Sunday, October 14, 2012

HIFF ’12: Blackbuster (short)

Here’s an everyman protagonist that would give Chris Dodd and the rest of the MPAA indigestion.  His name is Kainen and he sells bootleg DVD outside a rough and tumble Queensland pub.  If he is going to woo the barkeep’s daughter, he will have to draw on both his kung fu stock as well as the old fashioned Hollywood musicals he pretends he doesn’t have in S.F. Tusa’s short film, Blackbuster, which screens today as part of the 2012 Hawaii International Film Festival’s Pacific Showcase program.

In this day and age, anybody who makes a movie musical, even a ten minute one, deserves credit for their ambition.  Tusa also pays loving tribute to such classic but seemingly dissimilar films as Bruce Lee’s ill-fated Game of Death and West Side Story.  However, they both required some fancy footwork.  Kainen pines for Tanika, but is too shy to approach her.  Yet, the boorish behavior of two customers, tolerated by her mercenary father, might present him an opportunity to impress her.

If so, there could be a big dance number at the end.  Indeed, the music is rather brassy and quite catchy.  Considering what a big hit Bran Nue Dae was in Australia (but not exactly here in America), Blackbuster seems like a sure fire crowd pleaser for its domestic audience.  It is pleasant enough for international viewers as well, offering a few chuckles for martial arts fans.  Indeed, how can you not like a film that brings in Elvis impersonators and guys in bunny suits for the closing number?

Likable but not indispensible, Blackbuster screens today as part of the 2012 HIFF’s Pacific Showcase shorts programming block.  Known for its focus on Asian cinema, this year’s festival has a well stacked slate, including Christian Petzold’s Barbara, Yang Ya-che’s GF BF, Ron Morales’ Graceland, H.P. Mendoza’s I Am a Ghost, Yeun Sang-ho’s The King of Pigs, Wan Laiming’s 3D restored The Monkey King—Uproar in Heaven, Choi Dong-hoon’s Thieves, and Shȗichi Okita’s The Woodsman and the Rain, all of which are highly recommended.