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HULA GIRLS: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
In 1965, the Joban coal mine - the largest mine in mainland Japan - faces a crisis; massive layoffs are imminent and its once-thriving mainstay industry is barely hanging on. In a desperate move to revive the town, a plan is developed to create a "Hawaiian Paradise" in this cold, northern region. The featured attraction is to be a hula show, but there are no palm trees here, nor are there hula dancers, so Ms. Madoka (Yasuko Matsuyuki), a dance instructor is brought in from Tokyo. Once a leading performer, she at first looks down on the coal miners and their amateurish daughters, like spirited teenager Kimiko Tanikawa (Yu Aoi), but the girls' sincere dedication gradually rekindles a passion in her. Each dealing with their own harsh lives, the local girls find a new lease on life.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This bitter sweet dramedy sits alongside films such as The Full Monty as it follows a group of coalminers' daughters turning into hula girls. In a cold country coal mining town, options are few, and even fewer when the mine's work is shrinking. The story of the girls finding their hula dancing feet is the surface narrative, but I find the backdrop even more fascinating and impressive. Imagine a small mining town finding the invention, the chutzpah even, to build a Hawaiian Centre as a way of creating new jobs.

The film never strays from the proven formula for success in this genre, ensuring that the training is both funny and arduous; that there are angry opponents who scowl at the very idea; and that the gradual morphing of a dance troupe from a flock of clunky girls is developed with a good deal of emotional conflict.

Stand outs are the two women at the centre of the story; the imported dance teacher (Yasuko Matsuyuki) who has to overcome prejudice and resentment, and the teenager who becomes the lead dancer, Kimiko (Yu Aoi) despite her mother's strenuous objections. They provide plenty of warmth and tears, while other characters, including one of the men who learns to love palm trees, provide both comedy and conflict.

It's not ground breaking, but Hula Girls is engaging and entertaining.

Published: April 17, 2008

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

HULA GIRLS: DVD (M)
(Japan, 2006)

Hula gâru

CAST: Yasuko Matsuyuki, Etsushi Toyokawa, Yu Aoi, Shizuyo Yamazaki

PRODUCER: Hitomi Ishihara

DIRECTOR: Sang-il Lee

SCRIPT: Sang-il Lee, Daisuke Habara

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Hideo Yamamoto

EDITOR: Tsuyoshi Imai

MUSIC: Jake Shimabukuro

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Yohei Taneda

RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 5, 2007

PRESENTATION: 16:9; DD 2.0

SPECIAL FEATURES: Hula Girls - Another Story - making of; EPK (production footage); trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Shock

DVD RELEASE: April 12, 2008







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