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    Sunday, October 20, 2019-3:23:50A.M.






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A Saipan filmmaker’s perspective: GIFF 2016 (2)

HAGÅTÑA — Nov. 17 kicked off with a screening of “Free,” a Croatian documentary following the lives of several individuals with intellectual disabilities seeking to make their way in the world. The film received multiple documentary feature awards at various other global film festivals.

Following that was the “Comedy Shorts Showcase,” a compilation of comedic films from around the world intended to lift the collective spirits of those in attendance.

I was especially fond of “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” a sentimental relationship comedy from Japan that tugs at the heartstrings; “Scams Incorporated,” an Australian comedy filmed in (or at least made to appear so) a single tracking take; and LA-based Chamorro filmmaker Alex Muñoz’s “Duendes Gone Bad,” a film for which Muñoz had acted as supervising director for incarcerated youth at Guam Youth Affairs.

Another highlight of the day was the standout feature-length narrative from Taiwan, “Maverick.” The film spins an intricately woven tale of police and political corruption as told by two police officers attempting to expose said corruption.

The day closed with the Documentary Shorts Showcase, which featured films from Japan, the U.K., India and the U.S.

The front entrance of the new Guam Museum is adorned with banners for Guam International Film Festival 2016. Note the clever play on words “GIFF ‘VI’SION” which also stands for the 6th Annual GIFF using the Roman numeral “VI” in place of “6”. Photo by Vicente “Ben” Salas IIThe front entrance of the new Guam Museum is adorned with banners for Guam International Film Festival 2016. Note the clever play on words “GIFF ‘VI’SION” which also stands for the 6th Annual GIFF using the Roman numeral “VI” in place of “6”. Photo by Vicente “Ben” Salas II

The two that stood out for me in this showcase were “Smoke That Travels,” a Potawatomi Native American young woman’s documentary ode to her tribal inheritance and her desire to keep her traditions alive; and “Adi,” a short film documenting the lives of the indigenous Adi people of Pasighat, India who inhabit the India-China border.

On Friday, Nov. 18, the Guam International Film Festival or GIFF began the day with two back-to-back narrative films with themes dedicated to the LGBT community.

They were a narrative short entitled “Walk For Me,” following a New Yorker’s transgender identity as part of the NYC underground ballroom scene; and “Ekaj,” a feature-length narrative made by the husband and wife duo of Mike and Cati Gonzalez.

I found Ekaj especially intriguing as it told the story of two individuals so different from one another yet so similar and connected.

Despite being a dramatic narrative, it was shot with a cinematography style and presentation very reminiscent of documentaries. The look gives the film an added layer of realism that complements the believable performances put forth by the cast.

Next in line was the Drama Shorts Showcase, a selection of short dramatic narratives from Japan, the U.S., Korea, China and India.

All of the films in this showcase were carried by wonderful stories and were equally memorable in their own right.

However, the ones that left the strongest impression on me were “Taidama,” which gives viewers a glance at what post-World War II life was like for Japanese Americans; “Sociopaths,” an award-winning science fiction short out of Japan featuring top notch CGI work; and “Chopin Nocturne Op. 37, No. 2 in G,” a moving relationship tale from Taiwan whose filmmakers I actually had the honor and pleasure of meeting at GIFF.

The next double feature block of the day was occupied by “Beast,” a Canada-Philippine produced feature-length narrative starring veteran Hollywood actor Garret Dillahunt; and “Royce Gracie on Guam,” Guam Sports Network’s documentary that follows the recent visit to the island by UFC Hall of Famer and Brazilian jiu-jitsu pioneer Royce Gracie.

While the aforementioned block screened in the museum indoor theater, the outdoor theater featured the Student Shorts Showcase. This showcase was comprised of a collection of original films by international film students. Two post-apocalyptic themed films; “Match Girl,” from the U.S.; “Ellie,” from Canada; and one comedy short from Australia entitled “BaconHorn,” made up the selection.

The final showcase of that day was the Focus on Life Showcase. It featured two films that premiered at the University of Guam Film Festival in the spring: “Group,” a narrative short from Guam with a message of suicide awareness and prevention; “Closing the Gaps: Words of Hope,” a Guam-made documentary in line with a similar theme; and “Sleep,” a narrative short from the U.S. mainland about a young woman’s struggle with chronic sleep deprivation and its dangerous effect on her life.

The final feature length film on the 18th was “K2 and the Invisible Footmen,” a stirring documentary from Pakistan about indigenous mountaineering porters who bravely ascend K2. K2 is the second highest peak in the world after Nepal’s Mt. Everest.

To be continued