Tasty sampling of Pacific cultures in 22nd Pacific Rim Film Festival
Music, food, dance, traditional folkways and eco-politics are spotlighted at this year’s Pacific Rim Film Festival. Now in its 22nd year, this popular, annual free film event once again offers viewers a cinematic voyage of discovery around the Pacific Rim of Asia and the Americas. In a program of 18 drama and documentary films, transporting viewers to such diverse locations as Nepal, Bolivia, Korea, New Orleans, the Marianas Islands, and the South Pole, this cinematic sushi bar invites us to sample the exotica of other cultures, while reminding us how much we have in common, despite our cultural differences.
This year’s six-day event unspools Friday, Oct. 15, through Wednesday, Oct. 20, at three countywide venues: the Del Mar Theatre, the Rio Theatre, and the Cabrillo College Watsonville Center. All films are presented free to the public, except for the closing-night benefit, and many screenings will be followed by a Q&A session with the filmmaker. Presented by George Ow Family Properties, the festival is dedicated to promoting cross-cultural understanding, in accordance with the longtime PRFF theme: “When Strangers Meet.”
One of the quickest, most effective ways to bring people and cultures together is through food. So it’s fitting that PRFF’s opening night premiere is a fun and festive foodie film in an unexpected location. The Chef Of South Polar (Japan, 2009, 125 minutes), tells the true story of Jun Nishimura, a Japanese Coast Guard cook who left his wife and two small children for a one-year assignment as chef for a research station in Antarctica. In an environment so hostile, not even germs can survive, the eight-man research team bonds over the daily ritual of Jun’s fabulous meals, lovingly prepared with mouth-watering precision, while facing such severe calamities as a broken long-distance romance, cabin fever, and running out of ramen noodles. Masato Sakei is delightful as intrepid young Jun; writer-director Suichi Okita makes an impressive feature debut. Friday, 7 p.m., and Saturday, 1 p.m., at the Del Mar.
Longtime festival favorites Eddie and Myrna Kamae return for the closing night benefit screening of their new documentary, Those Who Came Before (USA, 2010, 60 minutes). Tenth in their Hawaiian Legacy Series of films about Hawaiian music and culture, the film documents Eddie Kamae’s 50-year quest to record the songs and stories of the previous generation of songwriters and performers, the “gatekeepers” of Hawaii’s rich musical heritage. Live Hawaiian music and hula dancing are also on the bill. Wednesday only, 7 p.m., at the Rio. Tickets are $15, available at Bookshop Santa Cruz, Logos Books & Records, Aloha Island Grille, and online at brownpapertickets.com.
Here’s a look at the rest of the Fest:
REGALO DE LA PACHAMAMA (Bolivia/Japan/USA, 2008, 102 minutes) A 13-year-old boy and his family cut and barter salt bricks along Bolivia’s inland salt sea in Toshifumi Matsushita’s coming-of-age drama. Friday, 10 p.m., at the Del Mar, and Saturday, 6:15 p.m., at Cabrillo College Watsonville Center.
A VILLAGE CALLED VERSAILLES (USA, 2009, 67 minutes) In this inspiring documentary, a Vietnamese community in eastern New Orleans, rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina, bands together to fight a proposed toxic landfill in their neighborhood. Director Leo Chiang will attend the screening on Saturday, 4 p.m., at the Del Mar. Also screens as a double feature with ASIAN-AMERICAN VOICES: SHAPING SILCON VALLEY, STRENGTHENING COMMUNITY, SHARING HOPE (USA, 2009, 18 minutes) by filmmaker Geri Migielicz. Complete program screens Tuesday, 1 p.m., at the Rio.
DEPARTURES (Japan, 2009, pg-13, 130 minutes) In Yojiro Takita’s reflective, Oscar-winning tone poem, a young cellist from a disbanded Tokyo orchestra returns to his small home town to apprentice to a master of “encoffinment,” the delicate ritual of enshrouding and cleansing the bodies of the dead. A moving, gently comic meditation not on death, but the necessary rituals of life. Saturday, 7 p.m., at the Del Mar.
OLD PARTNER (South Korea, 2008, 78 minutes) An 80-year-old rice farmer, his wife, and an ancient ox are the players in this wry, incredibly poignant docu-drama about love, loyalty, age, and fading traditional folkways. Chung-Ryoul Lee directs. Saturday, 10 p.m., at the Del Mar, and Tuesday, 3 p.m. at the Rio.
REMEMBER THE BOYS (USA, 2005, 30 minutes) Stephanie Castillo’s documentary celebrates Domingo Los Banos, and the “Hawaii boys” of Filipino ancestry who fought together in WWII in the U. S. Army’s Second Filipino Infantry Regiment. Saturday, 5:30 p.m., at Cabrillo College Watsonville Center. Also screens as a double feature with
THE INSULAR EMPIRE (USA, 2009, 60 minutes) Vanessa Warheit documents the effects of American colonialism and militarism in the U.S. Pacific territories of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Complete program screens Tuesday, 5 p.m., at the Rio.
MUSTANG: A JOURNEY OF TRANSFORMATION (USA, 2009, 30 minutes) A remote Himalayan kingdom in Nepal is revived by the restoration of its sacred art in this documentary narrated by Richard Gere. Filmmaker Will Parrinello will attend the screening. Double feature with A LITTLE BIT MONGOLIAN (Australia, 2009, 55 minutes) Filmmaker Michael Dillon documents the journey of a 12-year-old Australian boy training to enter the annual children’s horse race across the steppes of northern Mongolia. Sunday, 1 p.m., at the Del Mar.
THE BURNING SEASON (Australia, 2009, 90 minutes) Hugh Jackman narrates Catherine Henkl’s documentary about a young Aussie “green” entrepreneur with an audacious business plan to persuade Indonesia to stop defoliating its own rainforests. Sunday, 3 p.m., and Monday, 9:30 p.m., at the Del Mar.
BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS (China/ France, 2005, 110 minutes) In Dai Sijie’s enchanting fable of love, art and politics in Mao’s China, two young “bourgeois” men are sent to a rural re-education camp in the mountains, where a winsome 18-year-old seamstress’ life is changed by the “decadent” and forbidden Western novels the boys read to her in secret. Sunday, 5 p.m., at the Del Mar.
VIHIR (India, 2009, 117 minutes) Two adolescent boys face life’s challenges together in rural India in Umesh Kularni’s touching drama. Sunday, 7:30 p.m., and Monday, 4 p.m., at the Del Mar.
A SONG FOR OURSELVES (USA, 2008, 30 minutes) UCSC grad Tad Nakamura traces the Asian-American socio-political movement of the 1960s and ’70s through the life and work of singer, activist, and educator Chris Iijima. Double Feature with GENGHIS BLUES (USA, 1999, 88 minutes) This exhilaraing documentary from Roko and Adrian Belic explores the “throatsinging” tradition in Siberian Tuva that Bay Area blues guitarist Paul Pena taught himself to perform from listening to the radio. The gifted and unassuming Pena is the kind of large-spirited goodwill ambassador America needs more of. Complete program Sunday, 10 p.m., at the Del Mar.