Thursday, April 13, 2006

Coming to the SF International Film Fest

Two films I'd like to catch at the SF Int'l Film Fest (because really, if I had the time and lived a bit closer, I might be a movie theater bum and get an all screen pass; because I do overstock my Netflix account with all sorts of Indie and International films):

-North American Premiere

Nothing from the Philippines—except perhaps the early work of Cannes winner Raymond Red—prepares you for this stunning debut feature from 22-year-old Raya Martin. Its title may be misleading at first (it is a feature, not a short), but it makes you realize that film is but a fleeting moment in the long tragic history of the ordinary man. A man tells a sleepless woman a story about the cause of disharmony in the world. What follows is a black-and-white silent film set in the 1890s during the brewing Filipino revolution against Spanish colonialism. A series of tragic and comic sequences tells the Three Ages of an Indio (“common man”) as he progresses from boy bell ringer in a village church to teenage revolutionary to adult theater actor rehearsing a popular Spanish play. But as everyone flees from the encroaching war, the Indio contemplates a more significant dilemma: escaping his troubled soul. Mapping the tragedy of the Filipino psyche and spirit under successive colonizations has been the sustaining theme for the country's great artists, from Jose Rizal to Lino Brocka to the epic films of Lav Diaz. Martin brings a profound poetry to this legacy, creating a world that is at once mysterious and recognizable, and a film that uses the silent form and modernist piano score to struggle against the repressions of politics, religion and art. In marrying the history of a nation with a historical film form through his unique vision, Martin has created one of the truly original works of contemporary Filipino cinema.

—Roger Garcia

Presented in association with the Center for South East Asian Studies.


-the director and screenwriter will be at the May 2 afternoon showing of the film
The barrio film became a staple of Filipino cinema with the 1950s neorealist dramas of Lamberto Avellana and was honed into masterpieces by the late Lino Brocka in the 1970s. Auraeus Solito, a Filipino filmmaker of indigenous roots (the Palawanon tribe), has reinvigorated this most urban of forms in his impressive feature debut. Maximo is a preteen boy who lives a feminine life, loved and cared for by his widowed father and two teenage brothers who all lead lives of petty crime. Maximo cooks, cleans, sews and supports his family, and his squalid slum environment is lightened by improvised fashion parades and playing with other kids. When Maximo is helped one day by a new neighbor, Victor, his life takes a drastic turn: He falls in love with the young, good-looking cop. Moreover, Victor angers the family by encouraging Maximo to aspire to a better life. The potential melodrama of this adolescent love story is held deftly in check by scriptwriter Yamamoto (who also wrote the child tragedy film Magnifico) and Solito, who not only coaxes a convincing performance from newcomer Nathan Lopez, but also shades his environment with essential details of an impoverished community. Cell phone theft, illegal numbers games which Maximo helps to run, the ordinary life of a policeman and Maximo's father railing against social injustice all contribute to a portrait of an “outlaw” society that makes its own rules. It is this creation of a sort of urban tribe with its own codes and customs that gives Blossoming its peculiar intensity and charm.

—Roger Garcia

Presented in association with the Center for Asian American Media and the Center for South East Asian Studies

"Maximo" is said to hit North American DVD distribution in August. So, it's a good chance to get a subtitled preview of it.

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