The Philippine-Korean-Iraqi 16mm short film “Technophilia” will have a screening at “RAW: Las Vegas Presents Fusion” on Aug. 25, 2011 (Thursday) at Tommy Rocker’s in Las Vegas. If you’re in the Vegas area on the said date, you’re invited to come to the event and support local artists. You can buy tickets through this link. Buying ahead of time will only cost $10 for a night of film, music performances, photography, mixed media, and performance art exhibitions, and fashion show.
Inside a hangout place, the game addict boyfriend gets boxed up by his techie lifestyle, which further alters his relationship with his already fed-up girlfriend. Things become more and more mechanical as they move on.
RAW: natural born artists is an independent arts organization, for artists, by artists.
Our mission is to provide independent artists of all creative genres with the tools, resources, and exposure needed to inspire and cultivate creativity. RAW educates emerging artists through seminars, workshops, and insights to further knowledge of their industries.
RAW connects them with one another so that they may grow together, while also providing them with opportunities to give back to their own local youth communities through the arts.
We encourage the creative success of the many visionaries and storytellers of our generation.
Grassroots Showcase Events
RAW handpicks and spotlights local artistic talents in film, fashion, music, visual art, hair and makeup artistry, and performance art. With artists from all genres in each showcase, RAW events come together to form an amazing circus of creativity.
What Can You Expect when Attending the RAW Showcase?
We screen an independent film (usually a short, webisode, or music video), a fashion show from an up-and-coming local designer, a musical performance, an art gallery featuring several independent visual artists, and performance art (comedy/dance/fire dancers, you name it…). You’ll get a little taste of everything. Combine all this creativity with drinks, fun, and good company! To partake in the experience, RSVP ($10/ticket) in the “Showcases” section of the event.
The Karate Kid featuring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan starts off with a considerably sincere showcase of what the movie is all about. From the pop music in its opening credits to the kind of shots it utilizes early on, it’s clearly meant for the young crowd who likes hearty stories and happy endings. This commercially entertaining remake works well for its audience while not being an entire rip-off of the 1984 original. It keeps its spirit alive, except for one disappointing aspect: The Karate Kid is actually The Kung Fu Kid.
The biggest cinematic sin committed here is its misnamed title that sets it somewhere in between an appealing popcorn flick and a big cinematic blasphemy.
The story of Dre migrating to China with his mother, along with his learning of kung fu, renders a fine mainstream treat. But sadly, this movie rides too much on the name of the classic Karate Kid film that it practically uses its franchise just to maximize all the hype and good branding. While making a remake of an old movie is something acceptable, this new martial arts flick for kids could have been more respectful of the film’s legacy by either living up with it (within the karate world) or deviating from its original title to keep up with the new, updated plot. In so doing, it wouldn’t look and sound so funny, questionable, and dumb that it’s a Karate Kid movie using kung fu. In fact, they can even use the original movie’s title as a “sub-title” if they really want to use the brand and recuperate on the most likely huge amount they paid to use the franchise.
The Karate Kid remains a feel good story that works. It succeeds as a crowd-pleasing treat that captures the general charm and humanity of the 1984 original. While it doesn’t surpass what its predecessor has already etched in film history, it takes the same old story and feeds it back with some change in scenery and targeted demographic. It radiates the light-hearted buoyancy of the original with Jaden Smith now stepping in as the new Ralph Macchio and Jackie Chan as the new Pat Morita.
When disregarding its title’s ultimate booboo, what makes the movie succeed in its own terms is that, amidst its clichéd plot, it manages to earn that same winning spirit of the influential classic. This formulaic but savvy reboot makes a good family movie.
While it is totally predictable, itproves that the formula still has life as this new one captures the good emotional beats of the original. From the simple emotional good-bye scene between Dre’s Detroit friend who gives him the skateboard to the gripping fight scene in the end, the movie pays enough respect to the tradition and nostalgia of the first Karate Kid. It may not be as good as the old one, but it reasonably engages with enough heart.
The bountiful travelogue opportunities in China also add to its button-pushing crowd-pleaser demeanor. Director Harald Zwart features historic Chinese ancient structures sitting right next to new architectural wonders. The panoramic vistas and well-choreographed fight scenes reinterpret Karate Kid without straying too far from what the original offered during its time.
The fight scenes make a good playground to its characters. The climactic showdown works in the same fashion as the 1984 movie where the face-off between the bully and the bullied feels predictable, but it interestingly doesn’t feel calculated. It gets the general audience’s attention for an emotional investment until the underdog reigns supreme. Even the simple cliché moments surprisingly validates the kung fu showdown, complete with a deciding slow-motion kick. The choice of shots and emotional bearing on the characters works well for the story. The direction, acting, production design and cinematography become the saving graces of this blasphemously titled movie.
Working together in the spirit of kung fu, Dre and Mr. Han embody naturally good chemistry. They carry the movie well: a brash American boy trying to fit in Beijing and a queerly reserved Chinese maintenance man seemingly living a lonely life on his own.
The two main characters ground the movie in between the drama, action, and comedy. While they don’t exactly match the depth and fortuitous rapport of Macchio and Morita, their partnership brings a heart-filled depiction of their own.
Smith impresses with his small frame sculpted with martial arts training. He looks very natural on screen and his charm carries the movie all the way towards a pleasing end. Amidst the frequently annoying awareness on Jackie Chan’s struggle to get rid of his Americanized tongue to speak Chinese without any English twang, he still generally works well as Mr. Han. He brings good depth to his inner struggle as a character where his emotional baggage fills up to the brim in the car drama sequence. At some point, he seems to go overboard, but the direction and editing effectively handles his breakdown with emotional shots showing him heads down on the steering wheel.
The characterizations of the other roles are not given enough value. Dre’s mother played by Taraji Henson is completely two-dimensional and flat like the rest, with the exception of the bullying boys who get their change of heart by the movie’s end. The humanity between Dre and Mr. Han is fine, but the movie could have benefited more if at least, there’s a simple establishment of Dre investing in one emotional bonding scene with his mother, instead of just mere comic elements brought to their scenes together. His potential love interest Meiying played by Wen Wen Han makes a good addition to the puppy love angle of the story. Dre’s kung fu opponent delivers a fine performance to keep the other side of the story’s spectrum a well-rendered aspect of the movie as well.
Technophilia Film Trailer
Countries: Philippines, Korea, Iraq
Shooting Format: 16mm
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Screening Formats: HD (1920×1080) and SD (720×480) NTSC, HDCAM SR, Beta SP, Digi Beta, DVD, Mini DV
Running Time: 6 minutes, 44 seconds
Location: Seoul, Korea
Synopsis: Inside a hangout place, the boyfriend gets boxed up by his techie lifestyle altering his relationship with his already fed-up girlfriend. And things become more and more techie-like as they move on.
Acknowledgments: Colorwheel Media Studios – through the help of the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA), and Korea University (KU) Read More
Pinoys Shine at Pusan International Film Fest ‘09
By Rianne Hill Soriano
The film city of Busan, Korea paved way for another successful year for the prestigious Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) from Oct. 8 to 16, 2009. And the Philippines, once again, made big waves in this year’s festival.
In its 14th year, PIFF has truly evolved to become one of the most important film festivals that filmmakers, film professionals, cinephiles, and the general film audience look forward to every October. For this year, 355 films from 70 countries (a record number) were shown – a total of 803 screenings for the festival. 98 of the films were world premieres and 46 films were international premieres – a total of 144 world and international premieres (another record number). And more than two dozen of Filipinos attended PIFF with the country having around two dozen of films shown at the festival’s various programs.
Included in the PIFF official statistics were a number of fully-packed film events: 6 Master Classes, 2 Hand Printings, 14 Seminars, 3 Open Talks, 8 Audience Meet and Greets, 12 Meet the Guest: Talk to Talks, 7 teams of Cinema Together, 13 Press Conferences, and 188 Individual Interviews.
Filipinos at the Festival
The Philippine Night was held at the Grand Hotel in Haeundae, Busan last Oct. 12 and was attended by the Philippine delegation which included some of the filmmakers with films at the festival, the Film Development Council of the Philippines, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Philippine Embassy in Korea, and other festival guests.
A partial list of Filipino attendees included: Raymond Red, filmmaker; Doy del Mundo, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, filmmaker; Ed Cabagnot, Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival; GB Sampedro, filmmaker; Jim Libiran, filmmaker; Nestor Jardin, Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival; Tikoy Aguiluz, Cinemanila International Film Festival; Borgy Torre, filmmaker; Maria Isabel Lopez, Actress; Nick De Ocampo, filmmaker; Vicky Belarmino, Cultural Center of the Philippines; Rianne Hill Soriano, filmmaker; and LA Yamsuan, filmmaker.
Philippine Films at the Festival
New Currents Section
Astig (Squalor) by GB Sampedro
Special Mention, New Currents Award
A Window on Asian Cinema
Yanggaw (Affliction) by Richard Somes
Bakal Boys (Children Metal Divers) by Ralston Jover
Lola by Brillante Mendoza
Wide Angle – Asian Short Film Competition
Bonsai by Borgy Torre
Wide Angle – Short Film Showcase 3
Blogog by Rommel Tolentino
Asian Film Academy (AFA) 2009
An Encounter in the Woods (AFA workshop film for PIFF with Rianne Hill Soriano and 12 other young Asian filmmakers)
A Girl (AFA workshop film for PIFF with LA Yamsuan and 12 other young Asian filmmakers)
Special Programs in Focus – Asian Feature Animation Special – Ani Asia!: A Leap of Asian Feature Animation 4
Dayo (The Wanderer in the Land of Elementalia) by Robert Quilao
Pusan Promotion Plan (PPP) Participating Project
Happyland by Jim Libiran
Filipino Independent Film Special – Mabuhay! Pinoy Indi-Cinema!
