Monday, August 06, 2007

eve & the fire horse

Recent enthusings from the folks at IMAGE Journal about a Vancouver-lensed picture with east-meets-west, Buddha-meets-Jesus themes
Eve and the Fire Horse
An audience favorite at the Sundance Festival, Eve and the Fire Horse is a lovely debut film by Canadian Julia Kwan. The protagonist is a child caught between cultures and faiths in the Chinese immigrant community in Vancouver during the 1970s. Her parents and grandmother are still immersed in the old Chinese culture where remnants of Buddhism consort with a general emphasis on “luck” (something one can find with difficulty and easily lose). After her grandmother dies, Eve and her older sister Karena encounter Christianity in the form of the Catholic Church. Karena assumes the role of stern moralist, bent on a mission of evangelism and self-mortification. Eve, who is gifted with a hyper-active imagination and much less certainty than her sister, feels caught between the two cultures. That imagination of hers allows for some “magical realism” in the film, which comes off well, with the sort of seamlessness that good magical realism should possess. Karena is a divider of sheep and goats, but Eve is driven to be a reconciler. In one delightful scene Eve imagines Jesus dancing with Buddha in her living room at night. This sounds cuter and more precious than it actually is in the film. One of the refreshing things about Eve and the Fire Horse is that it refuses to engage in caricature, even in its portrayal of religion. The Christianity in the film can be moralistic and abstract, but it also impels its adherents to acts of love and generosity. The ensemble cast, including actors brought in from Hong Kong and Los Angeles, is terrific. And the soundtrack is pitch perfect. Eve and the Fire Horse is currently playing in a few art houses, but it will be available on DVD starting July 24.

Originally appeared in IMAGE Update, July 15 2007

Christianity Today Movies editor Mark Moring adds his own strong recommendation:
"What in the world is a Fire Horse? I didn't know either, till I watched a wonderful off-the-beaten path film recently called Eve and the Fire Horse, now available on DVD. One of the perks of my job is hearing about films that, as a "regular" movie fan, I probably would never know existed. Eve and the Fire Horse is one such hidden gem.

The movie had a limited 2006 release in Canada and has been on the festival circuit for the last couple of years, winning over audiences and critics alike. At Sundance, where it won the Special Jury Prize for World Cinema, Roger Ebert crowed, "Luminous! One of the most beloved films at Sundance this year. … Intelligent, delicate, and touching."

I couldn't agree more.

The film, something of a "spiritual-coming-of-age" story, centers on Eve, a precocious 9-year-old girl with a vivid imagination. Seems that she was born in the Year of the Fire Horse, which, according to ancient Chinese legend, means some serious bad luck. And indeed, after misfortune and tragedy strike her Chinese-Canadian family, young Eve begins to wonder about the Meaning of Life and other Big Questions.

Meanwhile, her older sister Karena has started looking into Christianity, and soon, statues of Jesus pop up in the family home—right next to the porcelain Buddha and several Chinese goddesses. As the young sisters—who dub themselves The Girls of Perpetual Sorrow—continue their quest for spiritual truth, we see it all unfold through Eve's wide-eyed, soul-searching wonder. Various religious figures "appear" to Eve here and there, the imaginative musings of a child that are reminiscent of another of my favorite films, 2005's Millions. And no, director Julia Kwan didn't steal any ideas from Danny Boyle's fine film; she wrote this script almost a decade ago, based in part on her upbringing as a Chinese-Canadian who grew up in a Buddhist family but also went to a Christian school.

It's a fascinating—and utterly delightful—study of what spiritual searching might look like through the eyes of the child, lest we've all forgotten. And if you're concerned about the spiritual mishmash of Christianity and Buddhism and ancient Chinese beliefs, don't be. There's a whole lot of truth, Real Truth, that shines through in the end—and I don't want to give away any more than that, other than to say this: Eve and the Fire Horse, though made a couple years ago, is one of the most enjoyable films I've seen in 2007. And the young actresses who play the sisters—Phoebe Jo Jo Kut as Eve and Hollie Lo as Karena—will steal your heart with their terrific performances."
Available at Videomatica

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