107 min.,CANADA, dir. John Walker| Reviewer Ed Farolan

Documentarian John Walker attempts a new and innovative approach to documentary filmmaking by combining fiction and documentary in this film. He retells the story of John Rae, a Scottish doctor working for the Hudson's Bay Company who, in his search for celebrated British explorer Sir John Franklin and his crew of 128 men, discovers the Northwest Passage which the British, Americans, French and Russians had failed to do. The film traces the journey of Rae from his boyhood home in the remote Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland to the Inuit landscape of the Arctic. The climax of the film is what caught my attention when the great-great grandson of Charles Dickens who had written against the Inuits calling them savages and cannibals apologizes to Tagak Curley, an Inuit statesman who challenges the claim that Sir John Franklin discovered the Passage. There is an interesting twist here about cannibalism. A film worth watching.

TRIP TO ASIA: The Quest for Harmony

108 min., Germany, dir. Thomas Grube| Reviewer Ed Farolan

When Grube was asked why he wanted to do another film about the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra after already making a documentary about them in Rhythm Is It, he answered that this was a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to look deeper into this musical legend." Grube films a personal journey of this ensemble as it travels to Beijing, Seoul, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei and Tokyo to perform Ades' "Asyla", Beethoven's "Eroica" and Strauss' "Ein Heldenblenen". We witness through interviews the conflicting personalities of the multinational members -- English, Germans, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, etc., and yet, amidst these multicultural facets, harmony results as they play these difficult classics under the baton of Maestro Simon Rattle. We discover that these performers are human after all, as they talk about themselves. Even Rattle exposes his weaknesses, his fears before going onstage, and the metamorphosis from his Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde when he conducts the orchestra.

The scene that was most memorable for me (and also for the performers) was the reception of the orchestra in Taipei after their concert there (see inset). There were literally thousands waiting outside after the concert welcoming and cheering in appreciation for this their first visit to Taiwan.This is indeed a well-documented and well-executed film..


55 min., USA, dir. Christopher Monger| Reviewer Ed Farolan

This short documentary is an inspiring film about the pioneer of the environmental movement, Rachel Carson. Inspired by her book Silent Spring, playwright and actress Kaulani Lee, who previously performed this as a one-woman play, does a superb theatrical interpretaton of Carson as her last days in 1963 are dramatized. She talks about her views on nature, and her fight against chemical companies that use pesticides and their harmful effects. The fight to save our environment goes on, and yet, despite movements like Green Peace and Gore's doomsday warnings on global warming, things have gotten worse. Despite legislative acts on pollution and environment, there is very little that is being done about our environment. It's as if the human race voluntarily or involuntarily wants to commit suicide. This film succinctly reminds us that if we don't shape up, there will no longer be clouds with silver linings.



98 min.,JAPAN, dir. Takahashi Izumi| Reviewer Ed Farolan

What is it with these new age directors? They're all creating identical themes which repeat themselves over and over. Izumi does Ingmar Bergman in this film: slow camera movements, close ups, a lot of pauses and silence sequels, and... boring, naturally. Who cares about four people who interact with each other and lament on their hurt egos? This is psychological masturbation which is no longer the fad these days. Japanese have always been imitators of the West, and what is more tragic is that the new breed of Japanese have already lost touch with their own identity. They are now part of the whole global identity, citizens of the world, as it were, which is truly sad. There is no longer any variety in the world because everyone is imitating the western lifestyle in all its deficiencies. Thus, the Eastern mystique is lost and there is no reason now to look for that mysterious Holy Grail of the East because all you'll get is what you see around you.



105 min., Philippines, dir. John Torres| Reviewer Ed Farolan

Another boring and inept film, even worse than the Japanese film mentioned above. Why did VIFF even accept this film? It's amateurish. The impression I got from this film is that Torres got home videos and put them all together. Some scenes were also childishly delivered. Why would he put some scenes at 90 degree angles? Does he expect the audience to tilt their heads 90 degrees to watch the screen? This is ridiculous. The film wasn't properly edited. The narrations did not have anything to do with what was being visualized. Is this another attempt at being arts-fartsy new wave? Also, a mortal sin in filmmaking is not to leave the audience in the dark too long. In two or three instances, there was just a blank screen for at least 15 seconds each. You can't do that. Anyway, this film was poorly conceived and disastrously delivered.



121 min., Austria, dir. Gotz Spielmann| Reviewer Ed Farolan

What an excellent film! The storyline was superbly unfolded, and Spielmann is a talented suspense-thriller director. The steamy sex scenes were handled perfectly, and the "revanche" (revenge) was beautifully handles. I left the theatre snickering at the kind of revenge, that certain poetic justice, that reveals itself at the end of the film. Ukrainian prostitute Tamara (Irina Potapenko) was boiling hot in her sex scenes with her boy friend, Alex, played by the 5-star quality acting of Johannes Krisch. His sex act with Susanne (Ursula Strauss) on top of a dining room table is classic soft porn. Other than an intelligently constructed screenplay, the locations shots by the pond in the forest were visually gorgeous, thanks to the technical expertise of cienmatographer Martin Gschlacht.



110 min.,Jordan/USA, dir. Amin Matalqa| Reviewer Ed Farolan

When I was a child, my aunts read stories from Mil y Una Noches (Arabian Nights, in the English version), and I was fascinated by these stories. Arabians have a tradition of being excellent storytellers, and this film is an example of it. It's been 50 years so it's said that Jordan hasn't produced a film, and this film is the first ever independent film from there. The film tells the story from the point of view of an airline pilot who remembers his childhood days and how Captain Abu Raed saved his life and those of his mother and brother from an abusive father. It's a moving story about an airport janitor who finds a discarded Captain's hat and is mistaken to be a pilot. He plays his role and tells stories to the local kids about his travels to foreign lands. Nadim Sawalha as Captain Abu Raed performs superbly. There were applauses from the opening day audience when the movie ended.


© 2008 Ed Farolan


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