The festival presented a Filipino independent film special as part of the Special Programs in Focus to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and the Philippines. It was acknowledged as a meaningful opportunity to take a genealogical journey of Filipino indie films, including those from the 1950’s and the winner of the Best Director Award at the Cannes International Film Festival 2009. This special program offered a rich selection of 14 notable Filipino indie films including:
Criminal of Barrio Concepcion by Lav Diaz
Genghis Khan by Manuel Conde
Independencia by Raya Martin
Insiang by Lino Brocka
Itim by Mike de leon
Kinatay by Brillante Mendoza
Manila by Night by Ishmael Bernal
Oliver by Nick Deocampo
Passionate Strangers by Eddie Romero
Perfumed Nightmare by Kidlat Tahimik
Sakay by Raymond Red
Woman of Breakwater by Mario O’hara
The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros by Aureus Solito
The Road to Kalimugtong by Mes Guzman
Seminar on Filipino Independent Filmmaking
The Filipino delegation at PIFF provided a seminar about Filipino independent filmmaking. This Filipino independent film special shared the unique ways of low-budget filmmaking in the country including the so-called ‘pito-pito film’ (referring to a film shot in seven days and goes through post-production in another seven days). It also provided a brief history of the country’s indie films and the Filipino filmmakers’ various production methods.
PIFF Fundings, Film Market, Fellowships, and Awards
Asian Film Academy (AFA)
Annually, 24 young filmmakers from 16 Asian countries are being honed to become “The Future of Asian Cinema” through short film productions, seminars, workshops, one-on-one mentoring sessions, film screenings, meetings, and master classes. This year’s program is led by the AFA Dean Kurosawa Kiyoshi (Japan), along with Deputy Dean Park Ki-yong (Korea), directing mentor Ho Yuhang (Malaysia) and cinematography mentor Mahmoud Kalari (Iran). Two Filipino filmmakers Rianne Hill Soriano and LA Yamsuan were chosen for the AFA fellowship this year.
Asian Film Market
A total of 534 companies from 42 countries participated this year. There were 45 sales offices from 75 companies of 25 countries and a total of 50 market screenings (including 40 market premieres) of 43 films.
Asian Cinema Fund: New AND Distribution Fund to support documentary filmmakers
The AND Distribution Fund was newly set up to support distribution of documentary films that have difficulty in being exhibited in theaters.
Support of acquisition (Asian documentary)
1) Beautiful Islands by Kana Tomoko (Japan)
2) Bilal by Sourave Sarangi (India/Finland)
Support of distribution (Korean documentary)
1) The Border City 2 by HONG Hyungsook
Pusan Promotion Plan (PPP)
The 12th Pusan Promotion Plan shared the venue with the Asian Film Market at the Seacloud Hotel, Haeundae Beach as a convenient one-stop shop for film business professionals. Since 1998, PPP has introduced many talented Asian filmmakers and offered wide opportunities for investment and co-production by global film industry professionals. 30 projects from 21 countries, including Jim Libiran’s film project Happyland, participated this year.
Pusan Award: Decadent Sisters by Aoyama Shinji (Japan)
Kodak Award: Traceby Han Jae-rim / Korea
Göteborg Film Festival Fund: Postcards from the Zoo by Edwin (Indonesia)
CJ Award: Slightly Sane by Pan Nalin (India/France)
Lotte Award: Villain and Widow by Son Jae-gon (Korea)
Wooridul Award: New Policemen Stories by Yang Jin (Hong Kong, China)
KPIF (Korean Producers In Focus) Award (Prime Choice): Good-bye Again by producer Kim Young-jin
14th Pusan International Film Festival Award Winners
Cinemanila Celebrates Its 11th Year with Topnotch Local and International Film Picks
By Rianne Hill Soriano
The annual Cinemanila International Film Festival celebrated its 11th year last Oct. 15 to 25, 2009 at the Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. 10 days of films, master classes, seminars, parties, and even reunions for many filmmakers, artists, and cinephiles… It has considerably become a part of their daily routine throughout the duration of the festival.
“Moving Forward with Moving Images.” Young as it is and still facing a number of challenges and tough times, Cinemanila is best known for the good films it shares to the Filipino audience every festival season – a mix of both local and international picks from the freshest and most promising to the well-renowned and critically-acclaimed.
Around 100 international and local films were screened – from the current toasts of the local independent scene to the award winners and favorites at prestigious festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Rotterdam, Sundance, and Pusan.
Apart from being known for its good programming of top films from all over the world, another good part of Cinemanila is that it tries to expand itself as much as it could – which then makes itself reaching out to more people. From the outdoor screenings to the 1st Cinemanila Machinima Film Festival to the Sine Barangay project, these are valuable ways to expose more people, especially those who don’t usually get to watch art-house films, to such cinema experiences.
The parts still needing improvements mostly fall under the major concern of festival budget and funding. Market! Market! and Bonifacio High Street were definitely wonderful places to situate the festival in. However, there was just one major concern for the general audience – they were not very accessible to local public transport especially to those students and working cinephiles who would have to brace rush hour traffic with mostly expensive taxi rides in order to catch their film picks at the festival. And yet, on the brighter side, it’s truly interesting to note that the local government of Taguig has welcomed Cinemanila in their progressive city this year. Personally, I felt the kind of support the Taguig government provided for the festival. In fact, if not for the transportation issue that a number of people were not able to attend due to inaccessibility of direct public transport as MRT, LRT, jeepneys, and buses from major points/work places/schools, things were then developing rather smoothly for the festival. Perhaps, this could be one major concern that festival and the city government should attend to next time – maybe by utilizing The Fort buses with effective dissemination of pick-up points to the people intending to go the festival from work places and schools, and also maybe having additional cinemas and/or outdoor screenings near these places through the help of both private institutions and other local government units. It’s about making Cinemanila a part of the subculture of the Pinoys during this time of the year – with it being customary for them to see such great films from all over the world through the festival. And we can definitely do it if we work together and support one another to make our very own Cinemanila International Film Festival a part of our valuable events to look forward to every year.
As we acknowledge all these growth and learnings, with such a young but promising international film festival by the Filipinos, we should be proud of all these efforts. Every year, we get to see these esteemed films and acknowledge the filmmakers behind them, and we also meet such inspirational people from the industry both in the local and international scenes. Kudos to Cinemanila, the filmmakers, and the Cinemanila audience!
Highlighting the 11th Cinemanila are films including:
Opening Film – Lola by Brillante Mendoza (Philippines)
Closing Film – Himpapawid (Manila Skies) by Raymond Red (Philippines)
Jury Members – Brillante Mendoza, chair (Philippines); and Eric Sasono (Indonesia)
Cheng Du, I Love You by Fruit Chan (China)
Hunger by Steve McQueen (UK)
Independencia by Raya Martin (Philippines)
Mammoth by Lukas Moodysson (Sweden)
Machan by Uberto Pasolini, (Italy/Sri Lanka)
Milk of Sorrow by Claudia Llossa (Peru)
Pandora’s Box by Yesim Ustaoglu (Turkey/France/Germany/Belgium)
Ricky by Francois Ozon (France)
Samson and Delilah by Warwick Thornton (Australia)
Tony Manero by Pablo Larrain (Chile/Brazil)
Tulpan by Sergey Dvortsevoy (Kazakhstan)
Digital Lokal (Philippines)
Jury Members – Sonja Heinen, chair (Germany); In-Seong Yoo (Korea); Sherad Anthony Sanchez (Philippines)
Anacbanua by Christopher Gozum
Biyaheng Lupa by Armando “Bing” Lao
Ang Beerhouse by Jon Red
Dolores by Lito Casaje
69 1/2 by Ted Manotoc
Iliw by Bona Fajardo
Adam Resurrected by Paul Schrader (USA)
A Year Ago in Winter by Caroline Link (Germany)
Baby Doll Night by Adel Adeeb (Egypt)
Black Dynamite by Scott Sanders (USA)
Broken Embraces by Pedro Almodovar (Spain)
Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino (USA)
Let the Right One In by Tomas Alfredson (Sweden)
I Come with the Rain by Anh Hung Tran (Vietnam/USA)
My Suicide by David Lee Miller (USA)
Leonera (Lion’s Den) by Pablo Trapero (Argentina/Korea)
A Matter of Size by Sharon Maymon and Erez Tadmor (Israel)
Beautiful by Juhn Jaihong (Korea)
Call If You Need Me by James Lee (Malaysia)
Caramel by Nadine Labaki (Lebanon)
Engkwentro by Pepe Diokno (Philippines)
Jeonju Digital Project 2009: Visitors (Korea, Japan, Philippines)
Little Zizou by Sooni Taraporevala (India)
Macabre by Mo Brothers Indonesia/Singapore)
My Magic by Eric Khoo (Singapore)
Non-ko by Kazuyoshi Kumakiri (Japan)
Waltz with Bashir by Ari Folman (Israel)
