The 10th Annual CineManila Film Festival concluded recently. Due to time and budget constraints, I was not able to catch more films in the festival but I managed to catch nearly all of my "first priority" films so to speak. Here's the rundown of all them:
Sparrow (Johnnie To) *** - This is the first Johnnie To film I've seen and based on what I've seen, most likely not the last. The lives and modus operandi of a quartet of pickpockets get turned upside-down when a mysterious woman infiltrates their ring. It's quite an engaging, thrilling and funny (but a bit thin) story features some really awe-inspiring filmmaking (an action scene with umbrellas? Holy crap).
The Band's Visit (Eran Kolirin) **** - I'm so glad I was able to catch this film. An Egyptian police orchestra in Israel gets lost and find themselves temporarily stranded in a small Israeli town. A simple yet funny and poignant film that reminds us how great it is to be alive and to be part of the human race. Features some great performances as well including Ronit Elkabetz (who was sensational in another Israeli film I've seen, Late Marriage)
The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (Julian Schnabel) **** - Finally! One of the most highly regarded films of 2007 gets a screening. I can see why it's so highly regarded. This beautiful film about Jean Dominique Bauby editor of Elle Magazine who was on top of the world until it came crashing down on him when he gets a stroke and acquires "locked-in" syndrome. The tale is moving, inspiring and thought-provoking yet not one bit sappy or overtly manipulative like films of this sort tend to be. Great work by Janusz Kaminski giving the viewers a taste of Bauby's P.O.V.
Bayan Ko: Kapit Sa Patalim ("My Country: At Razor's Edge") (Lino Brocka) *** - I saw at an invitation-only screening at the CineManila Film Festival. It's from the 1980's and the most complete version of the film in existence. It was made during the Marcos regime and was banned (and for good reason since it's extremely critical of the government at the time). A tragic, very well-acted saga of a man who's simply trying to make ends meet for his wife and newborn baby. I strongly prefer Brocka's other works (Insiang and Maynila sa Kuko Ng Liwanag) but this one's still well-worth checking out.