All I Need is Love and Cinema Magic
Highlights of the 26th Asian American International Film Festival in New York at the Asia Society presented by Asian Cinevision and Cadillac
Many of the screenings were standing room only. Of the films in contention for the Emerging Director award, betrayal and loneliness resonate through Eric Bylers intricate relationship tale Charlotte Sometimes , in which the characters he's etched have a deep fear that they are too ugly to be loved, juxtaposed with those who have never been faced with that fear.
Michael Idemoto is Michael, an auto mechanic secretly enamored with his neighbor Lori (Eugenia Yuan). Loris self absorbed boyfriend Justin (Matt Westmore) leaves her so emotionally cold that she finds platonic comfort at Michaels apartment watching videos and sleeping over after she and Justin have had sex. The appearance of Darcy, (Jacqueline Kim) a woman of mystery, shakes this triangle to the core. Nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards, Charlotte Sometimes is currently playing art house theaters in Southern California, Honolulu, and Olympia, Washington and opens in New York on August 8th at Cinema Village. www.charlottesometimesthemovie.com
To read Asianconnections' exclusive interview with Eric, click here.
Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru's Flavors is a fresh and hip ensemble comedy which takes place during the wedding of a young South Asian man and a white woman setting the stage for four relationship stories in the lives of Indians in America. www.flavorsthemovie.com
And in Robot Stories , filmmaker Greg Pak weaves science fiction through four intimate multicultural tales about love, death, familyand robots. Tamlyn Tomita and James Saito star in My Robot Baby , as a couple who must care for a robot baby before adopting a human child; in The Robot Fixer , Wai Ching Ho plays a mother struggling to connect with her dying son by completing his toy robot collection; in Machine Love , Pak plays an office worker android who learns that he too, needs love; and in Clay , Sab Shimono plays an old sculptor who must choose between natural death and digital memory. www.robotstories.net
To read Asianconnections exclusive interview with Greg, click here.
Ron Domingos charming confection Chocolate is about a boy on a secret mission who tries to outwit his grandmother. Vincent Aus A Letter to Susu is a poetic rendering of a young man suffering from mental illness as he writes to his ex-lover reminiscing on their loving but stormy affair. In Tanuj Chopras Butterfly , a blind traditional Muslim man, calls a doctor to check up on his only daughter. The doctor is only allowed to examine the patient through a hole cut in a large curtain hanging in the middle of the room for she is promised to another. The two discover romance after learning they share a love of butterflies. Cynthia Lius Red Thread features Keiko Agena as a lonely playwright tired of dating Mr. Wrong. Her mother (Jodi Long) sets her up on a blind date with an actor (Eddie Mui), who turns out to be Mr. Wrong and Mr. Right.
Filmmakers had a variety of interactive panels and workshops to choose from. In a master class, producer Roger Garcia presented excerpts from director Wayne Wangs Chinese Box Home Movies , a special addition on the new Chinese Box, DVD due out in October. The footage is Wang's unique and expansive record of Hong Kong in the final days before 1997 and its handover to China, shot on mini-DV in late 1996, as part of pre-production for the director's feature Chinese Box starring Gong Li and Jeremy Irons.
There was a special screening of Chi-leung Lo' s Inner Senses , a haunting and graphic tale of true horror existing inside the human mind, starring the late Hong Kong film star Leslie Cheung. And from Japan, Kei Kumai's The Sea Watches (The Sea is Watching), is the story of young O-Shin who finds herself falling in love with a samurai that fate has brought to her brothel. Adapted from a script left behind by the late Akira Kurosawa, The Sea Watches is set in the quaint town of Okabasho, east of Tokyo Bay and brings light to Japan's oppression of women by social class and gender during the Edo period (pre-1868).
Documentaries of note:
Searching for Asian America produced by Donald Young, Sapana Sakya, and Kyung Sun Yu through the National Asian American Telecommunications Association (NAATA). The film follows the lives of four Asian Americans following their passions and breaking boundaries and stereotypes as they navigate their way. From Washington State governor Gary Locke, the first Chinese American to be governor on the continental U.S. has the potential to become the first Chinese American President, to the paths of "Angry Little Asian Girl" Korean American cartoonist and actress Lela Lee, and Martin Bautista and Jeffrey Lim, two Filipino doctors who set up shop in Guymon, Oklahoma, a predominantly white Midwestern town.
