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A Promise Kept: A scene from "Elephant Song"

Films from Mongolia, India, Asia, Japan and the Philippines are highlighted at Pacific Rim Festival

By Richard von Busack

GOOD NEWS: free movies! Oh, by the way, they're from Mongolia. Actually, the Pacific Rim Film Festival (May 18-23) offers features from India, Asia, Japan and the Philippines, and one, Naran, from lonely Mongolia. Some of the many highlights of the ninth annual event follow (all the screenings take place at the UA Riverfront Cinema in Santa Cruz, except when noted).

On the Beat: Advance word is especially good for this dry political comedy about a Beijing cop frustrated by the lack of American-style criminals; beguiled with dreams of the TV show Hunter, he wakes to find himself killing dogs for the city. May 21, 9:30pm; May 22, 7pm, at the Fox Theater in Watsonville.

Bombay: A Romeo and Juliet story set against the Bombay riots in the cusp of 1992-3, when Muslims and Hindus killed nearly a thousand people. May 19, 7:30pm; May 20, 9:45pm; May 21, 1pm; May 22, 9:15pm.

My Sweetheart Got Married: This Vietnamese offering takes place in that country immediately after the war. Director Vu Chau's film follows the reunion of a couple split up by the conflagration and studies the obstacles between them and their happiness. May 20, 2:30pm; May 21, 7:30pm; May 22, 3:15pm.

Elephant Song: A short and sweet Japanese film starring Miyuki Matsuda as Kanako, a waitress fulfilling a promised errand to bury an elderly friend named "Uncle Chestnut" out in the countryside. Having no car of her own to perform the errand, she gets help from a flower-delivery man. May 19, 9:45pm; May 20, 1pm.

Naran: This all-ages Japanese/Mongolian co-production takes place around an annual horse-racing festival. One of the aspirants in the event is Naran (Ganboldin Baasankhuu), the film's 8-year-old hero. May 19, 2:15pm; May 20, 4:45pm; May 21, 8pm, at the Fox Theater in Watsonville; May 22, 11am and 1pm.

Words, Earth and Aloha: Sources of Hawaiian Music: The festival ends with a documentary by Eddie and Myrna Kamae, written by James D. Houston. Hawaiian music has been a primary force for cultural continuity in the presence of untold millions of tourists and new arrivals. Interviewees and musicians (including Jacob Maka, Alfred Alohikae, Sam Nainoa, Queen Lili'uokalani, Mama Lydia Hale) discuss their music, particularly its kauna, or hidden meaning--Hawaiian music being full of double- and often single-entendre lyrics. May 23, 3pm ($5) and 7:30pm ($12 screening and reception).

In addition to the screenings, the festival is also sponsoring the Satyajit Ray in America Conference on May 18, 1-4:30pm, in Room 105, Oakes College, UC-Santa Cruz. Nationally known critics Michael Sragow and Terence Rafferty of the New Yorker and directors Philip Kaufman )The Unbearable Lightness of Being) and Waris Hussein (the upcoming A Suitable Boy) will discuss the work of the master director of The Apu Trilogy. The next day, at noon, at the UA Riverfront, there will be a screening of Broken Journey, directed by Sandip Ray and based on his father's screenplay and notes.

The Pacific Rim Film Festival takes place May 18-23 at the UA Riverfront Cinema, 155 S. River St., Santa Cruz. Admission is free except for the closing-night film. Call 408/469-6263 for schedule details.

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