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SIFF 2011 Movie Reviews: Saigon Electric, Whistleblower

Lookie, lookie, more movie reviews! Here are some films that are showing for the first time today!

Saigon Electric: This is a film that we've all seen before with tropes that have, quite honestly, been done to death. Rich boy dates poor girl. Cantankerous old man rediscovers himself and his compassion. Young naive girl moves to the big bad city. Local youth center is at risk from urban development and something must be done. What this film has going for it, however, is that it tells these stories very well. The down side is that there are no surprises; this road has been traveled down too many times before and this version of it takes no detours. Though this looks like a hip-hop dance movie, that really is only part of the overall story. A young ribbon dancer hoping to get into a prestigious school finds herself making friends with the disassociated youth at a local after-school education center. Her confidence in shreds, she turns her attention and her energy toward the people around her, and helps to bring about a transformation in the community. At its heart, this movie is fun and has a genuine energy and honesty to it that cuts through the cliches. The acting is fresh and for the most part convincing, only occasionally devolving into caricatures and stereotypes. I was genuinely entertained even if there weren't any surprises. Oh! And for those of you who want to see some hip hop dance, fear not. There is still plenty of that to be seen and enjoyed and it's all very impressive and entertaining. Vietnam/USA, 2011 (108 minutes) Director: Stephane Gauger Cast: Van Trang, Quynh Hoa, Khoung Ngoc, Zen 04, Viet Max, Phan Tan Thi, Elly Nguyen Director Stephane Gauger scheduled to attend May 28 & 30 screenings. Festival Screenings 7:15 PM Sat, May 28 Neptune Theatre 3:00 PM Mon, May 30 Pacific Place Cinemas 6:30 PM Wed, June 1 Everett Performing Arts Center

Whistleblower:�This is not an easy film to watch, as one might expect from a film about human sex trafficking. That said, it certainly does not go nearly as far as it could and as some films have done, but it more than clearly depicts the horror and the pattern of this brutal trade and exposes the horrifying truth of the abuse of power and the victimization of women that still goes on today. Rachel Weiss plays a police officer who is looking for a solution to her personal problems and thinks that she finds it in a UN peacekeeping posting in Yugoslavia. Expecting to work with other officers and skilled people she finds herself instead working with individuals that barely seem qualified for the duties they are given, people she soon realizes she can neither know nor trust. The handling of this film is definitely less 'indy' and much more straightforward and Hollywood. It's crafted like big screen release, with all the required pacing, shock points, and drama that that entails. This is really neither a detractor nor a boon to the film; it gives us a strong and familiar pattern to follow but that pattern in turn makes certain moments in the film painfully predictable. Regardless, the grim subject matter is more than enough to keep ones attention riveted to the screen, for better or worse. If nothing else it is a well-made film about a disturbing and important issue. That's reason enough for me to recommend it. It should prove a good wake up call for some and a good reminder for others. Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films Canada/Germany, 2010 (118 minutes) Director: Larysa Kondracki Cast: Rachel Weisz, Vanessa Redgrave, Monica Bellucci, David Strathairn, Nikolaj Lie Kaas Awards: Palm Springs Film Festival 2011 (Audience Award) Director Larysa Kondracki scheduled to attend May 28 & 29 screenings. Festival Screenings 6:45 PM Sat, May 28 Egyptian Theatre 1:00 PM Sun, May 29 Egyptian Theatre 6:30 PM Tue, May 31 Everett Performing Arts Center