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Reel Aloha & Festival Schedule

film_uptheyangtzeEast and West find common ground in 21st annual Pacific Rim Film Festival

As the Pacific Rim Film Festival sails into its third decade, the spirit of Aloha is alive and thriving in Santa Cruz. Dedicated to bridging the cultural gap between East and West, the six-day festival (Friday, Oct. 16, to Wednesday, Oct. 21) presents 17 features and shorts from 11 countries, all located along the vast geographical region of the Pacific Rim. This year’s event unspools at three county venues, the Del Mar Theatre and the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz, and the Cabrillo College Watsonville Center. And as always, every film in the festival, except the closing night benefit, is presented to the public free of charge.

The Pacific Rim itself stretches from the West Coast of the Americas across the Pacific Ocean into Asia. But while the region is culturally diverse, what the PRFF programs prove again every year is how united we all are in our common humanity. Children discover the world, from the South Korean sisters abandoned to relatives in Treeless Mountain, to the daughter of Mongolian nomads who befriends a stray puppy in Cave of the Yellow Dog, to the frisky Indian child-bride shut up in an ashram for widows in Water. Women discover their power in Tuya’s Marriage, from China, and in Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority, a documentary about the first woman of color in the United States Congress.

Sons explore their mixed heritage, Vietnamese-American in All About Dad, and Mexican-American in Calavera Highway. And men embrace their identity—with sometimes surprising results—from the male Maori dance troupe in Black Grace, to the South Korean boy who enters a wrestling match to pay for a sex-change operation in Like A Virgin, to the ruthless young Mexican gang-banger who breaks the cycle of violence in Sin Nombre.

The festival kicks off Friday night with the extraordinary documentary The Third Wave (USA, 2007, 96 minutes). In the wake of the devastating 2004 tsunami, four volunteers, strangers to each other, meet in Sri Lanka for a planned two-week mission that evolves into a year-long odyssey of bureaucracy, compassion and hope. Director Alison Thompson and producer Oliver Gubernati will be on hand for an after-film discussion. (At the Del Mar, Friday, 7 p.m., and Saturday, 4 p.m.)

This closing night benefit event is Toward Living Pono (USA, 2009, 56 minutes). Rick Bacigalupi’s documentary explores the private life of Chinese-Hawaiian actor Jason Scott Lee, a pioneer of living sustainably on his off-the-grid taro farm on the slopes on Mauna Loa on Hawaii’s Big Island. Working to preserve the environment and indigenous folkways, Lee embodies living pono—with respect for ancestors, neighbors, and the land itself. (At the Rio, Wednesday only, 7 p.m. Admission: $15. Tickets available at Bookshop Santa Cruz, Logos, and the Aloha Island Grille. All proceeds benefit PRFF.)

Here’s a look at the rest of the Fest:

UP THE YANGTZE (pictured above, Canada, 2007, 93 minutes. In English, Mandarin and Sichuan) The controversial Three Gorges Dam—economic miracle, or eco-disaster?—on China’s Yangtze River inspires Chinese filmmaker Yung Chang’s documentary. Following the adventures of several young Chinese working on a luxury cruise ship steaming upriver, Chang ponders the plight of farm families displaced by the rising waters, as well as a new generation of Chinese youth consigned to toiling away in the tourist trade. (Not rated.) (At the Del Mar, Friday, 9:30 p.m. Also Monday, 1 p.m., with an after-film discussion with historian Sandy Lydon.)

CAVE OF THE YELLOW DOG (Mongolia/Germany, 2005, 93 minutes) A young girl in a Mongolian nomad family tries to hide a small stray dog from her disapproving father in this family film from director Byambasurem Davaa. In Mongolian; English subtitles.) (At the Del Mar, Saturday, 1 p.m., and Sunday, 9:15 p.m.)

