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Ms Yun Moon Choi reports in on With Honors Denied, and Small Voices...

Father Geek here with our lovely Island reporter Moon Yun and a couple of reviews of films you should seek out...

Moon Yun Choi reporting in from Hawaii... As promised, here’s a review of that wonderful Filipino film – “Small Voices” – that I learned about at the Maui Film Festival, but didn’t get a chance to see at the event. I finally got a hold of the screener and boy was it everything the critics and festival audiences were touting about.

Don’t worry if your town doesn’t have a festival. “Small Voices” rolls out in art house theaters across North America starting Oct. 10. Videos will also be available. I also watched the screener of a short documentary from MFF. “With Honors Denied” is a little harder to catch but it’s going to screen at the Palm Springs International Festival of Film Shorts September 16 – 22 and at the Newport Beach Film Festival (April 2004).

“Small Voices” is directed by Gil M. Portes.

Portes and Ray Cuerdo are the co-producers. The screenwriters are Portes, Adolfo B. Alix, Jr. and Senedy H. Que.

There hasn’t been a good Filipino film making the film fest circuit rounds in about 10 years. “Small Voices” (Mga Munting Tinig) is an indie feature that broke that long drought by becoming a bit hit on the festival circuit and for its numerous awards.

A simple movie about an idealistic schoolteacher who sets out to make a difference in the poverty stricken rural area of the Philippines, “Small Voices” has given a voice to Filipino cinema. The 109-minute feature is a simple story about Melinda, young school teacher (played by rising star Alessandra de Rossi), who’s assigned to teach elementary school in a poor remote village in the Philippines.

Melinda, moved by the plight of her students, sets out to make a difference with the children, their parents and the village. She tries to break the cycle of poverty by inspiring her students and their parents to dream again. In the movie she tells her students that poverty is not an obstacle to your dreams.

This causes a lot of conflict with the headmistress of the school and the parents. Because the parents feel that they will always be in poverty, they feel their children best serves the family by working in the fields rather than going to school. Portes, an acclaimed Filipino filmmaker, gives a realistic portrayal of the rural areas of the Philippines.

Conflict mounts when Melinda decides to enter her students in a singing contest. Headstrong and determined, she overcomes the objections of the parents and the headmistress. Throughout the practice, Melinda tells her students that it doesn’t matter whether they win or lose but that they gave it their all. What’s most important to her is that she provides hope and inspiration even during bleak situations.

Do they win the singing contest? Before the winners are announced, the film cuts to Melinda saying goodbye to her students. She has decided to try out working in the U.S. You could say they won because what they learned from her was hope.

The winners are announced in the end. But by that time the prize doesn’t matter as much because Melinda’s students, by overcoming tremendous hurdles just to get this far, are already winners. The singing by Melinda’s students is beautiful. In the end, you get a heartwarming, poignant and uplifting film.

“Small Voices” is the first indigenous, all Philippine-produced and all Tagalog speaking film to be released in the U.S. and Canada. Check out photos at

Access movie website via (it’s a little tricky. You may have to type in address if it doesn’t link directly.)

“With Honors Denied” – a film by Mimi Gan and Jim Dever.

Narrated by George Takei who’s best known for his portrayal of Mr. Sulu on “Star Trek. Photographer – Tom Voelk.

At first I thought “With Honors Denied” was going to be just another documentary about the Japanese-American internment during World War II. After screening the short documentary, I was taken by not only how good it was but by its unique story.

“With Honors Denied” focuses on the true story of Yuki Kubo Shiogi, a Japanese-American woman who was only in high school when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Shiogi was a bright student at Fife High School and class salutatorian of the class of 1942. She was looking forward to her mother attending the graduation. She wanted to make her proud. Her mother, a Japanese immigrant, had a hard life. Her dreams crumbled before her when she and other Japanese-American were sent to internment camps. Instead of a graduation ceremony, her diploma was passed through a barbed wire.

To this day, the elderly Shiogi holds no bad feelings. She has put it behind her and accepts it as part of history. Still, her son Michael wants to reclaim the special day that was stolen decades ago.

He arranges to have his mother and her classmates participate in the graduation ceremony of Fife High’s class of 2002. At last we see Shiogi addressing the class like she should have during her original graduation ceremony. Her only regret was not having her mother present. But it was really moving to see her march up to the stage with her grandchildren watching.

“With Honors Denied” barely runs 16 minutes. However, during that short time, we see a story come full circle. The documentary, shot in color with black and white footages, had a great camera and editing work. I noticed that right away since I knew the documentary was shot by a broadcast photographer.

For those not able to attend the festivals, they are working on the possibility of DVD/videotape release. For updates, check out their website at

In the meantime, the film will eventually air on KING TV (Seattle) and possibly other Belo-owned stations across the country.

Moon Yun signing out …

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