Passion by Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Japan)
Young Cinema Competition (Philippines)
Jury Members – Tan Chui Mui, chair (Malaysia); Kong Rithdee (Thailand); and John Torres (Philippines)
Dalaw by Janus Victoria
Harang by Mikhail Red
Ito ang Gabing Babalikan Kita Pagkatapos ng Tatlong Taon nang Hindi Maiiyak at Masasaktan by Antoinette Jadaone
Limang Libo by Ice Idanan
Save Me!!! by Ramon del Prado
Stations by Emmanuel Quindo Palo
To Siomai Love by Remton Siega Zuasola
Young Cinema Exhibition (Philippines)
The Artist Is In by Marcus Adoro
Ang Ibig Sabihin ng ‘OK Lang’ by Ryan Nikolai Dino
Gemini by Leo Valencia
Gusto Kong Lumipad by Glenn Ituriaga
Irene F**king Jordan by Paolo Herras
Karoler by Michael Angelo Dagñalan
Technophilia by Rianne Hill Soriano
Waiting Shed by Ely Buendia
SEA (Southeast Asia) Film Competition
Jury Members – Ronnie Lazaro (chair); Joel Shepard (USA); and Bee Thiam Tan (Singapore)
Adrift by Thac Chuyen Bui (Vietnam)
Bakal Boys by Ralston Jover (Philippines)
Here by Ho Tzu Nyen (Singapore)
Jermal by Ravi Bharwani (Indonesia)
Karaoke by Chris Chong (Malaysia)
A Moment in June by O Nathapon (Thailand)
Talentime by Yasmin Ahmad (Malaysia)
Woman on Fire Looks for Water by Woo Ming Jin (Malaysia)
SEA Shorts Competition
Uwan Init Pista sa Langit (Philippines) by Remton Siega Zuasola and Keith Deligero
Focal Point (Malaysia) by Alizera Khatami & Ali Seifourri
Rat (Malaysia/Taiwan) by Lau Kek Huat
Outing (Singapore) Jow Zhi Wei
Sea Horse (Indonesia) by Shalahuddin Siregar
SEA Shorts Exhibition
Lakad ni Sammy (Philippines) by Joel P. Ruiz
Love Suicides (Malaysia) by Edmund Yeo
It’s Not Raining Outside by Yosep Anggi Noen
The 11th Cinemanila awardees are:
Best Actor – Alfredo Castro in Tony Manero (Chile/Brazil)
Best Actress – Tsilla Chelton in Pandora’s Box (Peru/Spain)
Grand Jury Prize – Tulpan by Sergey Dvortsevoy (Germany/Kazakhstan/Switzerland/Russia/Poland)
Lino Brocka Grand Prize – Hunger by Steve McQueen (UK/Ireland)
SEA (Southeast Asia) Competition
Best SEA Short – Focal Point by Alizera Khatami and Ali Seiffouri (Malaysia)
Best SEA Film – Talentime by Yasmin Ahmad (Malaysia)
Special Mention – Woman on Fire Looks for Water by Woo Ming Jin (Malaysia)
Young Cinema (Philippines)
Best Short Film – To Siomai Love by Remton Siega Zuasola
Ishmael Bernal Award for Young Cinema – Remton Siega Zuasola for To Siomai Love
Digital Lokal (Philippines)
Lino Grand Prize – Anacbanua by Christopher Gozum
Lino Grand Jury Prize – Biyaheng Lupa by Armando Lao
Technophilia is screening at the Cinemanila Young Cinema Shorts Program this October 2009! =D
Congratulations to all the filmmakers and their films! See you at the Bonifacio Global City this October!
CINEMANILA FINALISTS September 23, 2009
Cinemanila Finalists Announced: Digital Lokal, Young Cinema, SEA Shorts
The 11th Cinemanila International Film Festival released today its finalists for the Digital Lokal Section (Philippine digital films) Young Cinema Section (Shorts in Competition and Exhibition), and SEA Shorts (Southeast Asian shorts in Competition and Exhibition). They are as follows:
The finalists for this year’s Digital Lokal are:
Christopher Gozum “Anacbanua”
Armando “Bing” Lao “Biyaheng Lupa”
Jon Red “Beerhouse”
Lito Casaje “Dolores”
Ted Manotoc “69 1/2”
Bona Fajardo “Iliw”
For Young Cinema Competition the finalists are:
Janus Victoria “Dalaw”
Mikhail Red “Harang”
Antoinette Jadaone “Ito ang Gabing Babalikan Kita Pagkatapos ng Tatatlong Taon nang Hindi Maiiyak at Masasaktan”
Ice Idanan “Limang Libo”
Ramon del Prado “Save Me!!!”
Emmanuel Quindo Palo “Stations”
Remton Siega Zuasola “To Siomai Love”
For Young Cinema Exhibition are:
Marcus Adoro “The Artist Is In”
Ryan Nikolai Dino “Ang Ibig Sabihin ng ‘OK Lang’”
Leo Valencia “Gemini”
Glenn Ituriaga “Gusto Kong Lumipad”
Paolo Herras “Irene F**king Jordan”
Michael Angelo Dagñalan “Karoler” Rianne Hill Soriano “Technophilia”
Ely Buendia “Waiting Shed”
For the SEA Shorts Competition the finalists are:
“Uwan Init Pista sa Langit” (Philippines) by Remton Siega Zuasola and Keith Deligero
“Focal Point” (Malaysia) by Alizera Khatami & Ali Seifourri
“Rat” (Malaysia/Taiwan) by Lau Kek Huat
“Outing” (Singapore) Jow Zhi Wei
“Sea Horse” (Indonesia) by Shalahuddin Siregar
For the Sea Shorts in Exhibition are:
“Lakad ni Sammy” (Philippines) by Joel P. Ruiz
“Love Suicides” (Malaysia) by Edmund Yeo
“It’s Not Raining Outside” by Yosep Anggi Noen
The 11th Cinemanila International Film Festival will be held from October 15 to 25, 2009 in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. Around 100 international and local films will be screened in a span of 10 days – from the current toasts of the local indie scene to the award-winners and favorites at prestigious festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Rotterdam, Sundance, and Pusan. The festival will also feature workshops, seminars and master classes. For more info, or jpegs for a release, please contact email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.cinemanila.org.ph.
The 2009 Cinemanila is presented by the City of Taguig and the Cinemanila International Film Festival Foundation, together with Market!Market! Cinemas and Ayala Malls, in cooperation with Cinema One, Business World, Manila Bulletin, Click the City, Philippine Star, Pep.ph, Spot.ph, Fully Booked, Web Philippines, TBWA\Mangada\Santiago\Puno, Outpost Visual Frontier, Solid Video Corporation and the World Cinema Fund.
AFA is fast approaching… =D Greatly looking forward to it! See you again Busan this October!
Japanese director and genre film master
KUROSAWA Kiyoshi to lead the AFA The 14th Pusan International Film Festival announces the faculty of the AFA 2009 – KUROSAWA Kiyoshi (dean), HO Yuhang (for film directing) and Mahmoud KALARI (for cinematography)
The 5th Asian Film Academy (AFA) has nominated Japanese director and noted genre film master KUROSAWA Kiyoshi as the dean to lead the AFA. KUROSAWA is actively expanding his directing horizons and his recent film Tokyo Sonata was honored with the Jury Prize at Cannes that established him as one of the highly regarded film masters in the world.
Malaysian director HO Yuhang is invited as the mentor of film directing to the AFA. His film At the End of Daybreak became the first Malaysian film to screen in competition of the Locarno International Film Festival. Mahmoud KALARI, the cinematographer of Offside(the winner of the Silver Bear at Berlin), was named the mentor of cinematography of the AFA.
The AFA is an educational program co-hosted by Dongseo University, the Korean Academy of Film Arts, and the Pusan International Film Festival. The alumni of the AFA have been playing active roles in various fields since its inception in 2005.
24 fellows from 16 countries will join the AFA 2009 held from October 1st to October 17th. Under the supervision of the faculty, the participants will learn about the practical and theoretical knowledge of filmmaking through short film productions, workshops, discussion sessions, and individual mentoring.
The Faculty Members of the AFA 2009
Dean – KUROSAWA Kiyoshi (Director – Japan)
KUROSAWA Kiyoshi, born in 1955 in Kobe, Japan, is the master film director representing the contemporary Japanese films and he is a professor at the Film School of Tokyo. KUROSAWA started his career with 8mm films at a film club SPP (Saint Paul Production) in university. He was an assistant director for Japanese director SOMAI Shinji in the early 80s. He made his directorial debut with the pink film Kandagawa Wars in 1983 and became widely known with his film The Excitement of the Do-Re-Mi-Fa Girl in 1985. Since then, he has directed (among others) the science fiction Sweet Home with actor ITAMI Juzo, TV series Suit Yourself or Shoot Yourself about Yakuza, and the surreal thriller Cure(1997) that earned him international acclaim.
The major works of KUROSAWA include; Charisma (1999) which was invited to the Directors’ Fortnight event of Cannes; Pulse (2001), an apocalyptic horror flick regarded as one of the best ever horror films; and, License to Live(1999), Doppelganger(2003) and Bright Future(2003). His recent film Tokyo Sonata won the Jury Prize at Cannes 2008.
Directing Mentor– HO Yuhang (Director – Malaysia)
Born in 1971 in Petaling Jaya in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, HO studied engineering in Iowa State University but went into filmmaking after graduation. He worked in TV commercials in the early 90s and co-directed the documentary Semangat Insan: Masters of Tradition(2000) highlighting the importance of preserving Malaysian traditional arts.
His first feature film Min(2003) about an adopted girl searching for her birth mother, won the Special Jury Award at the Nantes Three Continents Festival. His second feature Sanctuary(2004) received the New Currents Award (Special Mention) at the Pusan International Film Festival in 2004 and the NETPAC Award and Tiger Award (Special Mention) at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2005. Rain Dogs(2006) was produced by Focus Films owned by Hong Kong superstar Andy LAU. With this film, HO received the New Talent Award at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival in 2006 and the best director award at Nantes in 2006. His recent work At the End of Daybreak funded by the Asian Cinema Fund of the Pusan International Film Festival became the first Malaysian film to screen in competition at Locarno.
