Thursday, 12 March 2009

[158] San Francisco Asian American Film Festival

Likewise, the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival starts today, so here is my preview feature from this month's issue of Film and Festivals Magazine. See the online version here.


San Francisco Asian American Film Festival
March 12-22

With its healthy, vibrant mix of cultures and lifestyles, San Francisco has been heralded as one of the USA's most cosmopolitan cities. The popular West Coast tourist destination is also home to one of the country's biggest Asian American communities. Seeking to promote and present films created by and concerning this burgeoning demographic, the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival was set up in 1982. Organised by the Center for Asian American Media, this 27th iteration of the festival is holding events at a dozen venues across the San Francisco Bay Area, taking in stints in Berkeley (March 13-21) and San Jose (March 20-22) as well as San Francisco itself (March 12-19).

Opening with a gala premiere of My Dear Enemy (Meotjin haru, pictured), the latest work from South Korean filmmaker Lee Yoon Ki, the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival promises a lively and jam-packed mixture of screenings, panel discussions and non-film events. At the heart of this storm of cinema are the festival's two awards, for the best Asian American Narrative and Asian American Documentary features. Being shown in competition for the narrative category are a selection of USA-produced films that speak of the Asian American experience, such as Half Life, a mixture of live-action and animation written and directed by Jennifer Phang, which appeared at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008 and was described by Variety as 'an Asian-American Beauty'. Also up for the narrative award, and having its world premiere at the festival, is Karma Calling, which portrays the clash of Hindu and American cultures for a family living in New Jersey. In the documentary category, there are films such as Project Kashmir, Senain Kheshgi and Geeta V. Patel's documentary of the disputed region, and You Don't Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story, directed by Jeff Adachi, a biographical film about the Asian American actor, comedian and performer.

Alongside these in-competition screenings is an open selection of features produced outside of America in an International Showcase, and a set of short film programmes under titles such as 'Family Portraits' and 'The Secret Lives of Urban Space'. There is also a retrospective of genre-bender and J-horror pioneer Japanese filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who will be in attendance to discuss his latest film, the Cannes 'Un Certain Regard' award winning drama Tokyo Sonata, as well as an 'Artist in Focus: Observer Observed' mini-retrospective of the experimental media works of Takahiko Iimura.

These programmes will be backed up by individual events, such as a discussion with Academy Award winning director Ang Lee following a screening of his 2007 film Lust, Caution (Se, Jie), and 'An Afternoon with Screenwriter Alex Tse', where Tse will be going into detail about his work with Spike Lee on Sucker Free City and, most recently, adapting the much-loved graphic novel Watchmen with director Zack Snyder.

With all these and other non-film presentations, such as the Directions in Sound concerts and CAAM Interactive competitions, the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival is positively brimming with attractions and events. For more information, including interviews, trailers and other updates from the organisational team, consult the festival's official website at

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