tour guide struggling to make ends meet for his fatherless family, who falls in love with one of his clients. But the film also explores the social and economic climate of life for the poor and rural people of the Visayas, south of Manila.
The Oscar-winning "Tsotsi," starring Presley Chweneyagae, screens Friday.
"Minsan Pa" -- translated as "One Moment More" -- marked the first collaboration between Alonso and director Jeffrey Jeturian (they've just finished filming their second joint project, "Kubrador," a k a "The Bet Collector").
It is the fourth project for Jeturian and scriptwriter Armando "Bing" Lao. Lao said their previous efforts, dating between 1997 and 2001, comprise "a small family drama ... a slum story ... and a 'frame narrative,' a film-within-a-film.
"All three films (shot in Manila or Luzon) aim to portray Filipino realities -- stark, sentimental and as realistic as the genre allows. Always sociological, never psychological. Cultural correctness is prioritized over plot. As a writer, I have discovered that both drama and humor arise organically from real-life situations," said Lao. "Show the Filipino character for what they are and you see both tragedy and insouciance."
Catherine Keener, Jennifer Aniston and John Srednicki star in "Friends with Money," which closes the festival on April 6.
Alonso said he asked Lao to write a love story. "Then he came up with 'Minsan Pa,' that appears to be a love story at first glance, but which actually has a deeper story, that is, a man's search for himself. ... I always kid him that he took me for a ride, thinking it was gonna end up a sentimental love story."
Jeturian and Lao's decision to tell the story primarily in the Cebuano dialect -- the film also includes Tagalog, Japanese and English -- was a conscientious, and unconventional, one.
"Since the story is specifically about tourism in Cebu, it could not have been shot anywhere else," said Lao. "The Cebuano language is as widely spoken as (Tagalog) and I thought it was about time that we did a film that pays tribute to the Cebuano culture in general and the Cebuano language in particular.
"Fifty percent of the Filipinos speak or understand Cebuano. I am sure the local community in Hawaii or anywhere in the world will consist also of 50 percent Cebuanos."
Lao describes Cebuano Filipinos as "romantic, hospitable, very family-oriented and poor. (Their romantic nature) is best expressed in their musicality. As a matter of fact, the guitar is synonymous to Cebu. For a non-musical ... 'Minsan Pa' has many singing scenes.
"I wanted the songs sung complete, not partially. This is a Cebuano film -- let's hear the songs!"
Here are key films to be offered at the Hawaii international Film Festival Spring Showcase. For a full schedule, festival catalogs are available at Dole Cannery Stadium 18 and select Starbucks locations, or online at www.hiff.org
. The schedule may be downloaded onto iPods.
"Always: Sunset on 3rd Street":
This box-office hit about 1958 Tokyo swept 13 of 14 awards at the Japanese Academy Awards held earlier this month. Based on a long-running manga, the film recreates the city's neighborhoods in both elaborately constructed sets and CGI. It's a sentimental look at a city of the verge of modernization, and follows the lives of several characters, specifically a wide-eyed village girl looking forward to working for a big automobile maker, and the family she stays with, as well as a gruff candy-store owner trying to impress a pretty barmaid (Koyuki, Tom Cruise's love interest in "The Last Samurai"). At 6:30 p.m.; repeats 12:15 p.m. Sunday.
"Tsotsi" (see review, left). At 6:45 p.m.
"Linda Linda Linda" (see review, right). At 9 p.m.; repeats 3 p.m. Sunday.
"Lady Vengeance": Director Park Chan-wook wraps up his popular revenge trilogy, about a wrongly imprisoned woman out to get the real killer. Compared to the earlier films ("Oldboy" and "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance"), this one explores more of the spiritual price of vengeance. At 9:30 p.m.
(see story, D1) At 3 p.m.; repeats 3 p.m. next Monday.
"The Soong Sisters": Due to popular demand, this 1997 Hong Kong movie gets a third screening at HIFF. The epic-length historical drama stars Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung and Vivian Wu as wives of three of the most famous men in Chinese history: financier H.H. Kung, Chiang Kai-Shek (whom Kung served as finance minister) and Sun Yat-Sen. Directed by Mabel Cheung, the film represents a distinctly female view of family and political melodrama across more than half a century. At 3:15 p.m.