TUYA’S MARRIAGE (China, 2006, 96 minutes. In Mandarin; English subtitles.) In Quanang Wang’s wry, poignant modern-day drama, Chinese actress Yu Nan stars as the stoic young matriarch of a sheepherding family who defies tradition to divorce the disabled husband she still loves (and lives with) in order to find a new husband to care for them all. A stirring portrait of female fortitude, despite the pressures of custom, circumstance, and male ego. (At the Del Mar, Saturday, 7 p.m.)

LIKE A VIRGIN (South Korea, 2006, 116 minutes. In Korean; English subtitles, above.) Lee Hae-young and Lee Hae-jun direct this wry dramady about a male teen obsessed with Madonna training for a wrestling tournament with a big cash prize to pay for a sex-change operation. (At the Del Mar, Saturday, 9:15 p.m.)

PATSY MINK: AHEAD OF THE MAJORITY (USA, 2008, 56 minutes.) Kimberlee Bassford’s documentary chronicles the life and career of Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color to be elected to Congress (in 1965), and a tireless advocate for women’s social, educational, and political rights. (At Cabrillo College Watsonville Center, Saturday, 6:30 p.m., and at the Rio, Tuesday, 2:15 p.m.)

SLEEP DEALER (USA/Mexico, 2008, 90 minutes. PG-13. In Spanish and English.) This debut feature from Mexican filmmaker Alex Rivera melds global, political, and cultural concerns into a sci-fi thriller plot. A young man flees his dry, dusty Mexican village after running afoul of the corporation that provides the region’s water. A techno-savvy young woman shows him how survive by recording his memories and posting them on the net for sale to strangers hungry for experience. (At Cabrillo College Watsonville Center, Saturday, 8 p.m.)

TREELESS MOUNTAIN (USA/South Korea, 2008, 89 minutes. In Korean; English subtitles.) Two young sisters must reimagine the idea of family when their mother leaves them with relatives to track down their father, in So Yong Kim’s meditative drama. (At the Del Mar, Sunday, 1 p.m.)

SIN NOMBRE (USA, 2009, 96 minutes. (R) In Spanish; English subtitles.) A poor Honduran teenager (Paulina Gaitan) meets a tough, but disillusioned young gang-banger from the slums of Mexico (Edgar Flores) on the roof of a freight train ferrying hundreds of desperate souls toward El Norte, in this debut feature from UCSC grad Cary Joji Fukunaga. (Read the GT interview online.) Remarkable for the raw intensity of its action, and the moral force of Fukunaga’s storytelling. (At the Del Mar, Sunday, 4 p.m.)

ALL ABOUT DAD (USA, 2009, 90 minutes. In English and Vietnamese.) Cultures and generations clash in Bay Area filmmaker Mark Tran’s humorous, compassionate drama about a strictly “Old World” Vietnamese father and his highly assimilated American kids. (At the Del Mar, Sunday, 7 p.m. After-film discussion with Mark Tran.)

GONE SHOPPING (Singapore, 2007, 97 minutes. In Mandarin; English subtitles.) In Wee Li Lin’s wryly observed social comedy, consumers of various ages, genders, ethnicities, and sexual persuasions bond in a Singapore shopping mall. (At the Del Mar, Monday, 4 p.m.)

CALAVERA HIGHWAY (USA, 2007, 83 minutes. In Spanish and English.) This award-winning documentary from Renee Tajima-Peña follows the journey of her husband, Armando Peña, and his brother, Carlos, as they carry their mother’s ashes back to the Tex-Mex borderland, exploring their childhood as migrant farmworkers, and the disappearance of their father during the notorious “Operation Wetback” deportations of 1954. (At the Del Mar, Monday, 7 p.m. After-film discussion with Renee Tajima-Peña.)

PING PONG PLAYA (USA, 2007, 96 minutes.) A young Chinese American slacker with  gangsta attitude unexpectedly finds his identity through—of all things—ping pong, in this fresh comedy, the fiction debut of documentary filmmaker Jessica Yu. (At the Del Mar, Monday, 9:15 p.m.)