John Esakis Words, Weavings and Songs profiles three extraordinary Japanese American women who having survived the internment camps during WWII, continue to transcend those years with creative expressions by delving into the universal language of art.
For many Hawaiians, hula is not just a dance, but a way of life. In American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawaii , filmmaker Lisette Marie Flanary brings into focus master hula teachers living in California as they struggle to preserve their culture and bring the Hawaiian community together through a celebration of their heritage.
Environmental artist and filmmaker Kit Yin Snyder combines a first person narrative, traditional Chinese music, a series of experimentally conceived super impositions, and video footage from recent trips to China for her exploration of the conflicts and contradictions of "cultural state-lessness" she has experienced as a first generation Chinese-American immigrant in Double Exposure .
New York City, June 29, 2003
In a special ceremony at the Asia Society, filmmaker Greg Pak received the 2003 Emerging Director Award for his debut feature Robot Stories at the closing night party of the 26th Asian American International Film Festival presented by Asian Cinevision and Cadillac.
The ACV 2003 Emerging Director Award, a custom hand blown glass sculpture created by artist Arlan Huang, is awarded to a first or second time feature film director and is determined by Asian American International Film Festival audience votes.
For the past week I've been immersed in the magic of the moving image as I screened dynamic new works by Asian and Asian American filmmakers at the Asia Society and Flushing Town Hall. The festival opened with two-time academy award nominated filmmaker Mani Ratnams Kannathil Muthamittal (A Peck on the Cheek) . In the lavish musical drama, nine-year old Amuda's idyllic childhood in India is shaken upon discovering she is adopted on her ninth birthday. Determined to find her birth mother, Amuda's journey with her adoptive parents is a perilous one as their search takes them through war-torn Sri Lanka.
R. Madhavan, who plays Amudas father in the film, welcomed the packed house for the New York premiere. At the gala reception, special guests NYC Councilman John C. Liu, Commissioner Betty Wu, NYC Dept of Employment, Yue Sai Kan and Ray Young of Cadillac were on hand to congratulate Madahavan who was swarmed by fans vying for autographs.
Fashion designer Anna Sui added a dash of high style as hostess to the closing night screening of Mina Shums Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity . Backstage prior to the screening, Anna and Mina talked about being artists in the midst of Chinese family expectations.
For Long Life, Shums third feature, the award-winning filmmaker of Double Happiness returns to her hometownthe Cantonese-Canadian community of Vancouver. In this film about hope and possibility, newcomer Valerie Tian plays Mindy Ho, a Tao magic-obsessed twelve-year-old determined to change the fate of her single mom (Sandra Oh), an overworked and underpaid waitress at a local dim sum restaurant. Mindys dabbling with Taoist magic spells wreaks havoc: an aging man loses his job as a security guard, a butcher wins the lottery, and several romantic entanglements occur.
Many of the filmmakers and actors whose films were screened during the festival partied the night away in the Garden Court Cafe of the Asia Society. In addition to presenting films by cutting edge media artists of the Asian diaspora, ACV and the Asian American Journalists Association-NY Chapter announced the BILL J. GEE AWARD for Excellence in Media Arts Journalism.
Awarded annually, this $500 prize will recognize excellence in writing by a professional journalist or critic that highlights the work of Asian Americans in the media arts. This award honors the memory of Bill Gee, journalist and former Executive Director of Asian CineVision, who passed away in March 2003. Gee was the founding editor of CineVue, the critical media arts journal published by ACV, and a founding member of the Asian American Journalists Association-New York Chapter. The first award will be presented at the 27th Asian American International Film Festival in 2004.
Asian CineVision, Inc. (ACV) is a not-for-profit national media arts organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Asian and Asian-American media expressions. ACV's programs and services include film exhibitions, mentoring and educational outreach, training workshops, publications, and a media archive. AsianConnections was delighted to be a Media sponsor for Asian Cinevision's 26th Asian American International Film Festival, the oldest film festival dedicated to nurturing and celebrating the creative vision and voices of filmmakers of the Asian Diaspora presented by the Asia Society and Cadillac.