KALARI is a globally renowned director, cinematographer, photographer, and art director. Along with directing his own films, he earned an international reputation as a cinematographer, having worked with master directors such as Abbas KIAROSTAMI, Dariush MEHRJUI and Mohsen MAKHMALBAF.
KALARI worked on widely recognized films; he directed The Cloud and The Rising Sun(1997) which won the best film award at the Mar del Plata Film Festival; The Pear Tree(1998) (directed by Dariush MEHRJUI) received the best cinematography award at the Fajr Film Festival; Wind Will Carry Us(1999) (directed by Abbas KIAROSTAMI) earned the FIPRESCI Prize and Special Jury Prize at Venice; and, Offside(2006) (directed by Jafar PANAHI) received the Silver Bear at Berlin. Among other major works of KALARI are Mainline(2006), Gabbeth(1996), and A Moment of Innocence(1996). He appeared in Baanoo(1998) and Men at Work(2006) as an actor.
The 14th Pusan International Film Festival will take place from October 8th – 16th.
(The Asian Film Market 2009 is open from October 11th – 14th.)
(The Asian Film Academy 2009 will take place from October 1st – 17th)
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I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who came to the film premiere of “Pera-perahang Lata” and “Technophilia” last June 3. It was overwhelming to see lots of both new and familiar faces, friends and colleagues, students and friends of friends, during the event – amidst the heavy rains and lots of people getting sick. Yes it’s flu season and I myself was a victim of it and I had to drag myself to work and finish all errands for the premiere with only 3 weeks to prepare from scratch.
It all started with a letter/proposal for a back-to-back film premiere in HD format at any of the country’s digital cinemas. Apparently, one replied positively with Gateway Cineplex 10. And from there, I had to work on the film projection requirements, program flow, event collaterals, getting sponsors, printing tickets, getting caterer, inviting people, etc. etc. etc. After many sleepless nights working, editing, and doing lots of errands here and there, things were almost all set…
Technical test turned out successful. I got a decent number of sponsors amidst countless rejections. I asked some friends for some help on minor tasks just to ease a little burden on my part, especially I was already getting sick, catching colds. Been abusing my body with work and it’s not a surprise that my body is already asking for some rest to keep up with the superstress.
Just like during the auditions for “Pera-perahang Lata” way back 2007, it’s also raining very hard due to a typhoon, June 3, 2009 was also faced with a similar weather problem. Thank goodness many still came and most of the actors and actresses came from those 2-day auditions in Makati. And this time, at the premiere, it’s the same thing – too much rains, flu season. A number of friends started texting me that they couldn’t come anymore – either they were sick or they couldn’t come due to the heavy rains. Thank goodness many still came. At least it’s good enough that I can breathe easily since I was able to accommodate an estimated number of guests of around 350 to 400 people – validating my request to change venue from Cinema 1 (303 seating capacity) to Cinema 5 (524 seating capacity).
I would like to thank all my production staff and cast, the sponsors for the film and for the event, and all my friends who supported me all the way.
During the premiere, I would like to thank Minister and Consul General Ohm Ki-sung and Consul Hwang of the Korean Embassy in Manila for gracing the affair. Thank you to Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista for his valuable support amidst such a very last minute help that I asked for him for the premiere. Thank you to Mr. Tony Gloria who attended the screening and I will be forever grateful to his help for making it possible for us to shoot in HD using Unitel’s Panasonic Varicam. Thank you to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and to NCCA Project Management Head Mr. Ferdinand Isleta for being part of this endeavor. Thank you to Thank you to FILMEX, Engine Room, Optima Digital and Hit Productions for all the support they provided for me to finish the films. Thank you to Mr. Pete Jimenez, Mr. Jam Manikan, and Ms. Marilen Magsaysay of Optima Digital for their utmost support and attendance during the premiere. Thank you to Outpost Digital Frontier for making it possible for us to come up with the processed files ready for HD projection using Gateway’s Christie projector. Thank you very much to Mr. Paolo Villaluna of the Independent Filmmakers Cooperative for helping me out with the MTRCB permits. Thank you to the Marikina Cultural Affairs Office for all their help. Thank you to all our media partners and friends. And thank you to the Araneta Group and Gateway Cineplex 10 for this great opportunity. Thank you to Ms. Shella Mateo, Marketing Manager, Mr. Rick Dailo, Operations Manager, Mr. Raymund Basilio, Technical Manager, and all the staff of the Araneta Group and Gateway Cineplex 10.
I will soon include a copy of my film credits and the event poster on this blog post to show the people who made the films and this back-to-back film premiere possible. I thank all my cast and crew for the two films. I thank my family and friends for all their help and support.
There are so many people and institutions that I am so grateful for. I may not be able to physically mention every single one of you at the moment. But with all sincerity, I really, really thank all of you for making all these possible.
Shooting Format: 16mm
Screening Format: HD
Running Time: 7 minutes
Acknowledgments: Colorwheel Media Studios, Korean Film Council (KOFIC), Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA), and Korea University (KU), Asian Film Professionals Training Program
Main Cast Lee Jong-jin and Lee Saekyung
Director/Writer: Rianne Hill Soriano
Director of Photography: Mohammed Jano
Production Designer: Rianne Hill Soriano
Art Director: Stephen Kochenash
Editors: Rianne Hill Soriano and Mohammed Jano
Musical Score and Sound Design: Philip Arvin Jarilla
Directed by: Su-chang Kong
Starring: Woo-seong Kam, Byung-ho Son, Tae-kyung Oh, Won-sang Park
The Korean film “R-Point” works as an atmospheric thriller. Set in the tail end of the Vietnam War, it combines military drama and supernatural mystery with tones and themes somewhat reminiscent of “Apocalypse Now.” While it works in a fundamental level by blending horror and war movie elements into a low-key psychological horror offer, it never really reaches the expectations for it to be called a classic, a jaw-dropping movie, or at the least, a mind-altering film for its genre. The premise looks promising. However, the film’s take on its straightforward approach, stylistic attempts, and supernatural underpinnings does not result to a blend of a masterpiece.
Written and directed by Su-chang Kong, this 2004 film tells the story of a ragtag team of South Korean soldiers assembled to investigate a missing squadron from Battalion 53 who fails to report back from a strategically important island referred to as R-Point. As shortwave radio transmissions from the said group are received for an eerie couple of times, volunteers are chosen from those about to be shipped back to Korea for a search and rescue operation. But more than the haunting weapons of war, what they actually uncover is something to be described as terrifying in another level as new enemies in the form of ghosts start stalking them from all sides.
The film’s treatment explores more of immersing the audience into the psychological aspect of horror than shocking them with gore. There is nothing much that makes the viewer jump or shriek in fright. It’s mainly the heavy dose of atmosphere that helps generate the creeps for the film.
“R-Point” has nothing new to offer. And this makes it quite predictable like a reasonably made horror film for the can. Once the basic plotpoints are brought out, there is no much suspense about how things will move further anymore. There are some bump-in-the night scare tactics that work, but overall, the mounting of the story won’t keep one hooked from beginning to end. Its horror elements, including its pay-off, use too much familiar devices that pull it down the scale. Indeed, creating a horror film is more than putting up frightening set pieces, showing faceless soldiers walking creepily in a dense field of grass, a white lady with tears of blood, a creepy Chinese warning written on the stone near the border, a foggy and moss-covered colonial period mansion, and a terrifying face of a dilapidated stone statue in a damp, uncomfortable jungle. Also, the director could have used the supernatural aspect in a little more subtle way – especially when it comes to some of the ghost-related scenes. It could have worked much better without those annoying POV-like visions of the ghosts who all seem to wear night vision goggles with such greenish POVs (is the filmmaker trying to point out that the dead soldiers were actually provided night vision goggles to wreak havoc to the living soldiers within R-point?). In a short but more serious way of saying it, it just doesn’t work. Much like how some of the scenes of the soldiers wandering around scared get tiresome by the end.
On the brighter side of things, “R-Point” attempts to live up to a few artistic sequences. The cinematography is quite solid as the production team generally manages to blend the sights of nice vistas with that of the creepy requirements. (SPOILERS) The flashes and revelation of bone-white crosses lined up as a mass grave is quite a scene. The moments of the platoon starting to realize the supernatural occurrences including a comrade hanging himself and bathing the other soldier from below with blood and the American soldiers they have befriended seen to be actually dead even before they met them are effectively staged (END OF SPOILERS).
The film’s major asset is its ensemble cast. On the forefront is an excellent performance by Woo-seong Kam as the hard-boiled combat veteran Lieutenant Choi Tae-in. He sports a convincingly calm demeanor of a desensitized and cynical military man. Backing him up in the story is Byung-ho Son as the typical military hard-butt Sergeant Jin Chang-rok. And the rest of the actors also bring their roles to life; thus, generally elevating the film with their performances amidst such fairly stereotypical characters – including a cocky teenager forcing himself for enlistment, a man with syphilis, a mortician’s son who knows creepy things and Chinese characters, a man haunted by the thoughts of a fellow officer sent to R-point prior to the current mission he is in, among others. Truly, the characterization is much the same as any misfit group seen from every other military movie. And just like their simple search and rescue mission sounding so fast and easy to understand, the soldiers fall apart so easily with such swiftness that the body count speedily falling to pieces in this kind of story is some kind of record in a war movie.
“R-point” turns out to be a stylish attempt to elicit some creepy vibes without yielding to the cheaper gimmicks more often misused in the genre. However, it doesn’t reach the better expectations for it. Nevertheless, if it is approached as nothing more than a vessel of some supernatural entertainment, it can still provide few scares.
