Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Over the past three days, for me and my wife Silvia (the Chi Reader in the lobby), we have been burning that mid-night oil having the most awesome time you can imagine, getting home around 1:00 am every night. By the way what day is it today?

Silvia gave readings to over 75 people, offering advice on emotional issues, physical injuries and the most common problem dehydration, as she would also explain the importance of what color is best for chi flow and how to drink water.

When I was not watching a film, I’d be doing bean detox and handing out the ancient Chinese secret of Chi Twigs, some say Chi Sticks, but if you say that too fast, it sounds like a concession stand snack.

We’re also happy that we have been able to help out the SDAFF volunteer staff who in my opinion have been doing a bang up job….dudes and dudettes, you guys rock and roll.

This is the first in a series of 8-track flashback blogs, no not stuff from the 1970s, but bits and pieces of stuff that I have not been able to yak about yet that hopefully will add flavor to the festival’s events and share stuff about the films and interview bits that you may not have already heard about.

So in the words of WAYNE’S WORLD, when they do that funky flashback special effect…doodely doot, doodely doot, doodely doot.

I am so happy that Dustin Nguyen’s film LEGEND IS ALIVE finally arrived from Singapore, Friday, Oct. 16th, one day after it was supposed to show on opening night. It would have been a shame to deprive audiences of such a great film.

But it arrived with an unbeknownst beckoning of broached beggared and brandished absences that boggled our brains after Nguyen bestowed upon of us at the break.

I hear some of you perhaps saying….”What?” Read on.

So Sunday afternoon, Oct. 18th, 2009 was the West Coast premiere of LEGEND IS ALIVE, Nguyen’s second martial arts spectacle where he plays a mentally challenged martial artist named Long who is taught the Vietnamese martial art of Tay Son Binh Dinh as a means to cope with his mental deficiencies.

In order to inspire Long to do good, his female martial arts teacher tells Long he is the son of Bruce Lee but that he should never practice martial arts to hurt people only to use them to protect those who are in need. Of course events conspire that lead him to break out of his shell and do the right thing.

Of note, Tay Son Binh Dinh originates from Binh Dinh province and although the history is unclear two major practitioners of the art led what is known as the Tay Son Uprising that began in 1771 and ended in 1802, where during these times King Nguyen Hue fought and defeated Ching Dynasty invaders from China.

Although known for its aggressive sword fighting techniques, it is one of the few Vietnamese martial arts that women were encouraged to learn thus the smart choice of making Long’s teacher in the film a woman.

After the film, SDAFF’s Phil Luque chatted with Nguyen.

Grinning a grinly grin, Nguyen grunted, “Hmm, the ending of the film has been changed.”

The version of the film sent to the festival was from Singapore and apparently the censors of the movie over there decided to re-edit the film without telling anyone.

As you can imagine, any country that will arrest you for trying to sneak chewing or bubble gum into the country is going to take out a sizeable bite of the film, chew it up and swallow it, because spitting out gum in public is punishable with execution (well not really, just up to one year in prison and/or a public flogging).

Well, who ever edited this film deserves a flogging with a piece of sticky gum and a prison sentence of watching Wrigley’s Chewing Gum commercials for a year.

Nguyen was attracted to the story sharing that in the film Bruce Lee is not the legend that is alive but that the living legend is the mother’s unrequited love for her child who is sick due to the effects of agent orange.

The herbicide agent orange, part of the United States government's initiation to create rainbow chemicals (named by using a color to describe the compound), was used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam war to defoliate Vietnam’s jungles in order to eliminate hiding places for the North Vietnamese and to also destroy food crops that fed their armies.

After Nguyen filled us all in on the missing parts, certain parts of the film made more sense.

It is important to note that this is not a kung fu or martial arts film and when Nguyen signed on to do the film it had very few fights. But as the project moved along, the director kept adding in more action scenes and soon it had received the label of being a martial arts film.

What is so refreshing about Nguyen’s performance is that the fights look nothing like what he did in his first martial arts film THE REBEL and that is a testament to him and the fight choreographers of the film.

Nguyen closed the by saying that this was physically the hardest film he ever worked on as you can tell that the main villain knew nothing about martial arts or how to fight on camera as he constantly kept hitting Nguyen for real.

But at the end of the day, it was not the fighting that made the film, but the story and Nguyen’s performance. Cheers, lad.

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