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Fan filmmaking.

It's been around forever and most folks have no idea that it exists in such large numbers. I've been a fan since I met a few kids making some pretty good little movies that they would dub and pass around school and cons when I was in high school. I've been lucky enough to see a lot of these films at conventions and through film festivals, and have seen some classics and some real awful beasts.

Every few years a classic slips out, like Hardware Wars, and gets a lot of play. With easy DVD authoring software and web-based distribution channels, it's easier to get a film around and into the hands of film freaks. One film that is getting better and better known is Kwoon, a series of kung-fu adventures shot in San Jose.

Kwoon is the story of five Kung-Fu students who get into wacky adventures. Everything I expect from a fan film is there: familiar genre storylines, over-the-top characters, bad acting, and lots of cheap and easy jokes. Kwoon embraces each and every one of these norms and plays them even bigger, then mixes in some really good fight scenes. These guys are actual martial artists and they put on a hell of an exposition in the long and intricate fight scenes.

On the DVD, you get episodes 3 and 4, since they are working backwards towards 1 (they want to do that one right). Episode 3, "The Collection Agency," tells the tale of Onassis (Onassis Parungao), Chuck (Chuck Becker), and Todd (Todd Roy) who go to Fresno to collect on an outstanding sword order invoice.

The swords were ordered by the mob who need them to put together their death squad of killers. The guys take their road trip down to Fresno and the fights begin in Wild Water Adventure (which is actually in Clovis, about a block and a half from my Mom's place). The fights are a ton of fun, as they make full use of the empty water park. Todd does some classic physical comedy, and Don Hambey makes a great Bolo Yeung in his battle with Onassis, and the short ends with a bunch of water park babes hanging with the Kwoon crew.

Episode 4, "Mummy Dearest," takes place almost entirely in the Rosecrucian Museum in San Jose. The visual interest of the museum pieces adds a ton to this monster/kung-fu piece.

Hot chick scientists, potty humor, bloody nipples, and a couple of great fight scenes make it a highly entertaining way to spend twenty-four minutes.

Not even the filmmakers themselves would dare say these were high art, as they are nestled somewhere between low-brow and no-brow on the intelligencia meter. No matter, these are fun little pieces that are well worth the time and money. I laughed hard, even if I could see the joke running headlong at me, and the fights have a certain amateurish quality, but they are really entertaining.

Fan filmmaking has been the beneficiary of much of the consumer technology grace. Camcorders allowed for an explosion in the number of fan films in the 1980s, and we are seeing an even bigger explosion today with the availability of digital video cameras and easy editing software.

Kwoon, shot with the glorious Canon XL-1, is a high step above many of the other fan films I have seen over the years. While still not at the level of films shown in theaters, it is more than perfect to be on your TV.

I always say that you should seek out films like Kwoon whenever you can. While they will never compete with the big budget blockbusters, many are like Kwoon and entertain for the entire running time.

Chris Garcia


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