Posted on Wednesday, November 09, 2005 at 06:00 PM
Calgary International Film Festival Mini-Reviews Part 2
By: S. Tran
This week I have a couple of more reviews from the CIFF last Month.
Eve and the Fire Horses
Director: Julia Kwan
Cast: Vivian Wu, Lester Chit-Man Chan, Hollie Lo, Phoebe Kut
The great thing about film festivals is that you're likely to catch something really good that you normally would not have seen and this was the case with Eve and the Fire Horses. The film is a warm comedy about two Chinese girls growing up in the 60's who embark on a quest to find religion after their grandmother dies. I would have passed this up on the video store shelf so I'm glad I got to see it.
Eve is played by Phoebe Kut and her sister Karena by Holli Lo. Both young girls are first time actors and give great performances. Eve is the nave younger sister eager to follow the path chosen by her older sibling on the way to enlightenment. Karena is the much too serious older sister determined to save everyone around her whether they like it or not. Wu and Chan are also good as the mother and father who are at times baffled by the odd changes in their daughters
The script by director Julia Kwan is excellent, delivering funny moments without going over the top and poignant moments without becoming melodramatic. Some of the funniest moments in the film come out of the smallest and quietest scenes like when Karena earnestly asks her horrified young Hindu friend if he has accepted Jesus into his heart. Kwan manages to find the humour in different generations, cultures and religions without resorting to making fun out of any one group.
The film also provides interesting insights on how confusing religion can be to young children and also works as a cautionary tale about the dangers of finding all the answers in religion whether it be Christianity or Buddhism.
Overall a good film by a first time film maker that the family can enjoy.
Director: Brent Stanley
On the other hand the problem with film festivals is that sometimes you go to see a movie with high expectations only to be severely let down. This was the case with Soft Ice, a documentary about the CHL Hockey League in Texas. On paper this sounds like a movie tailor made for a Canadian audience. However its amateur look and inconsistency made it feel more like an extended new cast introspective than an insightful documentary.
Soft Ice follows the players on the Ft. Worth Brahmas one of the teams in the CHL a minor hockey league in Texas. We find out that, surprisingly, Texas has more professional hockey teams than anywhere else in North America. Although they are as far from the NHL as you can get and still be called professional players. After this promising start though the film loses focus both technically and in its story telling.
Technically the film is uneven from start to finish. It seemed as though the entire thing was shot on a number of cameras ranging from very good to very bad. Some of the interviews and scenes looked as though they were shot with a standard consumer handy-cam and were accompanied by the static hiss that accompanies such cameras. When watching these clips I found it jarring to go from a polished looking segment to something completely amateurish.
The story itself also had the same problem. We start following the Brahmas as they near the end of one year then pick up their story the following season. Somewhere in the middle though we suddenly find ourselves watching footage shot by the players themselves but from a prior season when they were with a different team as far as I could tell.
This sudden jump really cut into the flow of the story. In addition the director tried to cover too much in 59 minutes. It would have been a more interesting story to focus on a few players or find that one angle. Instead the movie jumps around from players to coaches to fans to owners. The result is that in the end we don't really know enough about anyone to really care.