Spring bounty

HIFF’s Spring Showcase is the
biggest to date, with 28 films
in the lineup

THE Hawai'i International Film Festival's Spring Showcase, featuring the world premiere of a locally filmed independent movie, "Phantom Below," promises to be just as diverse as the larger fall festival. It's the biggest spring showing yet, with nearly double the amount of films shown last year, with entries from Korea, Japan, China, India, New Zealand and the Philippines, as well as Hawaii.

On screen

8th annual HIFF Spring Showcase:

Where: Dole Cannery Stadium 18 (except where noted)

When: Thursday through April 7

Tickets: $9 general; $8 students, seniors, military and children; and $7 festival ohana members, available at the HIFF ticket desk in the theater lobby. Fax orders to 528-1410 or go online at www.hiff.org

Information: Program guides and flyers available at Starbucks locations

"Phantom Below" debuts Thursday, before the festival's opening night, and is a version of "Tides of War," originally made for gay and lesbian cable TV. The naval action drama starring Adrian Paul, Mathew St. Patrick, Catherine Dent and Matt Battaglia, was filmed on Oahu over a three-week period last fall.

This "straight" version, made for wider international distribution, deletes brief homosexual references.

A special focus group, "Lessons of War: Presenting Films About WWII from the Asia-Pacific Rim," will feature four films, including the return engagement of "Purple Butterfly," starring Ziyi Zhang, and a short from New Zealand, "Tama Tu," that will precede "The Massie Affair," a documentary about the infamous 1931 Hawaii crime case that put five local men on trial for the rape of a white woman, when little evidence supported the charge. The screenings are in partnership with the USS Missouri Memorial Association.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Corps -- the group that stages the Golden Globe Awards -- will be the festival's special guests, with about 18 members in attendance. The film critics and journalists will take part in the weekend's Sunset on the Beach activities in Waikiki, and will report on the fest in their respective publications.

Look for reviews of select showcase films appearing in this week's Star-Bulletin Weekend magazine, and this week and next in the Today section, starting with today's review of "Phantom Below."

Here is the list of screenings:


» "Millions": In Danny Boyle's ("Trainspotting" and "28 Days Later") new film, two young Liverpool brothers find a bag of cash. The younger lad has innocent visions of saints who guide his actions. Consequently, he tries to persuade his skeptical brother to donate the money to the poor. Hawaii premiere, 6:30 p.m.

» "The World (Shi Jie)": China's rush to modernize is fraught with problems and contradictions. Jia Zhang-ke addresses that gap in this feature, set in a theme park containing replicas of the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids, Tower Bridge, the Taj Mahal and other attractions. Hawaii Premiere, 6:45 p.m. Friday; repeats 7 p.m. Sunday.

» "The Ballad of Jack and Rose": Daniel Day Lewis plays a man who lives an environmentally correct life, separating himself and his teen daughter from civilization's dictates, but his deteriorating health and his daughter's developing independence raises questions about whether this carefully structured existence can continue. Hawaii premiere, 8:45 p.m.

» "One Missed Call (Chakushin Ari)": Director Takashi Miike is back with his latest thriller. College kids are out for a night on the town when Yoko's cell rings. She checks it to find the readout "one missed call" -- from her own phone, three days in the future. More disturbing is the message: the sound of her screams! Three days later, at the exact time of the call, Yoko plunges to her death from a bridge. When other friends come to similar creepy ends, Yumi investigates the terrifying mystery. Hawaii premiere, 10 p.m.

Stephen Chow, as Sing (center), unleashes the fury of the Axe Gang when he poses as one of its members, leading to a battle of epic proportions in "Kung Fu Hustle," one of the films screening as part of HIFF's Spring Showcase.


» "Moolaadˇ": Four girls, facing ritual circumcision in Africa, flee to the household of a woman who has shielded her daughter by invoking the custom of moolaadˇ (sanctuary), and tension mounts as the stand-off pits her against village traditionalists. Winner of the Grand Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2004 Cannes. Hawaii Premiere, 12:30 p.m. Saturday; repeats 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

» "Schultze Gets the Blues": Lonely East German retiree Schultze spends his days cleaning his lawn gnomes and drinking with other retirees until the day he hears a zydeco tune. He shocks his accordion club members by dumping the polka for Cajun music. Hawaii Premiere, 1 p.m. Saturday; repeats 8:45 p.m. April 4.

