How It’s New York: because both films take place in the Bronx, NY.
Ok, I am a martial artist, specializing in Chinese martial arts. Those of us studying now have heard the stories about the Chinatown no-holds-barred, bar-knuckle, bloody backroom competitions: they’re part of NYC martial arts “lore”.
But Director/Writer Eddie Fernandez says that not only were they real, they are still alive and “kicking”. And he has, through his production company Eternal Eye Entertainment, made these two movies, the short “Martial World” (2012) and full length Final Level (2011) to corroborate his claims. His reasons? One is his great love of martial arts. Another is his impatience with the more esoteric treatment given martial arts in recent commercial films. According to Fernandez’ movies, there is still all-out fighting, jealousy between martial arts schools, and high-noon-like showdowns to see who’s best.
And Fernandez and his partner (and actress wife) Sybelle Silverphoenix, have truly worked hard to craft some convincing illustrations of this. Never having made a film before, they cut their teeth making Martial World, an humorous first-time-out contribution with amateur performances (except Silverphoenix), but with surprisingly interesting martial arts “lessons” courtesy of Primadonna, character “Alex Deleon”.
For their second movie, Final Level, which they began making a few years later in 2008, they “evolved” both the story line and their knowledge of filmmaking: they schooled themselves using Sony Vegas Pro, an editing software program, and dubbed all the sound – including the dialogue – to impressive results. They also enlisted some impressive young talent, including the gifted and charismatic actress – and previous non-martial artist – Karina Colon as Alex Deleon, toothsome Guile Branco as Bryan, her student and possible love interest, and exotic Sybelle Silverphoenix, who stepped into her expanded MoonCat role in Final Level to rescue the production after the actress playing MoonCat quit. The elaborate story successfully grabs the imagination on many levels: learning martial arts, detective work/who-done-it, a sort-of love story, even some occult leanings. The filming and editing were sophisticated and kept the pace lively and tight. And Moby – yes, that Moby – supplied some music!
I am still not convinced that most martial artists are interested in violent “showdowns”: we come in many shapes, sizes, and have many reasons for learning what we do. And I would never wish to prepare a young student to live like that, either. But it is interesting to see the efforts of people like Silverphoenix and Fernandez, whose love of martial arts is obvious, and whose aptitude and talent for filmmaking will no doubt take them far.
Special mention need to be made of The After-Set Independent Film Program, who operates this weekly screening of films for free in order for filmmakers to showcase their work to an audience. The program is part of After Set, the world’s leading private online community for professionals working in the film industry. There is a small online admission fee, and they give a weekly contribution to Healing The Children Northeast, an organization that helps doctors travel abroad and operate on children. For more information, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org