A Family’s Journey in Two Worlds By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Starring: Irfan Khan, Kal Penn
Directed by: Mira Nair
Mira Nair’s ‘The Namesake’ is a deeply felt look at the ties of family and birthplace, the loneliness of living as immigrants, and the connections that hold the natural clash between generations and cultures. An affecting family drama marked by sensitive direction and fine performances, it illuminates the immigrant experience of an Indian family conflicted between their own rich and conservative traditions and America’s liberalism and modernity.
Mira Nair’s handsome but inert adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pulitizer Prize winning novel becomes a modest and yet engaging tapestry of cross-cultural experience. The all too familiar theme of family and the search for one’s self are universal and are all well presented in the film. Indeed, having a finely sustained exposition on the difficult balance between separation and integration that shapes the lives of immigrants and their children, the tale of the immigrants is played out for all it is worth.
This rewarding adaptation spans two continents and 30 plus years. It combines the intimate pleasures of a family saga about an Indian immigrant family in a land too eager to impose its own definition on them. Amidst its risky and demanding episodic structure, ‘The Namesake’ remains a remarkably intimate, loving, and deeply felt screen translation of a best-selling novel. It transports the audience to a realm of pure feeling as the Bengali immigrants are torn between assimilation and tradition. The richly conveyed human details are rendered as visual impressions rather than plotty assertions. And the film focuses finely on the characters as it weaves the understated picture into the world it presents. It draws a viewer into its extended story about love, loyalty, freedom, and meaning.
‘The Namesake’ doesn’t reduce itself as another film about immigration and seeking life’s meaning. Its alluvial poetry of the deeply familiar may be perceived as being a little slow, but it turns out to be a surprisingly engrossing study of identity and assimilation – as though the audience has lived with the characters instead of just watching them. Rambling and precise as it is, the film is sweeping and intimate.It conveys a palpable sense of people and the many connections around them.
Director Mira Nair celebrates her native India in this moving generational drama with insightful episodes that are carefully filled with emotional investments. Her sensitive storytelling maximizing the intelligent and moving script by Sooni Taraporevala is beautifully paced for its purpose. More than becoming a snapshot collection of dramatic episodes, ‘The Namesake’ becomes a cohesive character study that elicits laughters and tears and provides a stirring view of cultural assimilation and personal discovery. What makes it really stand out is its compassion and delicacy, its banal and yet carefully infused symbolisms, its genuine drama, and its occasional bits of humor.
All of the technical aspects, the cinematography, production design, art direction, locations, sound design, and musical score are equally impressive. The sumptuous lighting and camera work by cinematographer Frederick Elmes complementing the gorgeously designed sets spearheaded by production designer Stephanie Carroll artfully depict the immigrant experience in ways that transcend its setting. In the same way, the elegant score by Nitin Sawhney brings the film’s velvety heart a level higher, and at the same time, complementing the episodic editing by Allyson Johnson as it keeps up the story gliding smoothly over the years. There is just an annoying issue on the make-up of the aging actors and actresses – they become too attenuated and even fake at times, mainly because of the inconsistencies of their aging from one scene to the next.
The solid performances make the lengthy journey a pleasant one. The ensemble brings to the screen complex relationships that are formidable, moving, and affecting. Everyone contributes to the keeping of the tone of the entire piece. As a profound and emotionally resonant family portrait bridged by two generations, Nair’s sensitive direction really pushes the limits to the level towards the exemplary.
The expressive actors and actresses play big responsibilities in the film’s challenging continuity. Tabu as Ashima Ganguli and Irfan Khan as Ashoke Ganguli are excellent as Gogol’s and Sonia’s parents. Tabu carries much weight in the heart of the story – a gorgeous young bride who has grown into a loving mother maintaining her compassion and dignity throughout. Khan’s role as a soft-spoken man of gentle dignity draws in a character of a visionary dreamer with an inner strength of a loving family man. The story’s main arc is the character of Gogol/Nick Ganguli played by Kal Penn who renders a solid part as an Americanized Indian getting entangled on the two clashing traditions offered to him. From a confused young man to a mature adult, he really helps deliver the vision of the film effectively. Sahira Nair also makes an effective approach to her character as Sonia Ganguli, the youngest child of the family – just maintaining the right provisions for her supporting role.
‘The Namesake’ is a rich cultural tapestry for the big screen. A film made with obvious care and affection, it goes beyond the broader society it depicts. This poignant tale resonates wherever you are in the world.
Starring: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Wei Tang, Joan ChenLee-Hom Wang
Directed by: Ang Lee
Ang Lee’s ‘Lust, Caution’ takes a melancholy account of wartime espionage poignantly depicting the turbulence of politics at the Japanese-controlled Shanghai during the Second World War. This explicit and ponderous tale of oppression and resistance deals with the hidden desperation and fierce passions of its nuanced characters in a compelling drama about desire, hurt, and betrayal.
As an erotic film/espionage thriller about tangled allegiances and corrupted innocence, ‘Lust, Caution’ taps a person’s emotions and equates sexual intimacy with the search for a person’s soul. The film depicts a historically and culturally turbulent period of the second Sino-Japanese War carefully executed in the view of sexual politics and the stirring socio-cultural view of nationalism during those times. Its theme of human sexual expression is bold, graphic, and explicit – and Lee utilizes the power of growing out tension between essence and form in order to reveal the untold dangers and depths of role-playing and raw sexuality.
Following up on his Oscar-winning ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,’ Lee’s boldness is clearly defiant within the broad strokes of this film’s bittersweet love story. The level of craftsmanship he displays clearly lingers with the effective character developments and the gracing notes of unspoken signals of unfulfilled goals – down to every lipstick stain Wang Jiazhi/Mrs. Mak (Wei Tang) leaves on her teacups.
This extended adaptation of a short story (by Eileen Chang) about a female Chinese nationalist who uses sex to trap a cruel Japanese collaborator mixes stately pace with bursts of raw violence and graphic eroticism. More than being explicit, the stylish and visually arresting sex scenes break through the reserve of what a usual espionage thriller or intensely erotic piece can do. It effectively coincides with the exposition of the political interests of the era (which is actually a very timely issue even until now). In its overall cinematic form, ‘Lust, Caution’ is lush, seductive, carefully thought of. Its execution as an erotic spy drama about wartime maneuvers and bedroom calisthenics works within the consciousness of the story. In its overall effect as a cinematic experience, it is quite a compelling work of art amidst missing on some vague points in terms of digging into the viewer’s consciousness.
‘Lust, Caution’ features nuanced, forceful performances from the two leads Wei Tang and Tony Leung. Tang renders a stunning debut feature performance as Wang Jiazhi who masquerades as the bourgeois Mrs. Mak, a young agent in disguise to entrap a dangerous collaborationist Mr. Yee (Leung). She portrays her role with heartbreaking deftness as she gets swept up in a dangerous game of emotional intrigue and psychological tension with her precarious affair with the dangerous political figure. The sex scenes are intense, affecting, and emotionally raw – serving the story effectively by capturing the essence of the era and exposing the unnerving power and terrible cost of emotional and political masquerades. The carnal acts and savage nature of the relationship of Mrs. Mak and Mr. Yee are sadomasochistic and suspenseful that the apparent violence exposes this erotic Chinese historical drama with universal statements about war, politics, sex, and nationalism.
Beautifully mounted, acted, and directed, ‘Lust, Caution’ sets the entire tone for a richly detailed espionage thriller capturing the bygone days of Shanghai through a small resistance movement by the Chinese against the Japanese occupiers during World War 2.
When the Conscience Knocks By: Rianne Hill Soriano
‘Cape Karma’ is an off-beat drama about a psychologically tortured man who lives by the lakeside. It is a very stylized film with a number of metaphors and thoughts about the concept of ‘eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.’
The narrative shows a series of experimental flavors and allegorical statements about the life of a man losing his sanity. Its highly stylized treatment keeps up with its profound story. The conflict comes from inside the main character who lives a life of imagination, madness, obsession, and murder. The unconventional and surreal theme is planted deep into the film, and it works effectively with the film’s theme and treatment. The mild sexual content validates the madness and obsession in the story. The powerful visuals becomes an intense combination of realist elements and simple objects rendered in symbolic undertones. The juxtaposition of shots keeps up with a certain radical rhythm creating certain moods in line with the psychological drama’s demands.
Overall, the disturbing elements and experimental editing sustain the script’s madness. The metaphorical story effectively conveys the protagonist’s internal journeys which are physically shown in a series of external plotpoints.
The cinematography, art direction, sound design, and music all yield to the film’s stylized script and direction. Indeed, ‘Cape Karma’ utilizes various devices that keep up with the meandering and rattling nature of the story. And the film certainly builds up on the very concept of karma.
Amidst the number of mainstream movies being shown in a regular basis, watching this film is something different. Director Pankaj Advani creates a strongly felt open-ended story about certain key values in life – without really going overboard. And the turn of events makes the critical and creative minds of the viewers work in line with both the factual and imaginative aspects of the main character’s life.
The convincing performances add to the strength of the film. Rahul Dev’s crucial role as a crazy lead character, along with the rest of the actors and actresses comprising the ensemble of the film, delivers well in presenting such a story filled with inner emotional elements that determine how a lost soul can keep up with his life when his conscience keep on knocking his door every now and then.
‘Cape Karma’ is the kind of film that needs profundity to cope up well with its story. And with the number of symbolic objects and characters in the film, some may find the entirety of the film quite hard to understand. But for those who are fond of watching such artsy films, this is one good cinematic offer to really check out.
