110 min.,Taiwan, dir. Yang Ya-che| Reviewer Ed Farolan
The two young boys in this film are delightful, but I found the grandmother really good and funny. In this film, they're called No. 1 (the bigger boy) and No. 2 (the smaller one) , I don't know why. I guess it's because they hang around together too often that they're further called by their teacher Liar 1 and Liar 2. The boys delight in this as they are carried away by their classmates who shout "Liar, Liar!". It's like being bad is the thing. I also like the scene when the teacher puts lipsticfk on and kisses them with lipstick marks all over their faces as punishment. The older boy who is almost in his puberty years seemed to like this, but for the smaller one, it is a punishment. There were a few glitches that weren't resolved in the film: what hapened to the baby? We know that she was with the mentally sick father of the older boy, but the audience is left wandering why there wasn't some kind of a closure to this sequence. And at the end of the film, it wasn't quite clear who tht lifeguard was. Was he the older boy who had left for Hawaii and is now grown up, as he sits as a lifeguard atop the waterslide park? Despite these few glitches, I found the film interesting and heartwarming.
104 min., Bolivia/Japan/USA, dir. Toshifumi Matsushita| Reviewer Ed Farolan
A beautifully executed film! Japanese filmmaker Matsushita's documentary is about Quecha life in Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni where families there work with salt, and bring by a caravan of llamas blocks of salt chipped from the lake through the Ruta de la Sal to the different villages. There is no money involved; the salt is bartered for corn, potatoes and other products of the Andes, the altuplano and the valleys during this three-month trek. In a statement made by the director, he laments how society is changing so quickly through globalization and the indigenous peoples of the world are losing their cultural identity. In the film, the 13-year old boy narrates that the llama caravan would probably be his first and last trek because trucks have taken over this traditional route.
THE DANCING FOREST
76 min., UK, dir. Brice Laine| Reviewer Ed Farolan
An inspiring film by a first-time filmmaker, giving us an insight into a small community in Togo, West Africa on how the women of Baga were able to get out of their poverty by being self-reliant. In a series of interviews in French, we learn from both the men and women of this community that international aid from the World Bank, IMF and WTO in the past sixty years have not solved the problem of poverty. Instead, this community has broken away from the cycle of apathy and corruption and have become capable of helping themselves.
In one interview, we are informed that aid from international agenciese is useless because it makes the people too dependent and therefore, lazy. In another interview, we are taught a new concept of develpment; that development doesn't come from western ways but from tradition. However, the western style can also be useful, but the point is to try to blend the modern with the traditional ways of doing things. A truly educational film which could serve as a model to developing countries.
THE ISLANDS PROJECT
102 min., Canada, dir. Michael Stadtlander| Reviewer Ed Farolan
For those who are into gourmet meals, this is a film worth salivating about. A warning, though: make sure you have something to eat before watching this film, because if you don't, you're going to drool all over the place. Director/Chef Stadtlander travels from his home in Ontario to the Gulf Islands where he once lived and at one time, wanted to start a cooking school on the Island of Marina. His plan eventually failed, and he decided to move to a farm in Ontario where he has his school and restaurant.
In this film, he takes a trip back to the islands one summer with his Japanese wife and young son, and a staff of assistants/apprentices in an old school bus equipped with a gourmet kitchen. For more than an hour and a half throughout the film, he cooks gourmet meals using the home-grown vegetables from the islands and all kinds of seafood, from sea urchins to oysters and rock cod, to produce unique gourmet meals. He invites friends as well as Japanese and Indian chefs he knew from the islands when he used to live there, to cook and enjoy the meals with him, as they travel from one island to the next. Interesting film for food lovers who are into organic and non-commercial food.
86 min., Estonia/UK, dir. Kadri Kousaar| Reviewer Ed Farolan
Inspired by true events, 26-year old filmmaker Kadri Kousaar makes her debut with a visually innovative production about Magnus, a young man played by Estonian pop star Kristjan Kasearu. The plot reflects a recurring theme in contemporary society: euthanasia. The unique aspect, however, of this Estonian film is not a debate on the ethical aspect of euthanasia but rather the individual choice one makes on when it's time to pass on.
Dry humour prevents this film from being too morose, and the role of Magnus's father played by Mart Laisk, a whoremonger who recruits women for German pornography, gives this film some respite from an Ingmar Bergmanish mood. However, the last scene, some kind of a postscript, is unnecessary and should have been edited out.
UNITED RED ARMY
189 min., Japan, dir. Wakamatsu Koji| Reviewer Ed Farolan
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, youth protest movements around the world, coupled with the peace and love movements of the hippies, were also being reflected in Japan. Veteran filmmaker Wakamatsu Koji reflects one aspect of the youth protest movements in Japan during this period: the militant student organizations that eventually created the United Red Army.
He uses archive footage to document true events, and later in the film, focuses on a group of militants who flee to a remote mountain cabin for paramilitary training. With a vague Communist ideology of "self-critique and ideological cleansing," the more than three-hour film goes through repetitive brutality as the two main leaders of the group, a man and a woman, beat meaningless Communist consciousness on its members.
This docu-drama is interesting in that it gives us an insight into the 1971-72 militant Communist movement in Japan. However, there should have been more editing done on this film, particularly some of the almost one hour or so of repetitive brutal scenes which went on and on, and which, I think, weren't all that necessary.
© 2008 Ed Farolan