Monday, November 19, 2007

Yossi and Jagger (2002)

Eytan Fox’s 67-minute film, “Yossi and Jagger” (2002), is a classic love story of two Israeli officers stationed in the Israeli-Lebanon border. Their love affair is placed side-by-side with the system that requires them to fight a cause they do not necessarily believe in. As most love stories told in film. “Yossi and Jagger” is predictable. At the onset, the film already presents an atmosphere of tragedy. True enough, Jagger dies in the end. Yaeli is one of the more interesting characters in the film, but it seems that the director is not interested on her. The editing is also somewhat choppy.

These flaws, however, are overshadowed by the superb ensemble acting, especially that of Ohad Knoler (Yossi) and Yuhuda Levi (Jagger). Their acting is so affecting and appealing that it makes relationships as presented in the film very believable: Knoler being the uptight and rigid company commander and Levi being the well loved and absolutely charming platoon commander. More specifically, Levi brings his character to vibrant life with the soft and borderline-flamboyant personality he projects on screen.

The chemistry between the two actors results in a believable relationship – the snowball fight scene which segues into the two men exchanging loving looks and kisses or Jagger’s playing of guitar and proposing his love for Yossi. A sure crowd pleaser is the scene when the typically cheerful Jagger is withdrawn and rigid when the usually stiff Yossi softens and awkwardly tries to make up with Jagger following a petty quarrel.

"Yossi and Jagger" is far from perfect in depicting homosexual love, but it surely has a space on my list of favorite films.

Paper Dolls (2006)

Tomer Heymann’s documentary, “Paper Dolls” (2006), is about the lives of a group of Filipino caregivers in Israel who call themselves Paper Dolls. They dress in drag and perform before an audience. At first, I thought the director’s presence in the film is somewhat self-serving, and for me, a documentary should be about the subject not the filmmaker. As the narration develops, however, his being there seems to be an integral part of the film: he becomes one of his subjects. This peculiar approach is a commentary on the sensitivity of filmmakers about their subjects.

The documentary successfully juxtaposes the dull and conservative part of Israel with the lively and colorful, albeit difficult lives of five gay migrant workers - Chiqui, Giorgio, Cheska, Jan, and Sally. It also shows the bonds between these friends and between them and the old people they take care of. Of particular interest is Sally’s heartwarming relationship with Chaim. “Paper Dolls” shows the personal struggles of these people alongside with the political problems in Israel.

Its shortcoming, however, is the unremarkable editing. There are some scenes that leave the audience wondering. For example, when Heymann tries to dress up like a Paper Doll, the scene shows him being transformed into one, and the next scene shows him removing the make-up. Also, the scene where Sally foes home to the Philippines and then suddenly back to Israel. Despite these flaws, “Paper Dolls” is still a joy to watch.

The Crying Wind (2002)

In a village in Okinawa, people revere a skull belonging to a kamikaze pilot as a protective idol. When the wind blows, the hole in the side of the skull produces a ghostly sound. “The Crying Wind”, directed by Yoichi Higashi, has a mystical tone it. However, it fails to deliver as a result of so-so characterization. The film tries to weave the background of each character – Masahi and his mother Kazue, his best friend Akira, Akira’s grandfather Seikichi, and the dying old woman who turns out to be related to the owner of the skull – but it only happens in the last part of the film. There are also off characters such as Masahi’s father who suddenly appears near the end and the old man who owns the garden. These problems are largely attributed to the loose script by Shun Medoruma.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story (2006)

This documentary, directed by Chris Sheridan and Patty Kim, narrates the North Korean abduction in 1977 of 13-year-old Japanese girl, Megumi Yokota. Several Japanese were also abducted as part of the DPRK's program to train spies to acquire Japanese language and culture. The film focuses on the struggles of the girl's parents who have been searching for her for almost three decades. Particularly moving is their constant pressuring of the Japanese government to address the abduction issue before normalizing relations with North Korea. In 2004, North Korea released the surviving abductees in exchange for food aid. It was reported that Megumi committed suicide at the age of 29. Many doubted this report. Until now, her parents are determined to know the truth.

What I like in this documentary is that it touches on the personal issue as well as the tension between Japan and North Korea. It shows the determination of Megumi's parents and families and relatives of other abductees to search for their loved ones, while exposing the non-action and opportunism of the Japanese government. It also reveals how the DPRK uses the abduction issue as a bargaining chip to control Japan.The film is never melodramatic in the traditional sense. It is an effective piece that effortlessly engages the audience with the issues being presented and critiqued. Moreover, this detective tale is heart-stopping, thanks to the musical score and good direction.

The only flaw is that many viewers may see the documentary as a propaganda against the communist state. While it explains the purpose of North Korea in the abductions, it does so insufficiently. It does not present the wider picture of teh problem. Despite this shortcoming, "Abduction" is worth seeing.


Malakas ang ulan. Tumatakbo ako. Napakataray ng isang babae sa AS Walk. Mam Chari. Klase. Sabi ni Burik, # 14 daw ako sa report. Pumirma ako sa papel. I saw Bernadette's name and signature. Mam Chari entered the room. She called me by my first name. Inutusan akong kunin ang newspaper sa room 717. Nay binigay siyang collection ng photos sa ilang mga estudyante. bukas ang room niya. Met her babaeng anak. Taray. Leitmotif. Russia. Madamdaming bulaklak. taiwan. Makati. Burik. Jing. Ethel Booba. Burger King. Nagsalita si Mam Chari sa harap ng mga tao. Tuwang-tuwa ang crew ng BK. Pumunta kami sa tabing-dagat. Natawa si mam nang malamang ka-friendster namin ang Sex Bomb. lumangoy ako sa dagat. Natanggal ang tsinelas ko. Next scene. Someone asked me kung ano ang binago sa akin ni Mam Chari. I told him wala. John Cusack. Sinister something. S28 group. Underground society a la Knights Templar. Si Mam Chari ang leader. Simbahan. Karpentero.