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Moon Yun's Mid-Pacific Report: Black Picket Fence; The Land Has Eyes; Blood of the Samurai

Father Geek here Deep in the Heart of Texas fighting off the effects of a Blue Norther, annnnnd to warm my soul I've got the latest word in from our lovely sand & surf girl stationed out on those beautiful sun swept beaches of the crystal blue Pacific, Ms Moon Yun Choi. Yep, she's put her board aside just long enough to file the following report from Diamond Head...

Aloha, Moon Yun signing in from Hawaii.

Apparently Brian Grazer is going to be making the MAGNUM movie in Hawaii and shooting is to start soon. No news yet on the casting. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, writer/director Aaron Yamasato returns with a follow-up to his BLOOD OF THE SAMURAI film hit with a TV series version that he plans to re-edit into a DVD. And our wonderful guest writer, Don Brown, comes back from Sundance, with a review of THE LAND HAS EYES, which is slated to screen at this year's Hawaii International Film Festival. Also, documentary filmmaker Sergio Goes' BLACK PICKET FENCE can be seen soon on the Sundance Channel.

BLOOD OF THE SAMURAI: THE SERIES

I recently caught the first episode of a new six-part series of Hawaii wunderkind writer/director Aaron Yamasato's BLOOD OF THE SAMURAI: THE SERIES on a local TV station Oceanic Time Warner Cable's channel OC16. Fear not. For those thirsty for more BLOOD, Yamasato plans to make his follow-up to his BLOOD OF THE SAMURAI feature film available on DVD in the future.

The storyline picks up where Yamasato's low budget hit film left off following the young heroes and heroines through their exploits that weave the best of Samurai B-movie action with hip, pop-culture sensibilities.

Trent (Bryan Yamasaki) and Rob (Michael Ng) are back as the two sword wielding Samurais, as are their female side-kicks Brooke (Colleen Fujioka) and Roxy (Stephanie Sanchez). What's really cool is having Ban Daisuke of Kikaida, a new cast member, as zen master Sensei. Watching him play the wise Sensei reminds me of the traditional Samurai shows I use to watch growing up on Japanese TV station. Of course with BLOOD, Daisuke?s Sensei has a touch of Yamasato's trademark humor. The first part introduces Yuki (Alicia Michioka-Jones), also a new cast member, as the mysterious Ninja Girl. What part the mysterious Yuki will play in Trent's and Rob's efforts to take out the bad guys is yet to be seen. The actress who plays Yuki is a former Miss Hawaii USA. Nevertheless, whichever side Yuki takes, Trent, Rob, Brooke and Roxy will have a formidable foe in a new villain named Shinzo. He's played by Superbrawl Champion Egan Inoue.

Last August I visited the set of BLOOD OF THE SAMURAI: THE SERIES. The cast and crew were shooting the final scene at Club Zanzabar in Waikiki. The show asked me if I wanted to be an extra. I thought it would be really cool but I didn't realize it was a nightclub scene so I showed up in shorts and a casual top. Had I known it was going to be a nightclub shoot, I would have dressed up like I was going to a discotheque. Oh well. I still had a lot of fun though. Albert Lanier, my colleague at Aint It Cool News, was also there. We stood next to each other on the dance floor and tried, I emphasize, TRIED, to dance like hip, cool clubgoers. As soon as the techno music went off, which was our cue to start dancing, I felt like Albert and I looked like Monica and Ross from FRIENDS in that episode where they were on American Band Stand New Year?s Eve show. I'm sure we didn't look that goofy but I found out from Yamasato that we made the cut. So from now on, I?ll have to look for myself in the next series.

Check out the cool production still photos from the show, and one of Yamasato doing a BLOOD OF THE SAMURAI DVD signing at a Japanese Cultural festival. Click Here: http://www.geocities.com/moonyunchoi/Blood_Production_Stills.html

The DVD of his film version is still out and you can get them on amazon.com. Check out their website at www.bloodofthesamurai.com

SUNDANCE: THE LAND HAS EYES

Here?s a report from my very talented guest writer, Don Brown, who was at Sundance. Although the festival is over, Brown gives us a review of THE LAND HAS EYES, a film submitted by Hawaii filmmakers, and his overview of the festival.

