Pac-Arts' Spring Showcase Serves Up Eight Days Of Asian Film
Special sidebar on restoring Philippine cinema
Because there’s an excess of great Asian cinema, Pac-Arts treats audiences to a pair of film festivals each year. The main San Diego Asian Film Festival is in the fall and this month we get the smaller Spring Showcase.
Thursday's opening night features Hong Kong legend Stanley Kwan taking a meditative look at showbiz with "First Night Nerves" plus a free screening of the pilot episode of Cinemax's "Warrior" (“The Itchy Onion”) and an advance screening of the second episode (“There’s No China in the Bible”).
Spring Showcase highlights similar programming as its fall counterpart with sections focused on Asia Pop, Discoveries, and Master. Once again there will be a Mystery Kung Fu Theater presentation where you have to trust artistic director Brian Hu to pick something amazing and rare from old school martial arts films. If you have never been to Mystery Kung Fu Theater then you need to go. It is something that can only be experienced in a theater with a crowd of delirious chop socky fans going wild over the action on screen.
A new sidebar this year is temptingly called From the Claws of Darkness: Restoring Philippine Cinema. One of the films is "Himala" ("Miracle") from 1982, about a cursed town and the turmoil that erupts when a woman who claims to see the Virgin Mary. The film typifies the beauty, melodrama, and gripping power of Philippine cinema. There are three additional films in the sidebar: "Moral" and "Batch '81" both from 1982, and "Manila in the Claws of Light" from 1975.
Hu wrote this for the program notes: "The consensus pick as the greatest Philippine film of all time, 'Manila in the Claws of Light' bakes 1970s romanticism into gritty urban realism to create a sweaty noir masterpiece. The great Lino Brocka bathes his characters in a hypnotic soundtrack of industrial drones and haunting voices, the chorus of a city promising enchantment and death in the same fateful requiem. Brocka shakes Julio with the cruelty of class injustice and flashbacks that cut into the psyche like shards of desire and vengeance. Relentlessly tense and fiercely political, 'Manila' leaves the viewer — and all of Philippine cinema — reawakened."
I highly recommend checking out this sidebar and experiencing the unique artistry of Philippine filmmaking.
The festival runs through April 18 at UltraStar Cinemas Mission Valley.