» "Out of This World (Kono Yo No Sotoe)": At the Enlisted Men's Club (of the American army) after World War II, a pioneering generation of Japanese jazzmen find a way to communicate with men they once viewed as enemies. Hawaii premiere, 3:30 p.m.

» "A Talking Picture (Um Filme Falado)": History professor Rosa, and her daughter are on an idyllic Mediterranean cruise when a strange menace threatens the passengers. Hawaii premiere, 4 p.m.

» "Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World (Sekai No Chushin De Ai Wo Sakebu)": The fianceˇ of a failing salaryman leaves him and heads to Shikoku where they both grew up. Following her, he reminisces about the past, and the film jumps back to 1986 when they fell in love. But why are they not yet married? A hit in Japan last year, the film is based on the award-winning romance novel by Katayama Kyoichi, drawing on 1960s Japanese romance films. International premiere, 6:30 p.m.; repeats 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

» "Kung Fu Hustle": Actor Stephen Chow made a splash in America directing "Shaolin Soccer." Here, he delivers an entertaining package of comedy, melodrama and high-octane fighting. The story is set in 1940s Canton, and follows Sing, a wannabe gangster who wants to join the Axe Gang. One day Sing and a dorky cohort recklessly pose as Axes, drawing the real Axes into a skirmish of epic proportions. Chow 's comedic narrative includes homages to western showdowns, grand tuxedoed dance numbers, and Matrix-style effects and action sequences. Hawaii premiere, 7 p.m.

» "Mondovino": Even if you can't distinguis a Sauvignon Blanc from a Super Tuscan, Jonathan Nossiter's documentary provides an entertaining examination of globalization on the wine industry, which has led to increasingly homogenized wines. Hawaii premiere, 9:30 p.m.; repeats 6 p.m. April 4 and 8:45 p.m. April 5.

» "Oldboy": Taking revenge to a surreal and sadistic level, director Park Chan-wook's film is about a man who wakes up in 1988, confined in a makeshift prison, where he learns his wife has been murdered. He swears to get revenge. After 15 years, he is released and given five days to figure out what happened, leading to scenes of eating a live octopus and a hammer-wielding murder spree through a thug-filled corridor. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the recent Cannes Festival. Hawaii premiere, 10 p.m.

"One Missed Call," left, screens Friday.


» "Purple Butterfly (Zi Hudie)": Ziyi Zhang plays a spy in 1930s Shanghai, who infiltrates the Japanese occupation group by having an affair with a young Japanese military officer, but in this cloak-and-dagger tale, allegiances of the main players unknown until the end; 12:30 p.m.

» "Chinese Restaurants: Three Continents": This documentary focuses on Chinese restaurants in Madagascar, Norway and Canada, presenting their owners' histories and how they tie into the community of Chinese expatriates worldwide. Hawaii premiere, 1 p.m.

» "Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World (Sekai No Chushin De Ai Wo Sakebu)": 3:30 p.m.

» "The Massie Affair" with "Tama Tu": Excerpted from an episode of PBS's "The American Experience," to screen later, the first film tells of the case that exposed Hawaii's 1930s racial tensions after the wife of a navy lieutenant is raped, resulting in multiple trials and vigilante justice. "Tama Tu" is about Maori battalion soldiers who use laughter to forget the war around them. World and Hawaii Premieres, respectively, 4 p.m.

» "A Moment to Remember": Su-jin (Son Ye-jin) and her carpenter fiancˇe Chol-su (Jeong Woo-seong) marry, buy a house and start a family. However, Su-jin is diagnosed with Familial Alzheimer's Disease, a rare form of the disease that ravages its victims at an accelerated rate so that death is imminent within a year. Bring plenty of tissues. U.S. Premiere, 6:30 p.m.

>> "The World (Shi Jie)": 7 p.m.

» "Moolaadˇ": 9:30 p.m.

