Colma: The Musical (USA; 100 min.)

directed by: Richard Wong
starring: Jake Moreno; H.P. Mendoza; L.A. Renigen
Colma: the Musical

Michael says: "This past week at the Sunday Eye Opener, we got to act as a bit of an informal test screening audience for a new film called COLMA: THE MUSICAL. I was contacted by the film’s distributor, Eric d’Arbeloff, who asked if we could get a group of people together to screen the film and provide him with some feedback before it was locked into its final edit. We were happy to oblige.

"With a tiny budget, and a talented creative team, COLMA: THE MUSICAL tackles life after high school in the San Franciscan suburb of Colma, whose claim to fame is the number of graveyards in the city limits. Good friends Billy, Rodel and Maribel have just graduated high school and are entering the world of crappy retail jobs, college parties, and tentative steps toward their futures, all the while missing the comfort and structure of high school. Billy gets a job at the local clothing store in the mall, and auditions for a part in the community theatre’s new musical 'Friend Joseph.' He’s practices a self-proclaimed straight-edge life, eschewing alcohol, and is avoiding relationships by hanging on to a bad break-up with his ex, Jo-Ann. Rodel is gay, but hasn’t told his strict, taciturn father yet. His mother passed away a year before, and his family life is rather unsettled. Maribel seems to be content partying, hanging out with her friends, and enjoying life. Without the culturally-imposed structure of high school life, all three find themselves flailing around trying to discover what they want.

"The creative force behind COLMA seems to be H.P. Mendoza, who wrote the screenplay, the music and lyrics, and plays Rodel. He is a talented young man with a talent for songwriting. Aided by first-time director Richard Wong, COLMA: THE MUSICAL makes up for what it lacks in finances, by providing interesting visuals. There are several sequences in the film that benefit from Wong’s visual style and some inventive choreography, such as the powerfully moving graveyard dance scene, and a cleverly staged party scene early on. Much of the film has the expectant feeling of being trapped in limbo, aided by the perpetual fog bank that periodically shrouds the city. This feeling matches the hesitant, uncertain journeys of the main characters as they wrestle with their impending futures.

"While I quiet enjoyed COLMA, the film could definitely use a little tightening up. The first third of the movie takes its time honing its focus and leads to a little distraction until the characters settle into their storylines. There is a little too much emphasis on Billy, when the film eventually proves to have two main characters, Billy and Rodel. And the final scene/musical number doesn’t feel quite right. Other things work well, including the performances of the three leads, the emotional resonance of the more dramatic scenes, and the multi-ethnic make-up of the cast, which is noted, but not made an issue. With a little tightening up, COLMA: THE MUSICAL could find its audience and turn into a cult film for indie film fans. 4 cats (because some of those songs are just stuck in my head)"