Starring: Yun-Fat Chow, Li Gong, Jay Chou, Ye Liu
Directed by: Yimou Zhang
The oriental epic ‘Curse of the Golden Flower’ is visually spectacular, somewhat melodramatic, and grandly tragic. In its lavishingly regal tapestry of golds and shades of reds, director Zhang Yimou creates such an action drama of pure opulence with shadows of a striking tapestry of conspiracy and bloodshed. Its richly detailed oriental feel equates to the heaviness of its theme. The palace intrigue and the machinations of power play open the gates of image and melodrama in this story of opulence, passion, political power, and rebellion.
From courtly intrigues, to illicit sex, to painstakingly bloody battle scenes, the histrionics of this film brings such a heavy feeling until the end. Executed with oriental action scenes and Chinese art-house pageantry, this garish familial opera is filled with madness, incest, plots, counter-plots, and rebellious motives. But its gorgeous scenes draped in silk, brocade, gold, and jade make up for a bit of cinematic candy that you can feast your eyes on. Watching for the visual splendor becomes the price to pay for the purely sensual pleasure of its imagery. The breathtaking cinematography, gorgeous period costumes, stupendously lovely backgrounds, and operatic mise-en-scéne manage to make even the most gruesome activities look really attractive that it leaves you stunned and amazed with every passing frame. Indeed, every frame beats for a family melodrama highlighted in a gorgeously epic scale. And it actually exudes an eye-catching operatic splendor that seems to serve as an Asian take to a Shakesperean royal tragedy.
Zhang does a marvelous job in contrasting the sumptuousness of the sets with the venomous brutality happening within the palace walls. The visually dynamic and compelling visuals promote Zhang’s incredible eye for color and shots. The vibrant palette keeps up with the story’s passion through the pulsating colors and ornate tapestries. Moreover, Zhang’s large-scale battle sequence tends to rival Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings battle sequences. Its epic scale and creative execution generates an impressively stirring effect.
The characters have enough conflicting relational issues. But at the end of it all, it seems quite remote to the point that you go out of the moviehouse somehow full with the visual grandeur, feeling a little exhausted with the tragedy, and forgetting any form of compassion when looking back to its characters. Indeed, ‘Curse of the Golden Flower’ is not lacking for spectacle, but it turns out needing for a little more humanizing touch to fill in the gap. Its dysfunctional family theme showing all the grandeur of the Tang Dynasty becomes semi-hollow – being overpowered by the royal golden palette of its epic proportion – to the point of overwhelming practically every other element of the story. Overall, it lacks the breathtaking sweep of the magnificent classic ‘Hero’ or the intimately visual greens of ‘House of Flying Daggers,’ but somehow, this film remains worth seeing with its golden look and uncompromising audio-visual candor. A little more of pushing in terms of storytelling prowess could have made this film in par with that of ‘Hero.’
The ever-luminous Gong Li as Empress Phoenix looks very stately and sympathetic with her performance while the wicked Chow Yun-Fat as Emperor Ping makes such a tyrant emperor. Within all its stirring conflicts, the performances of Liu Ye as Crown Prince Wan, Jay Chou as Prince Jai, and Junjie Qin as Prince Yu generally contributes to the tragic fate of the their family. And the rest of the supporting characters deliver quite well with what the script offers them.
Zhang Yimou’s ‘Curse of the Golden Flower’ is definitely not for everybody. But the sure thing about it is that everybody would have to agree that the film’s eye-popping visuals bring sheer visual beauty and epic sweep. Indeed, amidst all its strengths and weaknesses, the morbid grandiosity of the film is its own distinctive accomplishment.
The only (minor) saving grace for ‘Kama Sutra: Love Potion’ is its physical story. And the worst thing about it is that, it doesn�t seem to have a good grasp of the film language – at all.
If you come to think of it, you get to realize in the end that the story is generally, supposedly okay. During its brainstorming and pre-production stages, the filmmakers and producers could have visualized a film of good value. However, the actual movie seems to lose everything because of its technical weakness. A number of shots don�t match well. Discontinuities abound. Amidst the cinematic locations, the cinematography is so bad. A number of shots are too raw and super-low quality. The color grading is so unlikely. The exposures and day-for-night and night-for-day shots are so awfully made to the point that one shot is considerably a day shot while the next supposedly matching shot to it is a night shot (And this has happened for lots of times!). Overall, the visuals are so poor that a well-made student production can really wipe this film out in terms of quality and production value.
Aside from the really bad sound elements and dialogues, it is so pathetic to hear the musical score that suddenly appears in weird tunes and tempo at really unexpected times. It is completely annoying as no matter how you try to make them come together, the music is so off from what the visual suggests. Moreover, there is no much good build up of emotions. There seems to be no solid visual and aural plan for it. It lacks some focus and it is poorly directed. Everything is a plain exposition of the physical story without much creative input.
In as much as I want to be a little more considerate – thinking of the idea that there may be some cultural boundaries between myself and this foreign film, my best judgment completely justifies to me that the film is a total mess. With the sometimes exaggerated, sometimes just right, and mostly wooden acting of the characters, the mistakes in cinematography and shot composition, the poor sound elements and musical score, the movie becomes a complete waste. In fact, the opening scene is a literal pain in the eyes already � the aspect ratio of the visuals is really out of bounds. The scenic locations are wasted to the widest limits. I can�t even help but mention a funnily irritating establishing shot of the girl on the swing, then the next shot is the guy also swaying as if the cameraman was riding the swing from a hullabaloo of stupid visual perception. Furthermore, most shots have a quality less than a good videographer shooting with a handycam for a consumer-type family movie. It can’t validate any possible excuse for artistic or experimental intentions. With this movie being shot in 35mm film, it could have surpassed the technical quality of a number of digital films that are really very limited of resources. But what it has become is an entire disappointment.
The twist is okay. The idea of the suspense could have acquired some intelligence to the actual film, but the execution has just ruined it all. This is the only little redeeming factor – but it can’t save the ultimately poor quality of the film. The thematic side could have been slightly promising, but the execution is so dull and so out of production value.
Sadly, its title is not very much related to its content. Worse, the breast exposures are not really needed in the story. The film ultimately lacks creativity and coherence. This movie is no match to its predecessors who have utilized better the concept of Kama Sutra.
�Kama Sutra: Love Potion� is a waste of film stocks. Its story may not be completely bad, but it is not really that promising enough to redeem this completely awful movie. The two worst things about it is the really bad musical score and the entirely poor visuals. And with a film being an audio-visual medium, you can readily see how pathetic the route this movie has taken to. Only if the material has been utilized well enough to elevate itself from such an absolutely disappointing level, the film could have worked a bit. Come to think of it, a talented and responsible student or amateur filmmaker could have come up with a better version of this without taking advantage of a really catchy title as ‘Kama Sutra’ just to get some audience. And to those who are curious about this film because of its title, ‘beware, titles can be really deceiving…’
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring By Rianne Hill Soriano
The Korean opus ‘Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring’ directed by Ki-duk Kim is a monk’s film gracing the 8th Cinemanila International Film Festival’s World Cinema Program. A calm, witty, accomplished, transcendental, and contemplative work reflecting one man’s life journey, the film draws a universal chord in utilizing the four seasons to conjure a sense of spiritual discipline and depict the concept of karma. It brings a spiritually uplifting story against a lush backdrop of nature’s extraordinary beauty.
The dramatic seasonal shifts complement the coherence of the story’s presentation. Portraying a man’s journey from childish and materialistic accounts to enlightenment rooted from the philosophy of Buddhism, ‘Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring’ weaves a beautifully composed canvas of the enthralling images that support the twists and turns of nature’s natural terms and the rumination of a person’s evident shortcomings in life. With its heart-stopping, picturesque visuals, the beauty of its location is maximized by the art of the camera. The perfectly composed shots amplify an emotionally resonant story. The minimal dialogues yield to the impressive performances of the actors and actresses. And all these bring heart and soul to the film.
This film takes place in a beautiful lake, where an old monk lives in a serene, floating temple. The audience watches the seasons and the years pass by, from the elderly master teaching the boy the ways of the Buddha, and later on, as a young man, the master allows him to act on his will as he experiences his sexual awakening with a girl who has come to the temple to be healed by the master. The youth runs away to the outside world but his lust turns his life into hell. And so, he returns to the lake temple to find spiritual enlightenment. As the film progresses further, one sees that this is a film about the constancy of renewal and change.
This is not a movie of action, but of meditation – a tale that unfolds, like the seasons, allowing the viewer to explore its meaning, its mysteries, and its boundaries. Without being preachy, ‘Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring’ embarks on spirituality, loneliness, and accountability. The floating monastery drifts around in a slow circle on the lake amidst the serenity of thoughts gracing in mystical directions and transporting a sort of spiritual experience to the audience. Spare and contained as it is, the compelling story evokes the oneness of the film’s characters to their natural surroundings. And for the people watching the film, the story may not lead to actual enlightenment, but it leaves a remarkable message to enlighten them, in one way or another.
By turns humorous and tragic, somber and stirring, the 98-minute film brings the gale force of the winds as the scenarios capture the eyes while provoking the mind. A mystical primer on Buddhist spirituality, it is an immediately absorbing story about life lessons that people tend to grapple with.
The film’s effect is magical. It draws the viewer into one lifetime’s various experiences that are full of incidents and observations that are easy to grasp, regardless of the viewers’ faith, religion and beliefs. Beautifully absorbing, it borders on the profoundly cyclic repetitions in life. It catches a glimpse of oneself in the spinning wheel of hope, destruction, suffering, and bliss.
Exquisitely crafted, the slow pacing of this visually arresting, but never boring, and frequently moving film has a timeless quality. It manages to isolate something essential about human nature – comprehending the scope of various human experiences. As simple as it is, the film proves that the sincerest stories are nearly the most universal, and the simplest tales sometimes become the deepest. Indeed, Kim really knows how to paint a picture on screen and let the film seep into the soul of the audience.
