Thursday, November 1, 2012

Land of Eb [2012]

MPAA (Unrated would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing

Land of Eb (directed and cowritten by Andrew Williamson along with John Hill) which played recently at the 48th Chicago International Film Festival (Oct 11-25, 2012), is a gentle if sad story about family of immigrants from the Marshall Islands headed by grandfatherly Jacob (played by Jonithan Jackson) trying to make a life for themselves in the Kona District of the Big Island of Hawaii with still some hope of being able to send some support to their relatives living closer to home.

The story of Jacob and his family is one that many immigrants could certainly relate to.  They are "making do" in their new land.  They own a piece of land on that Big Island of Hawaii and are growing some coffee on it.  The adults also work various odd jobs (including harvesting the coffee of other farmers/planters on the island).  They have a house, one which one would imagine would be typical of the poorer strata of people living in rural Hawaii.  And they have a pickup truck and a couple of other older functional cars that help the various members of the family eek out the existence that they have.  The adults work, try to instill values in their kids.  THEY ALL GO TO A LOVELY CHURCH built and maintained by other Marshallese/Pacific Islander immigrants like themselves.

But they also struggle -- with a certain degree of racism against them (people try to cheat them, make occasionally make fun of their accents) AND with, well, consumerism.  As "functional" (even Spartan) as their existence would initially seem, it becomes clear that Jacob has become something of a "gadget guy."  He has a ham radio, which he, no doubt, bought initially with the intention of communicating with his far flung relatives closer to home.  Except, it becomes clear that he doesn't necessarily talk to them all that much on that radio, though he does use that ham radio talk to others (other enthusiasts).  Over the years, he's also bought all kinds of (relatively) inexpensive video equipment.  He's also built a number of "booms" and other cinematographic equipment himself, making it clear that he used to have some ambitions in utilizing all that equipment to do some film making/story telling.  We also see him trying to talk to some customer service agent somewhere in hopes of getting himself connected to the internet out there in the rural Kona District of the Big Island of Hawaii.  That however appeared to be "a bridge too far."  And indeed, most of these projects appeared to have become beyond his reach, because as the story progresses, we find that Jacob has come down with cancer.

So what now?  Unable to really help his folks back in his home country, and unable to realize those personal projects that he had embarked on in his new existence, he just struggles now to focus on providing for his immediate family living with him on the Big Island of Hawaii.  And he does manage to tell his granddaughter the story of The Land of Eb after which this film is named:  

Once upon a time a famine stuck the island where a young boy and his mother had lived.  And so the mother sent him out to a reef to dive for some clams so that they would have something to eat.  Well he spent the whole day diving, and sure enough by the end of the day, his boat was almost full of clams.  HOWEVER, he was he hungry.  And so he ended up eating almost all the clams and returned home to tell his mother that he found none.  He did the same for some time, each time returning home with next to nothing for his mother.  Finally, one day he had an accident and never returned.  And the entire village laughed at him because he was the only one who ever dove into "The Land of Eb" where there were enough clams for everyone and yet was somehow never able to provide for his mother.

My own folks were (Czech) immigrants as well ...


What would a Marshallese family be doing in Hawaii to begin with?  Well aside from the lure that Hawaii (part of the United States) would probably have on Pacific Islanders in any case, the Marshall Islands were the site of massive post-World War II nuclear tests conducted by the United States.  As a result of the radioactive fallout, many of Marshall Islanders were evacuated from their ancestral homes to become refugees.  Earlier in the year, I reviewed another film on the topic, a documentary called Nuclear Savage: The Islands of Project 4.1, which was about the plight of Marshallese Islanders who have been moved back and forth over decades as a result of many of their home islands having been contaminated by the tests.

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