The Mountain Thief (2010)

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Vancouver Asian Film Festival. I was there for three films: two shorts and one feature-length. All three were centered around Filipino culture and concerns, but they approached entirely different subjects. One talked about the plight of a live-in nanny who is finally reunited with her family. Another talked about a man going back to the Philippines for the first time in decades.

The feature film was The Mountain Thief, an almost documentary-like narrative by director Gerry Balasta. In it, we observe the lives of the people who live in Payatas, a shanty town located right in the middle of a giant garbage dump. These people literally live in the trash, scavenging through the debris for bits of scrap metal and other articles of value.

The incredible thing is that the “actors” in the film are real residents of Payatas. They underwent a brief acting workshop, were given their roles, and the movie was shot. Given these circumstances, it’s understandable that some of the exchanges feel somewhat “flat” and emotionless, but the tale lying underneath is truly haunting. It’s a real eye-opener, even more so than Slumdog Millionaire, especially when you consider these are real people living in really poor conditions.

The Mountain Thief isn’t exactly Oscar material and it has its share of shortcomings, but it’s the kind of movie that completely and totally melts your heart. The little boy who plays Ingo, who is mostly blind and suffers from hydrocephalus (water in the brain), is particularly compelling. We are all connected through our humanity.


Megamind (2010)

On an entirely different note from The Mountain Thief, we find an animated film called Megamind. As is par for the course these days, they’ve persuaded some heavy talent to provide the voices, including Brad Pitt, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Jonah Hill.

I’m not sure if there is something in the air lately, but it seems that more and more animated movies (supposedly geared toward children) are focusing on antiheroes. We already had a look at Despicable Me earlier this year and now we have another evil mastermind in the form of Megamind. The difference is that he’s an alien with a big blue head, but he still has a sidekick named Minion.

Going in, I was expecting much more of a back and forth between Megamind and city hero Metroman, but the latter falls off the radar pretty early in the film. We are left almost with a character piece and a “coming of age” story for the Ferrell-voiced antihero. There are some fun diversions in here, including dehydrating guns and laser sight, but Megamind is nowhere near the same league as an Incredibles or WALL-E in terms of actually great film-making.