At the annual Sundance filmmakers dinner this year festival founder Robert Redford regaled the starry-eyed crowd, many here for the first time, with a story about his decision to start the festival 20 years ago in this then sleepy ski village, a poor relation to the much glitzier Aspen and Vail resorts. Everyone told him the location and time of year was all wrong--too far off the beaten track, too soon after the holidays, and too cold. The rest is history. He built it and they came...in droves. The lesson wasn't lost on any filmmaker in the room, many of whom had run up substantial credit card debt to pursue their dream. This year?s big success story was Shane Carruth, whose dramatic film PRIMER won not only the prestigious Grand Jury Prize, but also the Alfred P. Sloane award for emerging talent. The $20,000 prize was roughly three times what the young filmmaker spent to make the feature on digital video. ?The price of a used car,? he said ($7000).

Hawaii had an especially prominent role at this year's festival starting with the opening night gala, RIDING GIANTS, a surfing documentary shot largely on Maui, and had its own Cinderfella story of a filmmaker invited to this ball. University of Hawaii Professor Vilsoni Hereniko worked for six years to bring THE LAND HAS EYES to the screen, traveling with a skeleton crew back to his native Rotuma, an island of only 2500 people in the Fiji archipelago.

The film is a captivating saga of a girl on the remote island who musters the courage to call on the spirit of her ancestors to confront villagers who falsely accuse her father of theft. Incorporating an ancient legend of the founding of Rotuma by a female warrior, the film is an illuminating look into the lives of these proud people, never conquered or colonized by the British even when they occupied the rest of Fiji. The film shines with a subtle wisdom, including inspiring portraits of the island's inhabitants and pays tribute to the heritage that gives the strength to this young girl's triumph. To Hereniko?s credit, though most of the cast was not professionally trained, there are few false notes, and the story is convincingly told with a simple grace. New Zealand actress Rena Owen (ONCE WERE WARRIORS) portrays the warrior spirit with a fierce presence, and flew in to Park City to attend the screening from Los Angeles.

Producer Jeannette Paulson Hereniko revealed at the Q & A after the premiere that the story is, in fact, largely autobiographical, with Hereniko switching the gender of the lead to create some distance from the character. Portrayed movingly by the then 15-year old Sapeta Taito, the girl's desire to leave the island to explore the wider world is very movingly portrayed, and close to Hereniko's own story when he was a teenager. "I couldn't wait to leave," he told the attentive audience after the premiere screening.

After the film Fijian musicians and Rotuman dancers entertained the audience in a tent behind the Sundance Headquarters at the Park City Marriott Hotel, exhorting participants still in parkas to join the sarong-clad islanders on stage. Hereniko heads to the Rotterdam Film Festival directly from Sundance, and the Moscow Film Festival has also beckoned. No news yet on a distributor for the film.

Check out his cool photos at http://www.geocities.com/moonyunchoi/LHE_Sundance.html

BLACK PICKET FENCE

Sergio Goes? award-winning documentary, BLACK PICKET FENCE, has been picked up by the Sundance Channel...

and will screen on:
  • Monday, March 8th, 2004 @ 9pm
  • Saturday, March 13, 2004 @ 11pm
  • Thursday, March 18, 2004 @ 1 am
  • Wednesday, March 24, 2004 @ 12:35 am
  • Sunday, March 28, 2004 @ 2:05 am

    Note: Check local listing for the times; the above might be just for Hawaii.

    The 92-minute documentary, which screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival and at Goes? Cinema Paradise Independent Film Festival, follows two young black men over a period of two years as they struggle to get out of the violent New York City projects. BLACK PICKET FENCE won two awards at the 2003 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, the largest of its kind.

    You can also buy the DVD at: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000093NT5/

    That?s it for now, Moon Yun signing out?

    moonyunchoi@aintitcoolmail.com

  • Readers Talkback
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      + Expand All
    • Feb. 11, 2004, 1:50 a.m. CST

      FIRST!

      by Lion Fire

      WOW FIRST!

    • Feb. 11, 2004, 4:52 a.m. CST

      Neato

      by RoninKengo

      I like the sound of this Blood of the Samurai. hmmmm

    • Feb. 14, 2004, 12:51 p.m. CST

      Blood of the $#!%-in-your-eye

      by HaChIrish

      This movie as well as the series sucks big duck egg! Acting is terrible, the script is terrible, the editing and camera angles do not allow for any type of dramatic response. The wire work is horrible (the "ninja girl" does a flying kick to a baddie and actually bounces off the guy!) Probably the funniest part of it all is the whole sensei-student relationship. You have a sensei that only speaks Japanese (the show uses sub-titles) and students who only speak Engrish but they both understand each other. There's a lot of talent coming out of Hawai'i and hopefully this show isn't labelled as the standard to judge all other films from Hawai'i. **note** I do like Ban Daisuke playing the Sensei and Egan Inoue as the top baddie. Maybe they should redo the series with just those two fighting it out.