HAWAII INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Humor ends on bittersweet note
'Colma: The Musical" is a quirky film that might be described as "Rent" set in Smalltown USA or "Dazed and Confused" set to music. Whatever you call it, "Colma" delivers an ambitious, entertaining and over-the-top examination of teenage angst.
'Colma: The Musical'
Screens: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Place: Dole Cannery
How to HIFF
The 26th Annual Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival
Dates: Through Nov. 5
Venues: Dole Cannery Stadium 18 and Hawaii Theatre
Tickets: $10; $9 children, military, students and seniors; $8 HIFF Ohana members, available at HIFF box office at Dole Cannery
For a schedule: Programs available at all Starbucks locations, Dole Cannery theater and Hawaii Theatre or online at hiff.org.
Colma, we learn in song, is a suburb 10 minutes outside San Francisco, otherwise known as Deadsville, U.S.A., literally. Colma was founded as a cemetery and is now a booming necropolis with a population of 1.5 million, of which only 1,100 are living.
In this city of the dead, where the big news is the opening of an In-N-Out Burger or the conversion of Shakey's to an IHOP, recent high school graduates Billy (Jake Moreno), Rodel (H.P. Mendoza) and Maribel (L.A. Renigen) try to eke out a living. They don't expect much out of life, really. Billy, who lands his first job as a "retail bitch" while waiting for his big break as a thespian, is comfortable with his circumstance, acknowledging that anything's better than working a paper route.
For a while, the trio is content to crash college parties and chase alcohol with fake IDs. But as happens after graduation, relationships form and fracture. Billy's seeming "success" after being cast as "Jerry the quirky Jewish sidekick" in a small local production, and a budding romance, alienate him from his school pals.
Rodel has the hardest time coping, as a gay would-be writer who's outed and outcast by his Filipino father. In time, he can no longer keep his hostility under wraps, and the film, so funny in the beginning, ends on a bittersweet note.
Mendoza wrote the music and lyrics for the film, which marks director Richard Wong's impressive feature debut. None of the cast members is likely to win acting or singing honors, but the film itself has racked up Special Jury Prize awards at the San Diego Asian Film Festival, Los Angeles VC International Asian Pacific Film Festival and San Francisco Asian American Film Festival.