The film is definitely brilliant in so many ways. However, I just can’t help but notice the general representation of the female characters in the film. They merely represent corruption and temptation and nothing else significant. And this becomes its main weakness and leaves it not as balanced as it could have been. Another issue that can be probably raised against the film is the possible harm done to some of the animals, mainly those who are clearly shown in close-up shots where heavy stones may hamper their movements and possibly cost their lives (the likes of PETA may find this quite annoying or alarming then).
The Master allows the young boy to do what he wants. He does not become an all-powerful father figure cleaning up after him. He allows him to make mistakes and suffer the consequences. As a good teacher, he points the way for the student to discover self-evident knowledge on his own. Being cruel to the animals during his childhood, the sum of all the mistakes and cruelties he has grown up with has meant paying for them. The punishment, guilt, and regret become various forms of pain for him. From the scene of him carving into the wooden floor to purify his evil acts until his journey to the top of the mountain overlooking the lake, the portrayal of his inner journey towards enlightenment is seen while he carries the stone in his heart – embarking in a journey of self while carrying a mill rock and the Buddha to the top of one hill dominating the lake – symbolizing superation and cleansing.
There are many things that remain vague and yet validating in the film. Without spoon feeding, the viewers are given the creative and spiritual license to interpret the meanings of the acts, the situations, the metaphors, and the symbolisms. From the doors with no walls as seen in the hut and by the lakeside promoting a sense of morality and discipline, to the various acts of the boy and the places of his many acts, to the animals utilized in many instances within the story, to the carvings made on the floor, to the colors of the carvings blending with the moving shots of the autumn leaves, to the exhausted and faceless woman who leaves her child in the floating temple and dies along the way, to the kind of death of the old monk, Kim, just like the rest of the filmmakers with sincerity on their craft, insert metaphors and symbolisms in their films. And the magical effect of the filmmaker’s personality seen in the bits and pieces of his/her film makes the audience feel a completely organic experience while inside the moviehouse.
The young boy seen both in the beginning and in the end, represents the people. The same actor playing the young boy shows the eternal cycle of the human soul. The cycle becomes reflective of the monk’s path in life, and how each life starts and ends, on and on, from one soul to another.
‘Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring’ promotes self awareness. The audience is given the privilege to savor much life lessons, in a similar way as one gets to appreciate the amazing scenery this cinematic offer shows. As the seasons pass, lessons are learned, mistakes are made. The inner peace can only be found if one chooses the righteous path.
‘Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring’ is a breath of fresh air. It is a masterful portrait of the seasons of life. It works with transporting the beauty of a profound work in a sheer cinematic craft that mirrors its characters’ contemplative natures while extolling the virtues of lives simply led. Overall, it is a very rewarding film in the midst of the lovely shifts of the seasons. It gently holds the heart – and ultimately moves it. It has a timelessness that is enchanting, validating, and fulfilling.
Starring: Ziyi Zhang, Daniel Wu, Xun Zhou, You Ge, Jingwu Ma, and Xiaoming Huang
Directed by: Xiaogang Feng
Ballet-like martial arts choreography. Physics-defying wuxia elements. Picturesque locations. Slow motion horse riding through the water. Swaying bamboo forests. Even if you turn off the sound and ignore the story, the sets, the scenery, the costumes, and the stunts make ‘The Banquet’ every inch an epic-scaled visual experience. It delivers a visual opulence that is elaborate and mesmerizing � and it is sure to keep your eyes feasting in every scene. Indeed, ‘The Banquet’ is another visually enticing theatrical epic since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, and House of Flying Daggers. However, the build up of the story and the characters and emotions never seem to soar in par with its beautifully staged visuals. Aesthetically, the film may have a world class level of cinematography and production design; but looks aren’t everything. It may be technically appealing, but as a whole, the actual film falls into a certain emptiness. With the plot getting more and more complicated as the story progresses, the time alloted for making an aesthetically pleasing drama doesn’t really find much ways to convey enough emotions needed for the significant scenes. It may be an undoubtedly lavish spectacle, but it becomes a victim of having too much artificiality and design. The weak points in the storyline are further compromised by the treatment made for the confusing plotpoints.
Furthermore, Empress Wan (Ziyi Zhang) may be carrying herself with the very bearing of a power-hungry, lovelorn empress, but still, she doesn’t project the necessary charisma of an evil queen. The role requires a more experienced, and a bit older actress to fill the screen. Her performance is quite okay in a purely technical level, but her make-up and her image don’t elevate her for the role.
‘The Banquet’ is a ‘Hamlet,’ loosely adapted and set in ancient China. As a loose adaptation of the Shakespearean opus, ‘The Banquet’ is set in an empire in chaos � the Period of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (A.D. 907-60) of China � a time of royal instability in the north and warring states in the south. It exposes the vast land of China crumbling with rebellious regions splintering off into rival kingdoms. The ornate theater drama and contrived grandeur look make the sets and art direction stately, stygian, power hungry, suppressed, rebellious, and melancholic. The kingdom shows everything perfectly arranged and everyone impeccably mannered. Most people conduct themselves politely amidst the injustice and chaos only to burst out when filled up to the brim of their burdens through gesture-heavy scenes. Given its themes of desire and deception, ‘The Banquet’ is a curious blend of competing and seemingly self-contradictory elements – magnificent and yet tightly restrained, both shockingly beautiful and shockingly brutal. It does deliver on its superficial promises quite well. However, the film deals more on the superficial aspect. The storyline is quite incoherent and most of the supporting characters are single-layered.
The character of Zhang as Empress Wan comes off as distant and undeveloped. Zhang struggles to carry the film, but her best efforts can’t beat her too young-seeming age to justify her character in this story. Zhang delivers with her impeccable acting skills, but this is not enough to pull off her character. As the central role in this web of deceit, lust, and betrayal, the character of Empress Wan needs an actress with a bit more seasoning and a cinematic image of maturity for it to be more effective.
Daniel Wu as the Crown Prince-turned-artist Wu Lan never registers that deeply, maybe because the film’s point of view is Zhang’s character Empress Wan. The reluctant Crown Prince of the empire who has withdrawn to the country and joined an acting troupe when his father married Wan is shattered with the murder of his Father Emperor by his ambitious uncle, the new emperor who assumed the throne Emperor Li (You Ge). brings devious intelligence and some sorely needed wit to the proceedings. However, his character ultimately loses credibility, because it’s hard to believe that such a smart guy would attach himself to so many people who are angling to betray him. Wu gives a striking beat for his character. However, he lacks more dimension to his character that could have elevated the film further. Xun Zhou captivates and conveys much emotions for her role as Qing. She validates her role with her tenderness, pureness of heart, and deep love for the Prince. Angelic, affecting, and pure, she moves the audience in the right mood meant for her sympathetic character. master choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping. Jingwu Ma as the Minister makes a great supporting performance as well — complementing his son’s character portrayed by Xiaoming Huang.
The martial arts scenes are pretty good (choreographed by the renowned Yuan Wu Ping). The musical score and sound mixing tends to be a little off at times, though.
The Banquet comes at the end. Everyone is invited, and anyone who does not attend shall be killed. The Emperor, the Empress, the Crown Prince, the Minister and the General all have their own enemies they would like to finish off during the night of the banquet. And indeed, fatality becomes the end of the dinner. The ending depicts how deceit and deception get punished. Actually, the film’s ultimate twists and turns become stale and predictable. And the final sequence lost me much. I didn’t quite understand the final details of the story. I just can’t elaborate much, else, spoilers may abound.
What immediately strikes the viewer with ‘The Banquet’ is its sheer scale. There is obviously a big budget to let the production team indulge themselves to create an impeccable piece of eye candy entertainment. The craftsmanship given to the sets, the armor, the costuming are all intricately detailed and meticulously designed (except for an overboard CGI of the palace tracking out — it starts okay but the panoramic parts look quite fake already).’The Banquet’ is a lavish visual art work from Director Xiaogang Feng. It promises high-quality spectacle where you will not find a single frame in this film that wouldn’t make a great wallpaper.
‘The Banquet’ is essentially a chamber drama exposing the consequences of unbridled desire. On a technical level, it’s pretty well made � a truly enjoyable piece of entertainment. The cinematography is breathtaking and the production design is undoubtedly impressive. However, it has an underdeveloped story and characterization. Zhang could have worked except for her too young looks that doesn’t complement her character. And it could have been better if the visual elements are employed in the service of a better story and characterization.
Like silk kimonos and cherry blossoms
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Starring: Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh, Gong Li, Ken Watanabe
Directed by: Rob Marshall Official Movie site
From Arthur Golden’s international best-seller to an epic spectacle in big screen, ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ is a romantic portrait of Japanese culture, particularly of geisha life, in western illustration. Overall, the major characters manage to grab the audience’s eyes for its visual artistry and deeply-felt performances. However, it has commercial compromises. A number of major and supporting roles have been given to Chinese actresses with Ziyi Zhang, Michelle Yeoh and Gong Li on the front row. The film has only a few Japanese talents featured for major and supporting roles – with Ken Watanabe as one of the few. Ziyi Zhang is radiant as Sayuri – but just not Japanese. This provides a little less credibility for the film no matter how good the actors and actresses� performances have been.
