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Sydney Asia Pacific Film Festival Wrapup
by Michael Collins

Efilmcritc gives a wrapup of the other films featured at the recent Sydney Asia Pacific Film Festival. There were some outstanding films on offer and are well worth your while searching out.

Wharf Of Widows

Van, a Vietnamese soldier, returns from the conflict with the French Colonialists to his devastated village. Most of the women there have lost husbands or potential husbands to the war. It seems that Van is the centre of attention of the women villagers, yet he has problems living up to their expectations.

This is a beautiful looking meditation on feelings that are kept beneath the surface for far too long. When opportunity arises for an expression of those deeply kept feelings, there is still a blockage in letting it all out and an allowance of a resumption to feel. This emotive film is a strong effort from Luu Trong Ninh in showing the aftereffects on Vietnam of prolonged conflict.

This Is My Moon

This Is My Moon didn’t really do it for me. I was interested to see what Sri Lanka would produce with neighbouring India being such a powerhouse of world cinema.

A Tamil woman inadvertedly stumbles into a bunker of the Sri Lankan Government forces. She submits herself to be raped by the sole soldier in the bunker. Mysteriously the soldier then deserts the army and returns to his village with the Tamil woman in tow. The film goes on to gradually reveal what went on between the two people.

I couldn’t connect with this film at all. While there were some enduring sequences and images, the pacing, editing and style of the film kept me alienated. This film has won critics awards in a couple of Asian film festivals, but it was not on the money with this moviegoer.

Mirror Image

Tung-ching is minding his dad’s pawnshop while he’s in hospital. Keeping him company is his girlfriend Eiko who’s an astrology nut. She’s frustrated that she can’t read Tung-ching’s palm since it was scarred in a motor scooter accident. Tung-ching meets Xiaode Le. They hang out together in the sleek modern subway system, sell off some of the pawnshop goods and beginning an affair.

This rather short (72mins) story has Tung-ching embody his country of Taipei’s uncertain destiny. The pawnshop and Eiko represent the past, while the future Taipei is represented by the modern railway system and the relationship with Xiaode Le. Since Tung-ching betrays his girlfriend to be with a modern woman we could conclude that director/writer Hsiao Ya-Chuan feels that to embrace the future we need to betray the past. A great looking thought provoking film.

Spinning Gasing

The multicultural theme pops up in the festival again in Spinning Gasing. A young group of friends in Malaysia form a band. The band consists of Malay, Indian, Chinese, and Eurasian members and so find themselves representing the multicultural predicament of their country.

Spoken mostly in English, this film felt like one of those daytime kids programs you would find on Australian TV. That’s not necessarily a good thing. The acting from the young group of performers seemed forced and awkward. While Spinning Gasing had its heart in the right place the acting talent wasn’t up to standard.

Bang Rajan

Ever wondered what Braveheart would have been like if it had been set in Thailand instead of Scotland? Well if you had then Bang Rajan is the film will cease your wonderment. Set in 1765, The Burmese forces were on the rampage and heading towards the old Siamese capital of Ayutthaya. Everything came to a halt as one of the 100,000 strong army ran into small band of villagers who weren’t in the mood to submit to a marauding imperial force today, thank you very much.

This is a big budget action epic of Hollywood proportions. Which is why you probably will not see it at your local cineplex. It’s just the same as a Hollywood film. No better no worse.

Space Travellers

Simply put, Space Travellers has one of the most amazing endings to a film I have ever seen.

A group of bank robbers, one of which has an interest in old cartoons, hold up a bank. Things don’t quite go to plan and the robbers are trapped in the bank with the staff and customers. As the thieves and hostages spend time with each other, some of the captives befriend their captors and begin to drift into a fantasy world inspired by the cartoon that one of the robbers is a huge fan.

You don’t realise how special this film is until the very end. How on earth director, Katsuyuki Motohiro was able to pull of such an extraordinary shift in tone is beyond me. Such clever changes in pace, mood and music to a level I have never seen before. It is a film of fate, and fantasy interfering with reality. Search out for this film, it is astonishing.

Man From Hong Kong

The closing night of the festival was reserved for a new print of the 1975 classic The Man From Hong Kong. An Australian – Hong Kong co-production directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith. Fang Sing Leng, a Hong Kong detective played by Jimmy Wang Yu comes to Australia to try and nab local crime boss Jack Wilton (George Lazenby). On his way, the Hong Kong detective superstar gets the fight, gets his man, and most importantly, gets the girl.

With out 21st century sensibilities you have to wonder how much of this film was meant to be funny and how much was meant to be serious and now has dated terribly. Trenchard-Smith assured us before the screening that it was indeed meant to have many funny moments. We’ll take his word for it, although there are some moments that stretch that claim. On the whole though it's a joyous romp for those who are a fan of old Bruce Lee films that this film ran on the coat tails.

So the festival came to a close. It was an eclectic collection of films and an interesting group as it exposed films to an audience that wouldn’t normally be see them. While some of the film did have limited appeal, there were some unquestionably fantastic films. The best would probably be Tears, yet the ending in Space Travellers will live with me for a long time.

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originally posted: 09/05/01 16:23:30
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