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Like Josef von Sternberg’s island adventure Anatahan (1953), Raya Martin’s weather-beaten melodrama is one hallucinatory emotional hothouse. During the 1898 American invasion of the Philippines, a mother (Tetchie Agbayani) and son (Sid Lucero) retreat to the woods. They eke out a meager existence until another woman (Alessandra de Rossi) arrives and pushes the family dynamic in a more feral direction. The 77-minute feature is divided into two parts, separated by a mock newsreel (at once satirical and horrific) that portrays a murder committed by an American soldier as if it were a Keystone Cops short. The comic and the tragic constantly intertwine: Martin uses the vernacular of early silent and sound films to explore how this particular bit of history is remembered and resonates through to the present. He saves his biggest flourish for the finale, when color intrudes on the elegant black-and-white aesthetic with an enlightening, blood-red vengeance. Sunday, Oct 4 at 3pm—Keith Uhlich

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New York Film Festival 2009

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