» "Throw Down": Johnnie To's poignant drama concerns Sze-To (Louis Koo), a judo champion who unexpectedly abandons the sport. Now an alcoholic pub manager, he finds potential redemption through an aspiring pop singer, Mona (Cherrie Ying), and the obstinate Tony (Aaron Kwok), who challenges him to a fight. Hawaii Premiere, 10 p.m.; repeats 9:30 p.m. April 7.

In "Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World," a man pursuing his fiancee revisits the past, where audiences discover the reason for his current predicament.

April 4

» "Bread and Roses": This true story chronicles New Zealand politician Sonja Davies's impoverished youth to her rise in politics. Hawaii Premiere at the Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1:30 p.m.

» "Mondovino": 6 p.m.

» "Lost In Time (Mong Bat Liu)": Siu Wai, a penniless widow, takes over her late husband's bus route to care for her young son. But her family turns their long opposition to her marriage to pressure her to put her son into an orphanage, give up her route and return home. Star Cecilia Chung was named Best Actress at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Hawaii Premiere, 6:30 p.m. Repeats 6 p.m. April 6.

» "Schultze Gets the Blues": 8:45 p.m.

» "Layer Cake": Matthew Vaughn produced Guy Ritchie's stylized British crime genre hits "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch," but shifts into the director's chair with this tale about a London drug dealer looking to go straight, only to find himself pulled deeper into the underworld. Hawaii Premiere, 9 p.m.

April 5

» "Gloomy Sunday (Ein Lied Von Liebe Und Tod)": When a melancholy pianist arrives late to his audition at a restaurant in 1930s Budapest, he locks eyes with a waitress, and their fate is sealed, even though the restaurant proprietor is her lover. This sweeping love story spans World War II and the Nazi occupation. A sleeper hit, this film has been running four years straight in the same New Zealand theater, and more than 60 weeks in Los Angeles; 6 p.m.

» "My Mother the Mermaid (Ineoh Gong-Joo)": Na-young works at a post office and is tired of her unyielding mother and pushover father. The one thing she looks forward to is a trip abroad. But when her father leaves home without notice, Na-young gives up her trip to search for her him, in spite of her mother's ambivalence. On arriving at her parents' hometown, Na-young is shocked to meet Yeon-soon, her mother, at age 20! Yeon-soon befriends her future daughter, who is shocked by her mother's innocence and youth, exhibited in Yeon-soon's unrequited love for a young postman, who turns out to be Na-young's father. U.S. Premiere, 6:30 p.m.

>> "Mondovino": 8:45 p.m.

» "Windstruck (Nae Yeojachingureul Sogae Habinda)": Director Kwak Jae-yong reunites with actress Jun Ji-hyun, and their winning formula of headstrong heroines entangled in the absurd romantic comedy continues with this latest hit. When a bad tempered police officer spots a guy running down the street holding a purse, she gives chase and beats him to a pulp. The culprit claims that he is innocent, and that he was chasing the real culprit. A few days later, he returns to the police station to do his "community service" by riding with a police officer, only to find himself paired with "Dirty Harriet." U.S. Premiere, 9 p.m.

April 6

» "Lost In Time (Mong Bat Liu)": 6 p.m.

» "Apres Vous": This romantic comedy stars Daniel Auteuil, as Antoine, a maitre d' at an upscale Paris brasserie. One night, he saves a stranger named Louis from suicide, but Louis is furious. Antoine does what he can to make things right. He finds Louis a job and friendship develops. Despite Antoine's efforts, Louis remains gripped by his obsession with Blanche, who drove him to despair. Antoine finds her but finds she isn't single, and more complicated, she's gorgeous and attracted to him. Hawaii Premiere, 6:30 p.m.; repeats 9:15 p.m. April 7

» "Woman of Breakwater (Babae Sa Breakwater)": In a Manila Bay breakwater community, residents assemble shanties from flotsam and survive by fishing, begging and whoring. Basilio arrives and meets Paquita, a young prostitute. The two bond but their happiness is constantly threatened by Bosing, a former policeman crippled by a shooting that ended his career. With his gang, he holds the breakwater area in his cruel grip. Presented at the Tokyo International Film Festival last fall, this film is considered one of the most critically acclaimed Filipino films in years. U.S. Premiere, 8:45 p.m.

