VAFF 2014 | Dark Passage

Posted by Christine Kim & filed under Film Festival, VAFF.

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DIR: Various | International Showcase | 2014 | 94 min

Six unique films stringed together under the theme of invictus, which is a latin word for “unconquered”. It was specifically chosen based on a famous poem by William Earnest Henley in which he pens, “Out of the night that covers me… I thank whatever gods may be, for my unconquerable soul.”

Unconquerable is right. The protagonists in these films are fiery and driven. So genuinely so that unsurprisingly, many of the protagonists in the films are not simply imagined characters but rather personifications of real live people. The weight that comes associated with this understanding definitely brought the beauty of memoirs and documentaries in uncovering tragic realities and unravelling them before an audience in as captivating a way as possible.

Three special short films that I found most captivating personally was A Grand Canal directed by Johnny Ma, The Free Man directed by Sam Quah, and last but not least, Nighthawks by Gianpaolo Lupori.

A Grand Canal does not wow you with perfect filming technique. Scene shots have a low resolution and scene transitions are abrupt and sudden. Yet, what struck me as beautiful about this film was the raw emotions behind the protagonist’s voice most evident at the conclusion of the film where the boy asks, “Would you have stayed if I had asked you not to go?” Due to a run in with the local gang in town, the boy’s father ends up paying for a debt with his own life. Tragically enough, this boy’s story is the personal story of the director himself and the raw vulnerability the director purposefully uses in revealing the truth behind the film to the audience, definitely moved me and had me commending him for his honesty.

Free Man, The Sam Quah

The Free Man was the longest short film among all six and it did an astoundingly great job in building up a story from start to finish in the classic way. By this I mean, there was a clear beginning, middle, and end. A clear plot that had an exposition, a rising action, and a climax. Very well done in terms of pure storytelling and film directing alone. The message of the film was equally commendable. A young girl with a disability is sexually and physically abused by her uncle and the dilemma  an ex-convict faces upon realizing this tragic truth is harrowing. At one point in the story, the abused girl releases her frustration and pent up anger at the ex-convict that very clearly pities her in her traumatic  situation. She yells, cries, slaps, and basically weeps in sorrow and deep emotional pain. This was a tragically beautiful scene that was acted out extremely well.

Nighhawks Horizontal 130924 EN

Nighthawks stood alone from the six films in a very distinct way in that rather than focusing in on the story of one protagonist, it really focused in on a specific idea. This idea was social justice through social media. A loud, comical, middle aged woman comes bustling into a noodle shop. Her motives seem harmless at first but quickly digress to zero in on one individual. This individual is a young man from a wealthy background who’s identity went viral over the media because of a crime he committed but did not receive due punishment for. The loud lady and her fellow tech-saavy partners are swift to exact due retribution for his deeds. The result is murder. Nighthawks very clearly sounded to me as the new Robin Hoods of the modern age.

Fascinating ideas. And completely raw emotions. As you can probably tell, the best way to sum up Dark Passage in a short and simple way is by using the help of social media language.



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