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Nov 27th
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What's Up, Doc?

ae_EmpireofSilverSempire of silverReal stories take center stage in 23rd Annual Pacific Rim Film Festival (schedule below)

Truth may not be stranger than fiction, but reality is every bit as compelling in this year's edition of the Pacific Rim Film Festival. Now in its 23rd year, Santa Cruz's favorite free film festival unspools Oct. 14-19, at three locations: The Del Mar Theatre, the Rio Theatre, and Cabrillo College Watsonville Center. As usual, the festival presents films from all around the Pacific Rim, from China, Japan, the Philippines, India, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia to Mexico, Hawaii and the U. S. mainland. And of the 19 films served up in this year's festival, nine are documentaries, including the opening night kickoff event and the closing night benefit. Three other films in the lineup are fact-based stories, lightly fictionalized accounts of real people and real-life events.


The festival opens Friday, Oct. 14 with LAST PARADISE (New Zealand, 2010, 100 minutes). Clive Neeson celebrates the DIY spirit that led a bunch of scruffy kids in the remote sheep farms of New Zealand in the 1960s to pioneer such extreme sports as snowboarding, roller-blading, paragliding, and, of course, surfing. But it's also a cautionary tale about fossil fuels, climate change, and new programs to restore beaches and oceans. (Friday, 7 p.m. and Monday, noon, Del Mar.)

This year's closing night benefit film is PATAGONIA RISING (U.S.A., 2010, 88 minutes). Breathtaking cinematography highlights Brian Lilla's doc on the controversy surrounding the proposal to build gigantic hydroelectric dams on Chile's unspoiled Baker and Pascua rivers. Exploring the impact of dams on ecosystems, rainforests, and human inhabitants, Lilla shows how effective simple short-wave radios are in providing vital connection between remote families, and advocates wind and solar power sources that have no environmental impact. (Wednesday, 7 p.m. at the Rio, as a benefit for PRFF. Admission is $15.  Tickets are available at Bookshop Santa Cruz,, and before or after each film screening.)

Two local filmmakers are also presenting new docs this year. Geoffrey Dunn (Calypso Dreams) will screen ALOHA SPIRIT: JAMES D. HOUSTON & THE MUSIC OF HAWA'II (USA, 2011, 11 minutes), a short film celebrating literary lion Jim Houston's lifelong love affair with the music and culture of Hawa'ii, and his relationship with Hawaiian musician and music documentarian Eddie Kamae. (Wednesday, 7 p.m., Rio, as part of the Closing Night Benefit.)

ae_tollsit tolls for thee Local Eric Thiermann co-directs this doc exploring the role of bells in world culture.Eric Thiermann and co-director Aleksandra Wolska, of the Impact Media Group, present IT TOLLS FOR THEE: BELLS AND THEIR STORIES (USA, 2011, 51 minutes). Exploring the role of bells in world cultures, this visual tone poem records bell ceremonies in Greece, Japan, Poland, Romania, and Los Angeles. A quartet from the Sonos Handbell Ensemble of Oakland will perform live before the film. (Tuesday, 7 p.m., Rio.)

Here's how the rest of the Fest shapes up:

RESILIENCE (South Korea, 2009, 78 minutes) Director Tammy Chu documents the story of a Korean mother whose infant son was put up for adoption, and her Americanized son, raised in South Dakota, who are reintroduced to each other 30 years later on Korean TV. (Friday, 9:30 p.m., Del Mar.)

SLEEP DEALER (USA/Mexico, 2008, 90 minutes, PG-13) Mexican filmmaker Alex Rivera melds global, political, and cultural concerns into a sci-fi thriller plot about a young fugitive who learns to survive by posting his full-body blog on the net for sale to strangers hungry for experience.  (Friday, 6 p.m., Cabrillo College Watsonville Center.)

CONCERTO (Philippines, 2008, 100 minutes) Based on true incidents in the lives of director Paul Alexander Morales' family, this drama concerns a Filipino family that flees into the forest with their piano during WWII to escape the U.S. bombings of the occupying Japanese, where they strike up a tentative, unexpected bond with a group of music-loving Japanese officers. (Saturday, 1 p.m., Del Mar.)

A BAREFOOT DREAM (South Korea, 2010, 121 minutes) In Kim Tae-gyun's fact-based drama, a retired Korean soccer player coaches a group of impoverished East Timor kids to compete in the International Youth Soccer Championship in Japan in 2004. (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. and Monday, 4:45 p.m. at the Del Mar.)

TIBET: MURDER IN THE SNOW (Australia, 2008, 60 minutes) Director Mark Gould employs actual footage and re-enactments to document an incident in 2006 in the Himalayas when Chinese border police fired on a group of Tibetan pilgrims trying to reach Nepal—an incident witnessed and recorded by a group of international mountain climbers. (Saturday, 7 p.m., Del Mar.)

THE STAR AND THE SEA (China, 2010, 106 minutes) Co-directors Qiankuan Li and Guiyan Xiao base their drama on the life of famed Chinese composer/musician Xian Xinghai, who rose from poverty to study violin and piano at the Paris Conservatory, and became "The People's Composer" during the Sino-Japanese War. (Saturday, 9:15 p.m. at the Del Mar.)

442: LIVE WITH HONOR, DIE WITH DIGNITY (USA, 2010, 98 minutes) When Japanese-American civilians were put in internment camps during WWII, the Army's 442nd Division was formed out of nisei (second generation) Japanese-American soldiers and officers determined to prove their loyalty to the USA. Director Junichi Suzuki documents one of the most decorated units in U.S. military history. (Saturday, 4 p.m., Cabrillo College Watsonville Center, and Tuesday, 7 p.m., Rio.)