April 7

» "Veer-Zaara": This Bollywood spectacle, a hit in India, examines the strife between Hindus and Muslims through an unlikely love story. Veer Pratap Singh (Sharukh Khan) is an Indian air force rescue pilot who, while on patrol, meets a Pakistani woman named Zaara, who is in India to fulfill her grandmother's dying wish. She is injured in a bus accident and Veer saves her life, changing his forever. Twenty-two years later, Pakistani lawyer Saamiya Siddiqui meets an aging Singh, who has languished in prison. Saamiya's mission is to discover the truth about Veer. Hawaii premiere, 6 p.m.

» "A Moment to Remember": 6:30 p.m.

» "Apres Vous": 9:15 p.m.

» "Throw Down": 9:30 p.m.


Formulaic film is
still satisfying

Now hear this -- you know the drill. That is, for submarine thrillers: tight quarters, seething subordinates, bright-eyed technicians, murky water, even murkier political motivations at play, disruptions in the chain of command, "You are relieved, sir" and "Fish in the water! Bearing -- mark two!"

"Phantom Below": Special screening at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Hawaii Theatre Center

It's a good formula, one used often enough so its dramatic conventions are as familiar and comfortable as a western or "Star Trek" episode.

"Phantom Below," filmed in Hawaii and headlining the spring HIFF, touches all of these buttons in a satisfying manner. It's a tautly written and sparely directed thriller that knows where it's going and gets there at flank speed.

Intended as a direct-to-cable movie, the stars aren't big (Adrien Paul, the "Highlander" guy, is the name in the cast), the special effects are just a step above video games, the actors are uncomfortable in their uniforms and the stock footage is somewhat aged (although it takes place in the near future, like tomorrow or the next day, the Navy here is flying gray-on-gray F-14s that were retired a decade ago).

It also apparently takes place on the biggest submarine in the world, judging by the size of the conn and the crew compartments. We wouldn't want to get claustrophobic in a submarine movie, would we? Even though it's an SSBN "boomer," it handles like a sports car.

That's OK. The script is pretty good, despite clichˇs, and the direction never calls attention to itself, focusing instead on the story. And someone paid attention to how submarines actually work.

"Phantom Below" will be screened as a special event preceding the Friday opening of HIFFÕs Spring Showcase.

THE BASIC PLOT is that Paul, as commander of the submarine, is caught nosing around North Korean waters by a new attack submarine of unknown make. They barely get out alive, and Paul loses his executive officer -- and best friend -- in a fiery accident. His only friend left is the chief of the boat, or COB.

Back on the beach in Pearl Harbor, the brass don't believe Paul, but send him out again with a new XO and a crew of covert techs, one of whom is the dead man's suspicious sister, a naval officer herself who, thank goodness, strips down to tight, damp T-shirts when the temperature goes up.

Bang bang boom boom, and stiff upper lips all around, mate. Is there a chance the film will end with the skipper and the sexy sister getting misty-eyed over the dead XO's grave? Rapprochement? Truce? A drink or two to celebrate? Will he at least check out her bodacious booty?

Not a chance. He just walks away. There's not a flicker of sexual heat out of this guy.

Turns out there's another edition of this film, called "Tide of War," just a couple of minutes longer, in which we discover that the skipper and his executive officer are hot-racking in the same bunk at the same time. Don't ask, don't tell, but yes, gay.

Such a plot twist puts a whole different color on the goings-on, something more unexpected and interesting: real drama, particularly considering the notion of macho military professionals doing their job efficiently and patriotically, but also gayly.

Add to that the stress of having to keep such a relationship secret. Yikes! If the XO and CO are engaged in XXOO, the COB would be PO'd, PDQ.

But that interesting plot line belongs in a dramatically richer film than this one. The editors were probably right to excise these character-driven scenes, because "Phantom Below" has smaller fish to fry. It does so fairly well, and we wouldn't want to be distracted by anything that actually makes us think.

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