Author: Ben Dimagmaliw

Eye-On-Blanka

Blanka

There is the phrase, “appearances can be deceiving,” and this may best describe many people’s perception of poverty, especially when it may define the image of a particular place or country. Having been born and raised for a few years in the Philippines, I was never aware of my country as being a “less fortunate” one. But even as I grew up and I became aware the Philippines did have economic and political instabilities which kept many living in poverty, return trips to visit family never impressed upon me the woeful image many abroad held for the people living in makeshift shacks on squatted land; to this day I see commercials by non-profit organizations asking for support in the aid of children earning their living rummaging through trash on a once smoldering pile of refuse known locally as “Smokey Mountain.” No matter what the world may see when they gazed at those intentionally heart-rending (read: manipulative) depictions, I knew the Filipino spirit was more vibrant, indomitable, and selfless than in many countries to which those …

Eye-on-Out_of_my_hand

Out of My Hand

The death of the American dream is a typical trope a variety of movies have tackled, mostly to the somber tune of disappointment and sadness. However, trope or not, there are still a plethora of stories on the subject matter still remaining to be told. What will separate wheat from chaff is the angle a filmmaker chooses to approach it. Just as Kohki Hasei avoided “poverty porn,” in the case of Hokkaido born Fukunaga Takeshi, that angle was not a tale of bitter realities in an unfamiliar country, but the resilient and determined spirit of immigrants looking to better their lives in a new country. Considering the controversial issue immigration has become recently, one might think Out of My Hand to be extraordinarily timely were it not for the fact Fukunaga shot the movie, his debut feature, in 2013. Feeling “out of place” in Japan, Fukunaga moved to New York wanting to meet and learn about people from other countries. After studying film production at Brooklyn College, he worked as an editor for a documentary about Liberian …

Eye-on-Reminiscentia

Reminiscentia

Memories are probably the second most complex aspect of the human experience next to our emotions. They are incredibly powerful, able to take us back in time to relive moments again even to the point of engaging any and all of our five senses. Memories help keep us connected to the people and places which we maintain as precious experiences. However, memories can be sources of great sadness and pain. This dual nature of our memories is at the heart of Reminiscentia, an independent Russian-language movie made by Japanese director, Inoue Masaki. Mikhail is a novelist who lives a quiet life with his beloved daughter, Milenia, on the outskirts of a Russian city. Troubled people come to Mikhail asking him to erase their memories with his uniquely special gift. The ideas for his novels come from the memories he removes from others. Then one day, Mikhail notices a portion of his memories with his daughter is gone. Distressed by being unable to recollect the past, Mikhail goes to the church to pray. Thereupon he encounters Maria, …

Eye-on-Stolen-Japanese-Indie-movie

Stolen

North Korea is on the minds of a lot of people these days with its leader and the U.S. President goading one another like impetuous children attempting to prove their manhood on a playground, except they are not playing with sand. North Korea’s ballistic missile program is certainly the latest threat from Pyongyang, but for Japan and South Korea–two countries literally currently caught in the middle–a much more human dilemma continues unresolved: the kidnapping of its citizens a few decades ago. The governments of the two countries had been engaged in negotiations to compel North Korea to either return its citizens or at least provide their current status and whereabouts. With the focus shifting to a military/defense affair, the plight of the kidnapped victims and their families have all been but brushed aside. In fact, the kidnapping issue has all but disappeared from public consciousness despite being seen as a top foreign affairs issue not so long ago. It is this human element to which the mid-length movie, Stolen, attempts to draw attention once again. Its …

Eye-On Super Local Hero Feature Image

Super Local Hero

The unfortunate side-effect, some may say deliberate outcome, of internet commerce is the slow eradication of small, privately owned shops and boutiques. The convenience provided by massively supplied retail sites like Amazon has strangled the ability for smaller stores to compete, at least on price. But recently, there has been a counter-reaction to digitalization in the form of the rediscovery of all things analog; from vinyl records and cassette tapes, to hand-crafted items sold in limited quantities, people are beginning to seek out and support local businesses and artisans. While Japan has always valued a culture of craftmanship, modern city development among other socio-economic factors are contributing to the disappearance of literal “mom-n-pop stores”. Some still can thrive in large metropolises such as Tokyo, but the CD/Record store and the book store are becoming rare sites in small towns. Those which manage to stay in business, do so more out of the owner’s personal passion rather than actual business profit. Tanaka Toshinori’s Super Local Hero tells the story of one such owner, Nobue Kasuhiko who runs a …

Eye-On_Ow

Ow

Suzuki Yohei’s Ow has been one of those movies that seemed to have slipped through the cracks, or perhaps been a bit ahead of its time. After getting made as a 9th CO2 grant movie, it was completed in 2014. Only now, three years later, will Suzuki’s efforts finally see a domestic release. This might be a good time, then, to revisit this unique entry in Japanese indie films in commeration of its July opening in Shibuya. Described as an indie “whatsit” (as opposed to a “whodunnit”), or a blackly comic episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’, Suzuki’s movie defies easy categorization. In fact, in their review of Ow, Slant Film used Spielberg and Jarmusch in the same sentence to praise Suzuki’s deft direction as possessing a “Spielbergian flair for capturing how the comforts and discomforts of cohabitation seem to nest within one another, as well as a Jarmuschian taste for mining social alienation for the occasional stray deadpan punchline.” (Chuck Bowen) Having his eyes opened to cinema by the genre movies of David Cronenberg and …

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LiLOU’s adventure

The movies of Kumasaka Izuru have always seemed to gravitate toward stories about the relationships between unlikely people. In his triple 2005 Pia Award winning debut short film, Coffee and Milk, a 6th grader falls in love with and tries to help a deaf woman 12 years his senior through his photography…and fails. The wins granted him the opportunity to make his debut feature through the Pia Scholarship Program, Asyl: Park and Love Hotel. In it, women from various walks of life form bonds as they find solace at a Japanese love hotel which strangely features a park at its rooftop where residents of the surrounding community have always visited to find respite from urban, Tokyo life–hence the word “asyl” in the title which is German for “sanctuary” or “oasis”. Kumasaka’s handling of these character dynamics garnered him the Best First Feature Award at the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival instantly marking him as “one to watch.” He answered those expectations with LiLOU’s adventure, his second independent feature. The story seems like classic Kumasaka. Set on Okinawa, Lilou, …