"District 13": Produced and written by French chic action filmmaker Luc Besson, this is a movie filled with incredible stunts -- no digital manipulation here! -- and centered on the Gallic sport of parkour, also called "urban freeflow" and "freerunning." Veteran stuntman Cyril Raffaelli and parkour founder Davide Belle running, jump and climb their way through the futuristic thriller, as a neutron bomb threatens Paris. At 9 p.m.; repeats 9 p.m. April 5."The Bow": From renowned Korean director Kim Ki-duk ("Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall ... and Spring") comes this beautiful and violent tale of love and sexuality. An old fisherman intends to marry a young woman he's kept with him since she was a girl. Things get complicated, however, when a young man upsets the dynamics of the relationship. At 9:15 p.m.; repeats noon Sunday.
Hong Kong's holiday movie for the Lunar New Year, the zany comedy stars ingenue Cecilia Chung as a compulsive shopper, unemployed and deep in debt, who turns to her lovestruck psychiatrist to cure her of her buying ills. At 3:15 p.m.; repeats 6:15 p.m. April 5.
"Letter From an Unknown Woman": In this Chinese adaptation of the famous romantic drama, first filmed by Max Ophuls in 1948, a woman is entranced by the comings and goings of a charismatic, although mysterious, writer. Cinematography by Mark Lee Ping-Bin, the man responsible for the luxurious look of Wong Kar-wei's "In the Mood for Love." At 6 p.m.; repeats 8:45 p.m. April 4 and 3 p.m. April 6.
"Little Fish": An all-star cast of Cate Blanchett, Sam Neill, Hugo Weaving and Dustin Nguyen star in this indie Australian hit about an ex-drug addict trying to build a new life for herself. At 6:15 p.m.; repeats 3:15 p.m next Monday.
"Hard Candy": This film stirred up a lot of controversy at this year's Sundance Film Festival. It's a provocative drama about a 32-year-old fashion photographer who takes home a seemingly innocent teenage girl he met on the Internet. But it turns out to be a terrifying night -- for the man. The thriller also stars Sandra Oh ("Grey's Anatomy") in a supporting role. At 9 p.m.
"Rules of Dating":
One of the most critically acclaimed Korean films of last year, this comedy takes a realistic look at romance through the affairs of two high school teachers, one a lewd and obnoxious Lothario; the other a narcissist. At 6:15 p.m.; repeats 9 p.m. Thursday.
"Spy Sorge": One of the new wave of Japanese directors, Shinoda Masahiro, offers his take on one of his country's most infamous spy cases. A handsome and debonair employee of the German embassy in Tokyo passes on crucial Japanese secrets to the Russians during World War II. He is caught and executed in late 1944. At 6:30 p.m.
"The Proposition": An Australian Outback western starring HIFF favorite David Wenham, plus an all-star cast of Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, John Hurt, Emily Watson and rocker Nick Cave, who also scripted and scored the film. It's called "a graphic, haunting story of brotherly love, betrayal and redemption, and the consequence of violence." At 9 p.m.; repeats 8:45 p.m. April 5.
A late entry into the showcase, the Thai film is about a village boy who moves to Bangkok, where he becomes a security guard trying to win the heart of a career woman ... who becomes an eco-warrior bent on ridding the world of plastic. And apparently growing a tail is all the fashion in Bangkok. At 6:30 p.m.
Girl loves boy, boy spurns girl, girl agrees to loveless marriage with another man, just as boy realizes he really does love girl. All set during Japan's Meiji Restoration. At 6:30 p.m..
This Bollywood movie was a box-office hit in India last year. Childhood friends and lovers try to overcome class differences in 1960s Calcutta. At 6:30 p.m.
"Friends with Money": Nicole Holofcener's follow-up to her indie hit "Kicking and Screaming" boasts a strong female cast -- Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack and Catherine Keener. They play friends from the west side of Los Angeles. Three live upper-class lives with husbands and children, while the odd-woman-out, played by Aniston, is cleaning houses for a living. At 8:45 p.m.