Tuesday, September 29, 2009

BKKIFF '09: Capsule reviews and notes part 2

Flooding in Manila
I've been watching a lot of Filipino films. So my thoughts are with the residents of Manila right now, who are experiencing their worst flooding in 50 years. And I thought I had it bad, slogging through shin-deep water on my little residential soi. Filmmaker Raya Martin has been posting about the flooding on Facebook. Among the links is a page that lists places you can donate to. Update: Here's another link, which says relief supplies and donations are being taken at Bangkok's Philippine Embassy.

According to Jim and CNNGo
CNNGo is a new travel website with a portal for Bangkok. Among the websites new features is coverage of the Bangkok International Film Festival with an an interview with James Belushi, one of the festival's guests. Jim says he's seen bootleg copies of his TV show, According to Jim on the streets, and he thinks it's great -- as long as people are watching the show. I hope Jim isn't cornered by the MPA's Asia-Pacific honcho, who is also in Bangkok for the festival. Belushi and the other foreign guests also turned out in traditional Thai regalia for Thai Night at the Siam Niramit theater and theme park in Bangkok. Event organizer Red Bamboo Productions has a gallery of photos on Facebook. It looks like that had fun playing with the elephants.

Dude! Seminars! Sweet!
Away from the festival, at the swanky riverside Chatrium Suites, there have been seminars. Harold and Kumar and Dude, Where's My Car? producer-director Danny Leiner is in town. He was stopped in his tracks by news that popular Bangkok event organizers Dudesweet took their name from Dude, Where's My Car? Leiner was speaking on Monday on "How to Make Films That Sell!" Dude. Sweet! Other topics have included "Films in Crisis?", which had Mr. Commentary Track himself, Bey Logan, as a panelist. Wonder if his job at The Weinstein Company is secure? Oh, never mind, he's leaving the company to set up his own shingle. There's also "Protecting Your Film in the Digital Era" with, watch out Jim!, MPA Asia-Pacifuc watchdog Michael C. Ellis, and talk about location location location in "What can Thailand Offer?" Today from 10 to 2 is "How to Get Into Hollywood" and the final seminar from 2 to 5 today is "Thailywood: Evolving & Involving Thailand". On the sidelines, there's been talk about the BKKIFF's former head.

Singapore Today blogger Mayo Martin (Raya's brother) is covering BKKIFF. His reviews include Agrarian Utopia and Dogtooth, Adrift and Burma VJ, 2022 Tsunami and the overall scene.

To rate or not to rate
Not every film being shown in the festival is rated. Because it is just getting started, Thailand's new film ratings system is only concerned with movies being released commercially. The part-time ratings board wouldn't have been able to physically see everything being shown in the festival. But some films that have been deemed as sensitive, mainly because of sexual content, have been assigned a 20+ rating which requires ID checks at the box office. They are the Greek black comedy Dogtooth, Lars Von Trier's Antichrist, Brillante Mendoza's Kinatay and the German old-folks romance Cloud 9. They might've added the 3.5-hour Filipino film Imburnal to the list. It's quite explicit.

Capsule reviews

Raya Martin stylistically mimics the look and feel of a stagey old black and white movie, with flickering movement and painted backgrounds, yet it's a lush and gorgeous thing to look at and listen to. Compared to other Filipino films I've seen, it's so clean. The story is about a mother and son (Tetchie Agbayani and Sid Lucero) who retreat to the woods in advance of the American invasion of the Philippines in the late 19th century. The son finds an abandoned young woman, presumably raped by a hilariously mustachioed American soldier, and soon the mother passes away. Not long after that, the couple has a mixed-race boy they call their son, and so another generation of Filipinos begins. Will it be free? (5/5)

Here's another one from Raya Martin, with help from Adolfo B. Alix Jr. The two young directors pay tribute to their forebears, Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal with two stories set in their nation's capital, which is now under water. Piolo Pascual stars in both segments. In the first, he's a junkie, looking for a fix. Meanwhile, his mother (Rosanna Roces) is looking for him, with help from a flamboyantly mincing group of gay transvestite men. This takes place during the day, so the street scenes give a sense that yes, this is Manila. The second segment takes place mostly at night, and is more tightly focused and action-oriented than the first. Here Piolo is a bodyguard for the son of a politician. He's treated well by his subject, until he's pushed too far in an incident outside a nightclub. This gives the sense of what Manila is like at night, and features one of the city's biggest landmarks -- the garbage dump. The "day and night" two halves are in black and white, with opening credits between them. These pay tribute to another figure that looms large in Filipino indie cinema -- Lav Diaz, who is shown directing a film. His films are in black and white too, but ironically, this footage is in color, as is a short segment from the Diaz film after the closing credits. Neither Martin and Alix are credited with directing the specific halves, but Oggs Cruz says Martin's is first and Alix's is second. (4/5)

Sherad Anthony Sanchez filmed this documentary-style drama in his hometown of Quezon City, taking his inspiration from the vigilante killing of street children. Because of the killings, the children had all taken to hiding in the sewers. Here, Sanchez shows them sniffing glue, drinking, having sex and just generally idling about, bored. For 3.5 hours it goes on, and is intentionally a test of patience. Sometimes there are rewarding, surreal moments, other times it's just plain annoying and puzzling -- just as if you were hanging out with these messed up kids and trying to figure out what makes them tick. And the shame of it is there is apparently no one who is doing that. No one cares what these kids are doing or whether they live or die. (4/5)

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