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Pacific Trimmings

Filipino cinema, Chinese martial arts and Oregon filmmakers abound at 2015’s Cinema Pacific film festival
‘father’ of new filipino cinema Kidlat Tahimik
‘Father’ of new Filipino cinema Kidlat Tahimik

Festival season is upon us. No, nix that. In 2015, festival season is always upon us. Seemingly every cultural niche carves out at least four days to celebrate its existence with exorbitant ticket prices, overpriced beer, flower crowns and Honey Buckets. The ever-looping circuit has led to a new phenomenon: festival fatigue. 

Sometimes, it’s just easier and cheaper to stay home. 

That said, go see Cinema Pacific (CP), the annual UO film festival that focuses on cinema and video arts originating from countries along the Pacific Rim, running through May 3. The festival — which may seem overwhelming with 30-plus events spanning one week across town — is like a meticulously curated meal that can be enjoyed in easily digestible and affordable bites (event ticket prices are $10 or less). 

We caught up with festival director, Richard Herskowitz — former director of the Virginia Film Festival — to find out the best way to savor this media smorgasbord. “We have these mini festivals within a larger festival,” he says. “Follow the threads your interested in.” For showtimes, events and locations, visit cinemapacific.org.

 

 

A New Filipino Cinema

Each year, CP chooses an international focus. This year it’s The Philippines. “The Philippines has been the hot, booming area for film,” Herskowitz says. Perhaps the crown jewel of the festival will be a live solo performance by director Kidlat Tahimik and the screening of his films The Perfumed Nightmare (6:45 pm, May 2)and Balikbayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment Redux III (6:45 pm, May 3), the latter of which has taken 35 years to make and recently won the Caligari Film Prize at the Berlin Film Festival. “The real coup for me was getting this guy,” Herskowitz says of Tahimik. “He’s the father of [New Filipino Cinema].” 

This will be somewhat of a reunion as Herskowitz brought Tahimik to the U.S. for the first time 27 years ago to show The Perfumed Nightmare, which was produced with the help of Werner Herzog and also nabbed a Berlin Film Festival award. Afterward, Herskowitz says, “He basically disappeared.” Herskowitz discovered while planning CP that Tahimik had been working on Balikbayan #1. “He’s more like an artisan. For him process is more important than product,” Herksowitz says. “He’s a true independent.”

The work of three other top Filipino directors will also be shown — Hannah Espia’s Transit (6:45 pm, May 1), Raya Martin’s La Ultima Pelicula (9:30 pm, May 2) and Lav Diaz’s Norte, The End of History (11 am, May 3). “It’s a contemporary interpretation of Crime and Punishment,” Herskowitz says of Diaz’s work. 

 

Fringe is In

“Fringe Festival is the edgy outer limits of the festival,” Herksowitz says. The event runs 7:30 to 11 pm Saturday, May 2, at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. Festivalgoers attending the interactive multimedia event can play new games (Mayday Deep Space and the soon-to-be-released The Second River) from Portland’s app design company Mountain Machine, check out video installations by Jonas Mekas and John Park as well as view the new film Bottle Neck and other animated works by Joanna Priestley. “She’s one of the greatest animators in the world,” Herskowitz says of Priestley, an award-winning animator and teacher living in Portland. 

Violet Ray, aka Paul Semonin, will project “Fallen Idols” — a piece about “dethroned symbols of glamour and high fashion” — in the quad in front of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

“He’s like a local guerilla video artist,” Herskowitz says. Ray will also present a video installation at 6:30 pm during First Friday ArtWalk in the Broadway Commerce Center downtown. More on the Fringe docket includes a showing of the winners of the Remix Competition, who were tasked with remixing a scene from A Touch of Zen, an iconic Taiwanese martial arts film. “It’s basically flying swordsmen,” Herskowitz says. 

 

Wuxia

One of the threads weaving through CP is the art of Wushu, a form of Chinese martial arts that inspired the film genre wuxia, most famously represented by 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which screens at 9:15 pm Friday, May 1, at the Bijou Metro. “It’s kind of the like the Chinese Western,” Herskowitz says, pointing out the influence the genre has had on directors like Tarantino. “Wushu has been hugely influential on Hollywood. We are showing some of the great classics of the genre.” CP will show Tai Chi Zero, co-produced by UO alum turned Chinese film star and producer Daniel Wu, who founded the UO Wushu Club when he was a student. “I’d say, roughly, he’s the Brad Pitt of China,” Herskowitz says. The May 3 screening at 4 pm will be followed by a Skype session with Wu, who has been tapped to play the lead in the new AMC martial arts TV drama Badlands.

 

Oregon Film

“Eugene is better represented this year than it has ever been,” Herskowitz says. Among the homegrown films to be presented are: A Bold Peace (1 pm, May 2) by UO sociology professor Michael Dreiling (who appeared on last week’s EW cover) about the disarmament of Costa Rica; Mending the Line (4 pm, May 2) directed by Jeff Martin about renowned Umpqua River fly fisherman Frank Moore; and A River Between Us (1 pm, May 3) by former Republican Oregon state senator turned environmental activist Jason Atkinson and co-director Jeff Martin, outlining the Klamath River water rights fight. At Bijou Art Cinemas, CP will also host the April 30 (6:45 pm) Eugene premiere of Tall as the Baobab Tree, by Dartmouth grad Jeremy Teicher and his partner Alexi Pappas, a former UO runner, about the struggles of a family in rural Senegal. “It was a major success on the festival circuit,” Herskowitz says.