Pacific Rim Film Festival celebrates 25 years of cross-cultural understanding
Break out the silver confetti! One of Santa Cruz’s most beloved cultural events, the Pacific Rim Film Festival, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Originally inspired by the Hawaii International Film Festival, our own home-grown PRFF marks its first quarter-century with an expanded program centered around the theme “East Meets West: When Strangers Meet;” 20 films from 12 countries will unspool over seven days, Oct. 17-23, at four venues county-wide. And, as always, except for the closing-night fundraiser, every single film will be shown free of charge.
This year’s dramas, comedies and documentaries come from North Korea, Cambodia, Tibet, China, the Philippines, Thailand, New Zealand/Samoa, Japan, Taiwan, India, and the United States. Participating theatres include the Del Mar Theatre, The Rio Theatre, and the Riverfront Twin in Santa Cruz, and Green Valley Cinema in Watsonville. Q&A sessions with filmmakers will follow select screenings.
Among this year’s highlights is STARRY STARRY NIGHT (2011, Taiwan, 80 minutes). Tom Lin’s beauteous live-action adaptation of the celebrated Jimmy Liao picture book captures all the whimsy, magic, and artfulness of Liao’s paintings in a very moving story of a 13-year-old girl and boy learning to navigate life, loss, love, and growing up. (At the Riverfront, Friday only, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.) And get ready for some East/West fusion in this year’s closing night benefit, which features UPAJ: IMPROVISE (2013, USA, 50 minutes), Hoku Uchiyama’s documentary about an unexpected collaboration between Indian classical dance master Pandit Chitresh Das and American tap virtuoso Jason Samuels Smith. A live performance by Das and Smith followed by a Q&A will highlight this program, with proceeds to support PRFF (At The Rio Theatre, Wednesday only, 7 p.m.).
Here’s the rest of the Fest:
COMRADE KIM GOES FLYING (2013, Belgium/UK/North Korea, 81 minutes) A young female coal miner yearns to become an acrobat, despite a chorus of male disapproval, in this fictional feature shot in North Korea. At the Del Mar, Thursday only, 1:30 p.m.
THE CHEER AMBASSADORS (2011, Thailand, 100 minutes) The Bangkok University cheer team rises from obscurity to international recognition in Luke Cassady-Dorion’s Thai/English doc. At the Del Mar, Thursday, 3:10 p.m., and at The Rio, Sunday, noon.
JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI (2012, USA, Rated PG, 81 minutes.) David Gelb’s drool-worthy doc profiles 85-year-old master sushi chef Jiro Ono, whose 10-seat sushi bar in a Tokyo subway station is the first such humble establishment to ever earn three stars in the Michelin Guide. At Green Valley Cinema, Thursday only, 5:30 p.m.
HARVEST OF EMPIRE (2012, USA, 90 minutes) The effects of colonialism and racism between the U.S. and Latin America in the immigration debate is the subject of this doc by Peter Getzels and Eduardo Lopez. At Green Valley Cinema, Thursday, 7:30 p.m., and at The Rio, Tuesday, 1 p.m.
11 FLOWERS (2012, China/France, 70 minutes) Wang Xiaoshuai directs this autobiographical coming-of-age tale about a young boy and an outlaw who cross paths in the final days of China’s Cultural Revolution. At The Rio, Saturday only, 11 a.m.
RESCUE IN THE PHILIPPINES (2012, USA, 60 minutes) Russell Hodge and Cynthia Scott-Thomas’ doc reveals a plot to evacuate 1,200 Jews from Nazi Germany to the Philippines hatched over a weekly poker game by American entrepreneurs in Manila, Col. Dwight Eisenhower, and first president of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon. Followed by after-film discussion featuring local interviewee Ernest Traugott. At The Rio, Saturday, 1 p.m.
LINSANITY (2013, USA, 88 minutes) The rocky road for Asian basketball phenom Jeremy Lin from failure to celebrity is profiled in this doc from Evan Leong. At the Riverfront, Saturday only, 6:30 p.m.
SILK ROAD OF POP (2012, China/Canada/Holland/Belgium, 50 minutes) In this doc from Sameer Farooq, contemporary genres like metal, hip-hop and pop brought in by Chinese settlers blend with traditional songs of the Uyghur people in the mountains of China. At the Riverfront, Saturday only, 8:30 p.m.
ZOOT SUIT (1981, USA, Rated R, 103 minutes) Edward James Olmos’ hypnotic El Pachuco is the ultimate “Zooter,” whose sly, cynical commentary informs Luis Valdez’s brassy, kinetic, musical about the murder trial of four flashily-dressed Mexican-American Zoot Suiters in 1940s Los Angeles. Followed by an after-film discussion. At The Rio, Sunday only, 2:15 p.m.
HARANA: THE SEARCH FOR THE LOST ART OF SERENADE (2012, Philippines, 64 minutes) Classical guitarist Florante Aguilar sets out to rediscover and recreate the Spanish-influenced, musical courtship ritual that flourished until the end of colonialism in this musical doc. Followed by after-film discussion with filmmakers Aguilar and Fides Enriquez. At the Riverfront, Sunday only, 7 p.m.
THE ORATOR (2011, New Zealand/Samoa, 110 minutes) In this dramatic feature shot entirely in Samoa, a taro farmer and family man who is also a dwarf must stand up for the respect and honor he deserves. At the Riverfront, Sunday only, 9:30 p.m.
WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME TOMORROW (2013, Taiwan, 104 minutes) Love, marriage, and sexual identity inform this romantic comedy from Arvin Chen. At The Rio, Monday only, 1 p.m.
THE FLUTE PLAYER (2003, USA, 54 minutes) A musician who fled the “killing fields” of the Khmer Rouge returns to Cambodia to heal the scars of the past in this harrowing doc from Jocelyn Glatzer. At The Rio, Monday only, 3:30 p.m.
DOSA HUNT (2012, USA, 23 minutes) A search through New York City for the perfect crepe-like “dosa” becomes a meditation on Indian-American cross-culturization. At The Rio, Monday only, 6:30 p.m.
GOLDFISH GO HOME (2012, Japan/Brazil, 98 minutes) A Japanese-Brazilian boy repatriated to Japan, and his new Japanese friend conspire to save a magical goldfish from evil developers in this whimsical drama. At The Rio, Monday only, 7 p.m.
SUMMER PASTURE (2010, China/USA, 85 minutes) A family of Tibetan yak-herders struggles for survival in a changing landscape. At The Rio, Tuesday only, 3 p.m.
HIMALAYAN GOLD RUSH (2011, France, 52 minutes) The fierce competition to harvest a “caterpillar fungus” prized in Chinese and Tibetan medicine, high in the Himalayas, is the subject of this Eric Valli doc. At The Rio, Tuesday only, 4:45 p.m.
MT. TSURUGIDAKE (2009, Japan, 99 minutes) Daisaku Kimura’s historical drama tells the true story of a 1907 expedition to climb the last unconquered mountain in Japan. At The Rio, Tuesday only, 7 p.m.
The Pacific Rim Film Festival runs Oct. 17-23. For event schedule, visit pacrimfilmfestival.org. All films shown free of charge, with the exception of the closing night benefit, which takes place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23 at The Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets for the benefit are $15, and are available at Bookshop Santa Cruz and brownpapertickets.com.