Oak Street Cinema, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Offering a unique and sad look at the spiritual and familial conflict present in rural Filipino communities, this latest work by director Carlos Siguion-Reyna (whose Harvest Home was one of the highlights of the 1996 festival) is nearly ruined by one of the poorest translation jobs in film history. Still, what remains is a profoundly powerful tale. Set in a small farming village ravaged by a prolonged drought, the film follows several of the town's most disenfranchised children, including a blind girl plagued by nightmares, and a bastard son who doesn't know who his father is. The townsfolk frequently clash over how to end the plague that is destroying their home, with some resorting to church prayer while others turn to the mysticism of a local cult. All of these problems are ultimately meted out upon the children, some of whom have the burden of saving the town (through an unusual ritual that requires the sexual sacrifice of a virgin) while simultaneously remaining subservient to their parents. At times, the movie reads as a scathing indictment of certain "old-fashioned" aspects of Filipino culture, while the director's thorough challenge of the notions of paternalism in a society so dependent upon women makes it obvious why he's seen as one of the Philippines' boldest filmmakers. Kemp Powers
Bell Auditorium, Tuesday at 9:30 p.m.
At the start of this first feature by Argentine director Pablo Trapero, Rulo (Luis Margani), an affable 49-year-old everyman, is channel-surfing in the dark when suddenly a voice from the TV shouts, "I don't really get it. Why did all this happen?" You may find yourself ruminating on the very same query at the film's conclusion--which, if nothing else, proves that Argentineans suffer from the same existentialist malaise as the rest of us. A former bass player in a one-hit-wonder Seventies band, the divorced, odd-job-working Rulo trains to be a crane operator, only to see his opportunity disappear because of a failed company physical. To support his aspiring-musician son, and his mother, who lives in the country, Rulo then takes a job that's more than a thousand miles away--but this, too, fails to work out. And that's about it. Conspicuously lacking a third act, Crane World hits you over the head with its hard-knocks message while failing to provide even the faintest of insights. Nevertheless, one can't help but like the hero--who, upon coming home late one night to discover that his grown son is using Dad's apartment for a little whoopee, is only initially enraged before shrugging and saying, "All right--I'll be back in 40 minutes." How can you not root for a guy like that? Christopher Thell
Minnesota Short Film/Video Showcase II
Intermedia Arts, Friday at 8:00 p.m.
Co-sponsored by IFP/North and Intermedia Arts, this second of the fest's three Minnesota shorts packages is highlighted by Matt Ehling's "Access," which roughly does for the cable-access artiste what Driver 23 did for the underground metal musician. Using a studiously droll, Errol Morris-like style to examine some of the more ambiguous virtues of freedom of speech, Ehling zooms in on a trio of natural-born hams spreading their gospels through Fridley's ETC Channel 33: Homer Giles, an amateur evangelist with a steadfast belief in the power of his own negligible celebrity; Richard "A-Bomb" Klatte, a Deadhead performance artist-cum-public-access shock jock who's running in the 1998 gubernatorial race on the so-called Strong Party platform; and Mark Hanson, a reactionary libertarian and overzealous prairie-dog hunter whom the liberal Klatte eventually recruits as his running mate. (Together, the pair promises to legalize drugs and prostitution while offering free Subway and Pizza Shack coupons to the several-or-so viewers at home.) At 45 minutes, Ehling's short could use a trim (especially as the current cut has him seeming to lose interest in the preacher). Yet the filmmaker's underlying respect for these tireless camera cravers--whose passion for broadcasting would put most professionals to shame--makes this one of the smartest and most entertaining local films to come out in a year. Among the other noteworthy works in the second showcase are Benno Nelson's "Moment One," Freya Rae's "Palisade," and Ayesha Adu and e.g. bailey's "Village Blues." The third and final showcase, which includes Paul Moehring's 40-minute "Welcome to Cosmos," screens the following night, Saturday, at 8:00 p.m. at Intermedia Arts. Rob Nelson
Journey to the Sun
Bell Auditorium, Saturday at 3:00 p.m.; and Heights Theater, Sunday at 8:00 p.m.
This modest coming-of-age tale from Turkey centers on Mehmet, a young man recently arrived in Istanbul, whose friendship with Berzan, a Kurdish street vendor, provides the spark for his political awakening. Mistakenly identified as a radical, Mehmet soon realizes the profound reach of his city's omnipresent militia. As Mehmet strives to maintain a normal life, to fall in love, to work and relax, the pillars that support his life are toppled one by one, and he emerges within the story as a kind of modern-day Josef K., a man at war with inscrutable institutions. The acting by an entirely nonprofessional cast is first-rate, but even more notable is the gorgeous cinematography by Jacek Petrycki. Through patient and evocative camerawork, Petrycki (who shot several of Krzysztof Kieslowski's films) invokes a tangle of emotions--particularly in the film's second, more lyrical half, which features Mehmet's odyssey across Turkey to its outlying Kurdish zones. A former architect, director Yesim Ustaoglu has shaped his second feature into a mature and sober reflection on Turkey's political edifice. We should consider ourselves lucky that this still fairly unknown gem (which recently received its U.S. premiere in Lincoln Center's "New Directors/New Films" series) has come our way. Shannon McLachlan