EMPIRE OF SILVER (pictured above, China, 2005, 107 minutes) Christina Yao's lush historical drama concerns a ruthless banker father, a son who wants to follow ancient traditions, and the woman they both love. Hong Kong superstar Aaron Kwok stars. (Sunday, 1 p.m., Del Mar.)

3 IDIOTS (India, 2009, 170 minutes) The highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time, this comedy from director Rajkumar Hirani follows the misadventure of three engineering students, told in flashback when two of them set out to find the iconoclastic buddy who disappeared. (Sunday, 3:30 p.m., Del Mar.)

FAMILY OF THE WA'A (USA, 2011, 89 minutes) Several Santa Cruzans are featured in Alyssa Fedele's documentary about a group of adventurers who circumnavigate the entire Hawaiian Archipelago—1,750 miles—via outrigger canoe. (Sunday, 7 p.m., Rio)

NORTEADO (Mexico, 2009, 95 minutes) Stranded in Tijuana, a Mexican man hoping to cross the border into the U.S. is taken in by the denizens of a convenience store in Rigoberto Perezcano's sensitive drama. (Monday, 2:40 p.m., Del Mar.)

SHODO GIRLS (Japan, 2010, 122 minutes) In Ryuichi Inomata's quirky, fact-based comedy-drama, high school girls in a dying papermaking city stage an extreme calligraphy contest (teams wield giant brushes and perform to music) to revitalize their community. (Monday, 7:15 p.m., Del Mar.)

SUMMER WARS (Japan, 2009, 115 minutes) An artificial intelligence bent on destroying reality runs amok on a gigantic social networking site, and it's up to a teenage computer nerd and his friends to stop it in this Japanese anime from Mamoru Hosoda. (Monday, 9:45, Del Mar.)

RAILWAYS (Japan, 2010, 130 minutes) A 49-year-old executive gives up his business to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a train conductor in Yoshinari Nishikori's wistful drama. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., Rio.)

ae_manamana i ka leoMANA I KA LEO (USA, 2010, 26 minutes) The history and modern practitioners of the traditional Hawaiian chant called "oli," which unites "Man, Nature, and God—all part of the energy of the universe," are explored in Ruben Carrillo's lovely short doc. (Tuesday, 3:30 p.m., Rio.)

Photo captions:
Empire of Silver
it tolls for thee Local Eric Thiermann co-directs this doc exploring the role of bells in world culture.
Mana i ka leo


Pacific Rim Film Festival schedule at a glance

Friday, October 14
Del Mar
7 p.m. Last Paradise (2010, New Zealand, 100 min., English)
9:30 p.m. Resilience (2008, South Korea, 78 min., English)
Cabrillo College Watsonville Center
6 p.m.  Sleep Dealer (2008, USA/Mexico, 90 min., Eng. Subtitles)

Saturday, October 15
Del Mar Theatre
1 p.m.   Concerto (2008, Philippines, 100 min., Eng. Subtitles)
3:30 p.m.   A Barefoot Dream (2010, South Korea, 119 min., Eng. Subtitles)
7 p.m.   Tibet: Murder in the Snow (2008, Australia, 60 min., English) Mountaineer Luis Benitez in person for after-film discussion.
9:15 p.m. The Star and the Sea
(2010, China, 106 min., Eng. Subtitles)
Cabrillo College Watsonville Center
4 p.m.   442: Live with Honor, Die with Dignity
(2010, USA, 98 min., English) 

Sunday, October 16
Del Mar Theatre
1 p.m.   Empire of Silver (2005, China, 107 min., Eng. Subtitles)
3:30 p.m.  Three Idiots (2009, India, 170 min., Eng Subtitles)
Rio Theatre
7 p.m.   Family of the Wa’a (2011, USA, 89 min., English) Director Alyssa Fedele and Producer Zachary Fink in person;  featured local paddlers Dave Loustalot, David Waynar,Theron Forrester and Matt Muirhead in person.

Monday, October 17
Del Mar Theatre
Noon  Last Paradise (2010, New Zealand, 100 min., English)
2:40 p.m.    Norteado (2009, Mexico, 95 min., Eng. Subtitles)
4:45 p.m.    A Barefoot Dream (2010, South Korea,
119 min., Eng. Subtitles)      
7:15 p.m.  Shodo Girls (2010, Japan, 122 min., Eng. Subtitles)    
9:45 p.m.   Summer Wars (2009, Japanese Anime, 115 min., English)

Tuesday, October 18
Rio Theatre
1 p.m.  Railways (2010, Japan, 130 min., Eng. Subtitles)
3:30 p.m.   Mana I Ka Leo (2010, USA, 26 min., English) Filmmakers Ruben Carrillo and Dawn Kaniaupio present
442: Live with Honor, Die with Dignity (2010, USA, 98         min., English)
7 p.m. It Tolls For Thee (2011, USA, 51 min., English)
Local Filmmaker Eric Thiermann in person.
Live bell choir performance.

Wednesday, October 19
Rio Theatre / Closing Night Benefit
7 p.m.   Aloha Spirit: James D. Houston & the Music of Hawaii (2011, USA, 11min., English)
7 p.m.  Patagonia Rising (2011, USA, 88 min., English) Filmmaker Brian Lilla and Berklee Lowry-Evans of International Rivers present for Q&A.

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