91 min.,PHILIPPINES, dir. Rico Maria Ilarde | Reviewer Ed Farolan

A ghost story is the genre of this film by veteran director Rico Ilarde who has been directing since 1988. In the Q & A session, he was asked by Tony Rayns what inspired him to write a ghost thriller. He said that the idea came from a TV show in ABS/CBN Manila, and he thought it was a good idea to make it a full-length suspense thriller. The surprising thing was that the film wasn't "corny" at all, as many of these ghost/horror pictures that are made in the Philippines are, and the film's plot flowed easily. The different camera shots were classic, a combination of Hitchcock and Bela Lugosi, and the actors were natural in their delivery. This was an entertaining film and worth watching.

I had coffee with Rico and we chatted about a lot of things such as the state of the movie industry in the Philippines, and how he got started. "I had my first break with "Mother" Lily Monteverde", he said. Monteverde is a movie mogul who contracted him to do three films for her. Spring this year, Rico Ilarde Altar was screened at the Far East Film Festival in Udine Italy. His previous movies Aquarium and Beneath The Cogon (Sa Ilalim Ng Cogon) were shown in FEFF 2006.

I said that his films were classic unlike a lot of indie directors who'd do all kinds of experiments which later fizzle out in time. He said that his film Woman Of Mud (2001), didn't do all that great at the local box office, but gained a measure of popularity after repeated screenings on cable TV." I guess there was some truth to what Mother Lily said after she screened the first print: that the movie would age well and wouldn't look "dated" any time soon." I asked him about future projects, and he said he was promoting his new film Killdroid: A Mechanical Love Affair, a sci-fi/horror film which he hopes to screen for the next film festival in Cannes. This was one of the IT Projects selected at the 12th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival in Korea.The trailer of this promo can be see in Youtube. He also said that an earlier work of his produced by Regal, “Dugo ng Birhen, El Kapitan,” was featured at the Sitges Fantastic Film Fest in Spain..




94 min.,JAPAN, dir. Uchida Nobutero | Reviewer Ed Farolan

Kaza-ana means "wind holes", and the director who was present at the screening with the two male protagonists of the film, explained why he titled the film thus. He said that in the forest of Mount Fujiyama, he discovered holes in the forest, and he metaphorically saw this as "holes in the heart", or the feeling of emptiness which led to the protagonist's apparent suicide at the end of the film in this forest. This film is done in documentary fashion, and when asked what he was attempting to do, Uchida said that he had done documentary films before and in this film, which is fiction, he tried to merge documentary techniques, particularly at the end when he interviews the actors.

It's an interesting approach, and the film was executed well. The actors also commented that they had no script, that everything was improvised. Uchida before filming would give them the gist of what he wanted them to do in a particular scene, and the actors would create their own dialogues based on their own personal experiences, somewhat like the Stanislavsky Method. Uchida said that he never interrupted the actors; he would continue rolling the camera and the only time a scene would end was when the camera tape ran out and he had to put a new tape in. Another film worth seeing.




80 min.,CHINA, dir. Gao Wendong | Reviewer Ed Farolan

I was tempted to walk out of this film, as a few did, because the director who was trying to emulate Antonioni and Bergman didn't quite time the scenes right. Some scenes went on and on, and most of all, these scenes were grim, as they were shot in a depressed area of Dalian, called Sweet Food City, which at one time was a housing/shopping complex and is now a slum, with dilapidated buildings and garbage strewn all over. It was a fairly short feature film but it seemed like eternity sitting there and watching scenes repeated over and over. Although the love story was interesting, the storyline itself wasn't well-developed. The audience was left hanging, not knowing what happened at the end of the film, as though the director assumed we would be able to come up with our own conclusion.The filmmaker wasn't present because his visa was denied by the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, according to Rayns.



94 min., PHILIPPINES, dir. Brillante Mendoza| Reviewer Ed Farolan

Inspired by a true to life dysfunctional family, Mendoza comes up with a softcore sex movie which reflects a family operating a rundown cinema screening, you guessed it right, softcore sex movies. The clients are mostly gay, and go there to pick up male prostitutes, some of whom are transvestites who have sex with them right there in the movie house.

This wasn't too bad of a film. The French jurors at Cannes apparently liked it and selected it for screening at its festival. The movie is quite graphic, and it shows penises, vaginas, heterosexual as well as homosexual acts, which the French normally like, but which perhaps might be a bit taboo for the puritanical British Columbians. I didn't enjoy it so much, but I think it was well done and interestingly developed. The acting was good. The matriarch Nanay Flor (Gina Pareno), from the old school of Filipino films, was very much into her Stanislavskian style of acting.

And so if you like sex and soft porn, this is the movie to watch. I was a bit bothered by too much noise in the background drowning out the dialogues. But with subtitles, it wasn't too bad.




96 min.,LAOS/USA, dir. Ellen Kuras/Thavisouk Phrasavath | Reviewer Ed Farolan

I like the documentary style of Ellen Kuras, her cinematography, the very orderly way she documents this film based on a family from Laos that escaped the country when the Communists took over. The film is narrated through Phrasavath who was 10 when he escaped Laos crossing the Mekong river, followed a few years later by his mother and siblings, who lived in a refugee camp in Thailand until they moved to Brooklyn, New York.

It's the typical story of the hardships that refugees and immigrants go through when they first come to the US or Canada, but who eventually make good at the end. The theme of betrayal refers to the Americans abandoning Laos after the Vietnam war, leaving a sense of bitterness among the Laotians. The film ends happily when Phrasavath returns to Laos and reunites with his two sisters who were left behind. There was a warm applause from the audience as the movie credits were being flashed.




96 min.,BRAZIL/CHINA, dir. Yu Lik-wai| Reviewer Ed Farolan

There were too many themes that were presented here by Lik-wai. First, he talks about the underground Chinese traders in Brazil; then he puts in a love theme between the main character and an erotic dancer; he mixes all this up with the Brazilian politico-gangsters; and at the end there is this philosophical guru-like transcendental theme of returning to the sea, our origins. If only Lik-wai concentrated on the main theme of political manipulation and gangsterism in Brazil, the film would have taken off. Editing of the last part, among other scenes, where he tries to put magic and philosophical rubbish, should have been done..


© 2008 Ed Farolan

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