San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival's youth revolution: now with breakdancing, party-rocking, and pint-sized ninja stars. Plus, film critic Cheryl Eddy's SFIAAFF picks
With kindred ultraviolence vet Martin Scorsese throwing himself into his own kiddie roller-coaster of a cinematic ride with last year's Hugo, it makes some sense that Takashi Miike — whose 2010 13 Assassins might have bested both Ichi the Killer (2001) and 1999's Audition for sheer bloodletting — would enter the children's field with such gusto. Manga fans will appreciate Miike's broadly farcical, spoofy élan with comic book touches — down to the freeze-frame mucus drips, the CGI hatched-background stills denoting way-ramped-up action, and fourth-wall-bust-outs/pop-up trivia interludes by your "friendly ninja trivia commentator."
Rantaro — your archetypal geek toddler, complete with thick glasses and bad haircut — has left the family farm and been sent off to ninja nursery school to learn all about deadly boomeranging stars, big-headed villains with testicular chins, and ninja master-slash-hair stylists. Does Rantaro, er, find himself amid the rigors of class, attacks from dastardly ninja outfits, and a final challenge that has him literally biting the dust? And does it matter when Miike digs in with such glee to lampoon the samurai genre, and kick up dust with the ankle-nibblers in this insanely comical alternate universe of ninja mini-mes?
SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL ASIAN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL
March 8-18, various Bay Area venues, most shows $12
DOCS AND SHOCKS: MORE FROM THE SF INTERNATIONAL ASIAN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL
SFIAAFF Documentary fans, prioritize Give Up Tomorrow, Michael Collins' probing examination of a high-profile murder case in the Philippines. If the Paradise Lost films got your blood boiling, expect to rage even harder at the unbelievably shifty way the events detailed here unfolded.
As with the West Memphis Three, the crime at Tomorrow's heart is horrific: in 1997, two sisters in their early 20s were kidnapped, raped, and murdered. Or were they? Only one body was found, and it was never quite confirmed that the dead woman was actually one of the missing sisters. Of course, that didn't stop authorities (almost all of whom had ties to a local drug lord, who was also connected to the victims' family) from fingering a group of local teens, including Paco Larrañaga — who became the case's main target, despite the fact that dozens of his culinary-school classmates swore he was with them, hundreds of miles from the crime scene, at the time of the alleged murders.
Give Up Tomorrow offers a searing study of a corrupt court system, and the heartbreak that happens when a cause célèbre falls victim to the short attention span of the international activist community. Without spoiling all of its twists and turns, know that this story is better than any fictionalized crime drama, and more powerfully wrenching for being true.