By Allison Lyzenga, My Film Habit
Film: The Mountain Thief
What an outstanding film. This is one of those eye-opening movies that leaves audiences sitting in stunned silence, even after the credits have rolled. This film is set and shot on location in Payatas—an immense shantytown in the Philippines, built on the site of one of the largest garbage dumps in the world. Residents make a living by picking through the new loads of trash that are delivered daily, in the hopes of finding anything they can sell—mostly mixed metals. And director Gerry Balasta tells the story of these peoples’ lives, using a cast made up entirely of local trash-pickers.
Balasta accomplished this by staging an acting workshop in the community to find and train the cast for this film. And he introduces us to a completely unimaginable lifestyle. We have a pretty vague idea of what poverty means, living comfortably in America like we do. We imagine it might have something to do with not having cable TV, or having to eat all one’s meals in. The sort of basic survival-mode these trash-pickers operate in every day has never once crossed my mind.
These individuals put in a full day of backbreaking labor on a mountain of steaming trash so that they can buy enough food to survive for just one more day. Then they retire to their shacks made of trash, and built on trash so they can get enough rest to go back out and do it all again tomorrow. And sometimes, since starvation is a constant threat, they even supplement their meager diets with morsels of edible garbage they find while at work. And in the midst of all this squalor, children are born, people fall in love, and people die (but not always of old age).
I was so impressed by this film. The story was edited in a very interesting way, retelling key scenes over and over from different characters’ perspectives, to give the audience a full understanding of just what is happening. And the acting was excellent as well. I suppose one could argues, these actors are really just performing scenes out of what could be any day of their regular lives, but I think they also do a wonderful job of telling a story as well.
Film: God is D_ad
What’s a road-trip movie without a motor-home full of strangers, a string of cheap motels, nothing but fast food, and running out of gas in the middle of a cornfield somewhere? Yup, this movie, directed by Abraham L. Lim, has all the right elements. And it’s got the destination of destinations—a comic book convention!
An unlikely group of youths is brought together by their various needs, and set out on a journey together. They don’t all want the same thing. In fact, most of these teens are going on the road trip for very different reasons. But, as they get to know each other better, they help each other through their issues. When he isn’t driving, Tim, the leader of this group of crazy misfits is busy putting the finishing touches on the Dungeons and Dragons module he’s been writing to present at the convention. And as they travel on, his story becomes more than a little inspired by the group’s adventures together.
These imaginations sequences are pretty spectacular. They were shot in Korea, and filmed in a black-and-white style that almost looks like a comic book itself. This really gives these scenes the legendary feel you associate with the world of D&D. As Tim and his new friends work through their own problems, this alternate world Tim is writing really comes together to create a solid story too. This is a film about growing and learning and becoming a better person. And along with all this growing up, it’s got some pretty funny moments in there too.
Film: One Night
This short film by Misa Tupou is a silent reflection on life and death—almost a pantomime about the unavoidable decay, and the perpetually renewing cycle of existence. We witness an anonymous, probably elderly, homeless man shuffle through the small tasks and routines that have become so important to him. His bankruptcy attorney phoenix is a struggle, but he perseveres, and he shares any luck he has with others in the same position. This is a very ambiguous, meditative piece, and is probably open to the viewer’s interpretation. But, since this is also a film about people who are less fortunate in life, it did a very good job of setting the stage for the feature.
Film: Father and Sister
Who doesn’t love a good nun-spoitation film? There’s all kinds of taboo material to work with—the beautiful bodies they must be hiding under those robes, the long, flowing tresses they are never allowed to show anyone, and all the pent up physical desires that they must be feeling. Just let your imagination run wild.
This is a hilarious, short, animated film by Soyeon Kim about a very dutiful priest who just so happens to notice one day that nuns are very, very female. Every, little task they do just has an added element of grace, whether it be attending to the daily chores at the monastery, or fleeing from wild animals. They’ve been sent here to test his devotion, most likely! This story is very silly, and whimsical, but is also told with a lot of affection for the church.
Allison Lyzenga writes about films on her website My Film Habit.