BLACK GRACE (New Zealand, 2007, 56 minutes, above.) Aileen O’Sullivan’s documentary charts the rise of the all-male troupe of Maori and Pacific Island dancers whose fusion of traditional folk and modern dance leads them to the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts. (At the Rio, Tuesday, 1 p.m.)

HAWAII: A VOICE FOR SOVEREIGNTY (USA, 2009, 84 minutes.) This Catherine Bauknight documentary explores the movement of Native Hawaiians to blend environmentalism and spirituality in pursuing their goal of living sustainably in the islands. (At the Rio, Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.)

WATER (Canada/India, 2005, 117 minutes. (PG-13.) In Hindi; English subtitles.) Deepa Mehta’s lyrical, wrenching, provocative drama is  set in 1938 India, on the cusp of change. A devout housemother’s consciousness is raised when an 8-year-old child bride is sentenced to life in a gloomy ashram for widows by strict taboos against remarriage. Mehta faced riots and death threats to get the film made, which makes the courage of her vision all the more remarkable. (At the Rio, Tuesday, 7 p.m.)


Friday, Oct 16, Del Mar Theatre
7 p.m. The Third Wave USA, 2007, 96min., English
Filmmakers Alison Thompson and Oscar Gubernati in person
9:30 p.m. Up the Yangtze Canada, 2007, 93min., English, Mandarin & Sichuan w/ English subtitles
Saturday, Oct. 17, Del Mar Theatre
1 p.m. The Cave of the Yellow Dog Mongolia/Germany, 2005, 93min., Mongolian w/English subtitles
4 p.m  The Third Wave USA, 2007, 96min., English
Filmmakers Alison Thompson and Oscar Gubernati in person
7 p.m. Tuya’s Marriage China, 2006, 96min., Mandarin w/ English subtitles
9:15 p.m. Like a Virgin South Korea, 2006, 116min., Korean w/ English subtitles
Saturday, Oct.  17, Cabrillo College Watsonville Center
6:30 p.m. Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority USA, 2008, 57min., English
8 p.m. Sleep Dealer USA/Mexico, 2008, 90min., English & Spanish w/ English subtitles
Sunday, Oct. 18, Del Mar Theatre
1 p.m. Treeless Mountain 2008, USA/South Korea, 89min., Korean w/ English subtitles
4 p.m. Sin Nombre 2008, USA/Mexico, 96min., Spanish w/   English subtitles
7 p.m.All About Dad USA, 2009, 90min., English & Vietnamese w/ English subtitles
Filmmaker Mark Tran in person
9:15 p.m. The Cave of the Yellow Dog Mongolia/Germany, 2005, 93min., Mongolian w/ English subtitles
Monday, Oct. 19, Del Mar Theatre
1 p.m. Up the Yangtze Canada, 2007, 93min., English, Mandarin & Sichuan w/
English subtitles
After-film discussion with Sandy Lydon
4 p.m. Gone Shopping Singapore, 2007, 100min., Mandarin w/ English subtitles
7 p.m. Calavera Highway USA, 2007, 83min., English & Spanish w/ English subtitles
Filmmaker Renee Tajima-Pena in person
9:15 p.m. Ping Pong Playa USA, 2007, 96min., English
Tuesday, Oct. 20, Rio Theatre
1 p.m. Black Grace New Zealand, 2007, 56min., English
2:15 p.m. Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority USA, 2008, 57min., English
3:30 p.m. Hawaii A Voice for Sovereignty USA, 2009, 84min., English
Filmmaker Catherine Bauknight in person
7 p.m. Water Canada/India, 2005, 117min., Hindi w/ English subtitles
Wednesday, Oct 21, Rio Theatre
7 p.m. Toward Living Pono USA, 2009,
56 minutes
Film Festival Benefit, featuring live Hawaiian Halau performance. Admission: $15.

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