The rich material of the novel greatly inspires the epic span of this film into an exotically sumptuous production. The lush interpretation of the lives of painted faces, silk-wrapped and dolled-up women (as if showgirls promoting their artistic skills and culture) reveals a tale of poverty, romance, deceit and dreams. The screen is filled with a great number of lavish and cinematic images that amaze the spectators’ senses. Enjoy the pretty paper lanterns, beautiful silk kimonos, cedar and bamboo buildings and the various displays of artifice. Take pleasure on an orientalist fantasy created by John William’s great original music. From the superb cello solos to the rest of the orchestral masterpieces, the musical score has greatly supported the film’s narrative essentials as a western film about an ancient Japanese tradition. However, at a certain point, the too much grandeur of the sprawling sets of old Kyoto and the colorful geisha district becomes straining for the film’s content. Everything seems to be beautiful – even the slum areas. It’s like director Rob Marshall aims to let the audience enjoy more of the visual spectacle, that at certain times, it already tends to upstage the dirt and the emotions needed for the film. Moreover, some of the framed sets and backgrounds – though in individual terms, they render exquisite and realistic designs in big screen – look very much staged within studios because of the too theatrical movements and unrealistic neatness, coordination and colors. These aesthetics could have been done within the right proportions and combinations that won’t seem quite fake.
The drama of the life of an impoverished nine-year-old named Chiyo and the new chapter of her life – from living in a remote fishing village to being sold to a geisha house in Kyoto’s Gion district – is like an Asian Cinderella story. It runs to a path of being sentimental that could almost become the likes of a soap opera impressing on its pilot episode. But with its originating novel carefully crafted into a moving saga of identity, beauty, wealth, longing, suffering, politics and power within an ancient Japanese tradition, the film takes advantage of the well-written best-seller to create a dramatic and cinematic storyline.
The story provides both a good source of entertainment and a short glance of what the Japanese society has been before post-war happenings, industrialization and westernization – that have transformed the country into an economic and cultural power of our times.
The story shows a looming view of women in various cultures of the past as in Japan. Women have been portrayed in various cultures as nothing more than delights to the men’s eyes and as parts of their desire for asset and power. Issues can be raised in such a story as this as the geishas are admired and savored by men as trophies and source of masculine entertainment and fulfillment.
Suzuka Ohgo plays well as Chiyo. Ziyi Zhang renders a great performance as a well-trained geisha under the mentorship of Mameha (Michelle Yeoh). She justifies the artistic and social skills a geisha exudes more than just having a pancake make-up, a silk kimono and a geisha umbrella. Michelle Yeoh, Li Gong (Hatsumomo) and Youki Kudoh (Pumpkin) have richly developed characters. The supporting males (though they have not been given as much time to develop their characters as the females) Ken Watanabe (the Chairman) and Koji Yakusho (Nobu) still give effective performances. These major and supporting characters contribute to the story’s considerable details relating to geisha entertainment and romance in the 1920′s period.
This film is visually and aurally spectacular. However it gets emotionally remote at certain scenes. It focuses on the more technical, audio-visual line of storytelling than putting more heart on the love and angst of an oppressed woman and geisha. After all the cinematic showdown of technically commendable shots, it’s quite ironic that the ending tries to draw a subtle face from a tragedy. Even the romantic aspect of Sayuri and the Chairman during the height of the story simply yields pretty much the same as the other gorgeous shots of cherry blossoms and silk kimonos.
This epic romance period piece is worth seeing for its audio-visual feast. It is a movie for the ears and the eyes, but not enough for the heart.
No Doubles, No Strings, No CGIs� By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Starring: Tony Jaa
Directed by: Prachya Pinkaew
This is a film that amazes and defies the Hollywood cheats of stunt doubles, creating CGIs and animation, and putting strings while shooting on chroma to let the characters fly in mid air. This time, it shows the real thing… of what an expert can really do without using the tricks.
The film presents the art of Muay Thai in the Thai contemporary scene – yet inspired by the people’s carried on traditions and culture and inspired by their ancient fighting spirit. Muay Thai transforms the human body into a multifaceted weapon for close-combat fighting. And this film being released internationally as here in the Philippines paves way to a wider perspective for this Thai art and sport. It is now seen more as a modern sport, rather than a battlefield skill. But the film exposes more on the really impressive hand-to-hand combat with a background from a deep spiritual training.
More than anything else, what strikes most in this movie is not the story, script, acting nor anything else, but the symphony of flying bodies, breaking bones and elaborately staged chasing scenes. Ting (Tony Jaa) defies gravity and physics with his authentic Muay Thai moves. He leaps over cars, two intersecting bicycles, market stalls, and even on top of people’s heads, slides under a moving truck, and runs and escapes through a large coil of barbed wire. He seems to show off what he can do best. And the film seems to be a primer in techniques for hitting people with your elbows and feet through conceivably defensive stances.
Ting keeps the hype strong. All his fight scenes are jaw droppers. They are all spectacular enough to ignore the other stuffs on the film especially the story. It puts life in a probably lifeless or less of a life film with the overused plot for a hero finishing his mission. Things could have been really dragging already, but we see Ting outrunning gangs in strictly designed obstacle courses placed in everyday Bangkok busy streets in its dark side.
The opening scene of the tree-climbing contest sets the pace of this action movie filled with those impressive camera movements supplementing the stunts (of fighting with the use of their limbs). The take-off of the story happens when the ancient Buddhist statue of the hero’s village, Ong-Bak, is stolen. And Ting is the town’s hero bound to bring back Ong-Bak’s head with a clear heart and mind of not fighting for reasons of vengeance, money or personal gain, but only to retrieve the sacred statue, and later on, be a monk. The story is very simple (which, at a certain point, is considerably a good move to give more creative inputs on the intentional action-packed storytelling). No much complication on the storyline is seen. In fact, I can’t remember much films as this one, which never really pays attention to even a slightest touch of romantic involvement for the main character. Only one goal is with him: to finish his mission. No girls, no much fuss about the world, just bring back the statue through the art and combat of Muay Thai. Honestly, I rarely see a movie without any much romantic side to dwell into. But overall, the film seems to concentrate more on its physical aspect that the story has not been pushed into a more brilliant way. If it has been, I’ll be hands up to the film entirely then.
The attempt to promote the metaphor for being a god and stealing the head of a town�s god through the local crime and drug lord who keeps on using that weird voice producer is a good enough deal. The idea that he has the money and power to control and dictate who he wants to die and who he wants to live gives a validation on his dialogues of revering himself as the god. True evil, actually. The drug world exposed comes out as the heaviest part of the story. While the comic relief is Humlae/George, the guy who starts out as a selfish, worldly guy and ends up with a heroic act of saving the statue’s head, side by side with Ting. He is the character who gets that major character change in the story. The comedy chasing scenes courtesy of this guy, along with that pretty girl with an irritating high pitched voice, makes the film a lighter load of fun and action. The utilizing of silence stylized to promote the shock of the moment in some scenes (especially on the fight zone scenes) is effective, and quite comic in its very intentions. The film complements a reddish color grading for the right feel and mood for an action-packed visuals. The effects utilized are as simple as dynamic and moving camera shots matched with the right camera lenses and good camera angles, slow motion and fast motion effects, the old school repeating of action shots seen on different angles� such simple, low-budget editing tricks. The gravity-defying stunts and the jumping and bouncing human bodies are all but real, no strings attached. I have to say, no big budget has been placed on the post-production/editing really. A big portion of the budget falls into the burning of cars, falling 3-wheeled Thai vehicles, destroying market stalls, pounding bottles, chairs and tables, even lamps and appliances like refrigerator over the human body, putting some car mounts for the elaborate chasing scenes, and making a great number of giant statue heads mostly shot underwater and in a cave. Therefore, expenses incurred are more into the production design, and probably film rolls to make sure the director captures all the right moves on different angles and varying takes. I get to appreciate the fact that it has been filmed minus the fakes as with the usual getting of stunt doubles. It has not dealt much with the post-production special effects but more into the rawness of what has been captured during the principal photography. However, there are times that some choppy edits are seen, but I would have to say that most of these are overlooked by the overwhelmed eyes because of the extraordinarily striking moves of the main character.
In the cave sequence, taking it in a more realistic way, a quite mocking audience would ask, how come there are no much guns used there for enough defense? It’s a contemporary setting, where are the guns to kill? Well, it’s obviously the usual fall ignored in the plot to control and contain the action into the hand-to-hand combating. And it’s a movie. Some might say, just try to forgive that part for the entertainment. Just watch Ting’s tremendous fight scenes and things are just left interesting in the eyes. There is also a fight scene where Ting catches fire on his legs, and he attacks opponents with his blazing legs. Whew! How blazing could it really be as seen behind the scenes? Curious…
Could the director or any production staff a Spielberg fan or something? Correct me if I’m wrong, but looks like I have seen a wall with the writing: Spielberg, lets go together, or something to that effect (Spare me, I have seen the film just once, and that scene has been a really fast shot). Subtext??
Personally, what I learned after watching this film is that Muay Thai is a remarkable form of martial arts which is noted in maximizing great counter attacks. Its stance conforms to an exceptional body defense and seeing your target from your opponents’ movements through your hands on guard similar to targeting from a gun. Personally, I see some of its footworks to be quite similar to that of fencing. And those who are into martial arts or are fanatics of martial arts can get so much things from Jaa’s moves. The authentic fight scenes are really worth the immortalizing in those organic film strips. And this Thai film seems successful in promoting interest and curiosity to the Muay Thai especially in a non-Thai’s perspective.
Ong-Bak is a breath of fresh air from those usual Hollywood ‘action fakes.’ Special effects? What special effects? Jaa’s moves surely blow the audience away.
With the great, impressive action but not so compelling story (but this one tends to be overlooked upon seeing Jaa’s Muay Thai moves), I would have rate this film with a 3.8 (with 5 as the highest). Watch it for the action. It’s worth it.