Reviewer Ed Farolan
89 min., USA, dir. Leslie Cockburn
Leslie Cockburn's scathing attacks against the American financial industry, propelled by greed, pays special attention to the impact on home foreclosures to minorities, especially African-Americans. It reveals how big business (Cockburn attacks the banks, especially Wells Fargo) exploits the common man who doesn't understand the small print in mortgage contracts and eventually, gets screwed. This is a very enlightening film. The only problem is it doesn't focus on one topic; it digresses into health problems caused by foreclosures, and discusses economic complexities and jargon only business majors would understand.
92 min., USA, dir. Dana Parry
The filmmaker makes a very touching and personal film of her son, Evan Perry, who at 15 years old, jumped from his bedroom window into an air shaft and ended his life. For me personally, it poses questions like "Is giving lithium and other drugs to disturbed teenagers the answer?" What bothered me too about this film is the question of heredity. Evan's uncle committed suicide at 21, and apparently, he suffered the same bipolar disorder which Evan suffered. It bothers me because it seems like we are controlled by our genes. If your ancestor is diabetic, you have no choice but be a diabetic. Evan's grandmother and mother in this film discuss this topic, and they question why life has to be this way. It's quite a moving film, and Dana Parry did an excellent presentation of this personal and agonizing journey into mental illness.
Wah Do Dem
75 min., USA, dirs. Sam Feischner, Ben Chace
"Wah Do Dem" is Jamaican patois for "What They Do". This film has an interesting plot: Max (Sean Bones) is dumped by his girlfriend (Norah Jones), then goes on a free cruise (he wins in a lottery) to Jamaica. He is befriended by some locals who steals his passport, clothes and money. Adding bad luck to worse luck, he misses his ship back to New York. Stranded alone, with no shirt, no shoes and no money, he finally makes his way to the American embassy in Kingston through the kindness of Jamaican strangers. Although the plot is interesting and we do get an insight of Jamaican patois as well as the scenery, I found the cinematography somewhat clumsy. It seemed like one of those reality films where the camera pans, and there's no steady handling of movement. In other words, it looked like a home video. But what I found interesting was the language, the Jamaican patois, which is somewhat linguistically amusing.
We Live in Public
90 min., USA, dir. Ondi Timoner
Was he insane or was he a visionary? Timoner's subject is Josh Harris, “the greatest Internet pioneer you’ve never heard of.” This Sundance award winner does an excellent job assembling the portrait of this internet pioneer, and visionary who prophesied what is happening in today's world. When we peruse on H.G. Wells' 1984, or Marshall McLuhan's "the medium is the message" and that we all live in a "global village", here we have another prophet who, after launching the first online television network in the mid-90s,creates "Quiet," an underground compound where residents consented to constant surveillance a la Big Brother of 1984. His last internet project was "We Live in Public" where he and his girlfriend were under camera surveillance 24 hours a day, and everyone watched as they made love, quarreled, and eventually, his girlfriend abandoning him. Reality television picked up this idea, and this is a common phenomenon now in reality TV shows. Feature films like "The Truman Show" starring Jim Carey have followed suit after him.
88 min., Indonesia, dirs. Ravi Bharwani, Rayya Makarim, Utawa Tresno, Orlow Seunke
Dutch filmmaker Orlow Seunke (working under his Indonesian name Utawa Tresno) has for many years taught and occasionally made films as well as organized film festivals in Indonesia through his access to European funding. In this film, he collaborates with a young director, Ravi Bharwani and woman scriptwriter Rayya Makarim to come up with this film touching on Indonesian topics different from the ordinary. This film is about Jaya, a 12-year-old boy sent to the "jermal" (a fishing platform out at sea) run by Johar, his father, who doesn't acknowledge him as his son. The boys in the crew, rough and uneducated, give this "new kid in the block" a hard time, hazing him, bullying and beating him up, kicking him out of their quarters, and letting him do the hardest tasks. The cruel, cold-hearted, pot-bellied, bearded Johar doesn't give a damn, and I felt annoyed at the start of the film. However, a transformation takes place as the movie progresses: Johar ends up being a softie, a sentimental type, while Jaya gets tougher and starts fighting back, thus gaining respect and affection from the other kids. This is an interesting film dealing with a topic that's somewhat different and unique about this kind of lifestyle in Indonesia.
90 min., Hungary, dir. Áron Mátyássy
An award-winning film, and rightly so. 10 stars to the key role played by Térez Vass (Eszter), the off-screen wife of the director, in a truly extraordinary performance as the autistic sister of Ivan (Jósef Kádas). I could have sworn she was autistic herself from this performance. It's the typical story of life in a village, in this case a Hungarian village close to the Ukrainian border. Young people like ambitious student Ilus (Eszter Földes) try to escape from its drudgery and seek better lives in the city. In the case of Ivan, he has no choice because he has to take care of his autistic sister, as both their parents have passed away. He tries to improve his situation by opening a gas station. Lacking the capital to bring it off, he smuggles diesel across the border, but then is hassled by the police and the local mafia. When his sister gets raped, he looks for the culprits because the police don't do anything about it. Interesting ending, almost predictable, when he finds out who the rapists are. Impressive performances and excellent cinematography.
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.© 2009 Ed Farolan