The 26th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival ran from March 13 to 25. I saw 14 films (Long Story Short and Anna May Wong: Frosted Yellow Willows were 50 minute films paired together in one program). I saw a 15th film from SFIAAFF less then a week after the festival closed.
Blood Brothers with Qi Shu; Mandarin with subtitles; (2007) - Official Site
Death Note; Japanese with subtitles; (2006) - Official Site
Whispering Sidewalks with Betty Inada; Japanese with subtitles; (1936)
A Battle of Wits with Andy Lau; Mandarin with subtitles; (2006) - Official Site
I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK; Korean with subtitles; (2006)
881; Mandarin, Hokkien, & Cantonese with subtitles; (2007) - Official Site
West 32nd with John Cho & Grace Park; Korean and English with subtitles; (2007) - Official Site
A Gentle Breeze in the Village; Japanese with subtitles; (2007) - Official Site
Slingshot; Tagalog with subtitles; (2007)
Long Story Short - documentary; (2008)
Anna May Wong: Frosted Yellow Willows narrated by Nancy Kwan - documentary; (2007) - Official Site
Yasukuni - documentary; Japanese with subtitles; (2007) - Official Site
Wings of Defeat - documentary; Japanese with subtitles; (2007) - Official Site
Ping Pong Playa (2007) - Official Site
Behind Forgotten Eyes - documentary; Japanese & Korean with subtitles; (2007) - Official Site
A few other items of interests.
Death Note co-stars Takeshi Kaga whose best known role was as The Chairman in the Japanese version of Iron Chef. In this film, he plays a no-nonsense cop. It took me half the film before I stopped picturing him in his Michael Jackson costume, biting into a raw bell pepper with a Cheshire cat grin.
A Battle of Wits is not in the SFIAAFF film program. I arrived at the theater expecting to see Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay with John Cho & Kal Penn. That film was changed to a different venue and the replacement was A Battle of Wits.
Whispering Sidewalks star Betty Inada was a Sacramento native. A Nissei, she was unable to find work in the US, so she went to Japan to make films and dance/sing.
Death Note and A Battle of Wits were based on Japanese manga. A Battle of Wits was a Pan-Asian film with Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans in the cast and crew. Actually, there was even a black guy! Death Note is the first half of a two film series.
Behind Forgotten Eyes, Yasukuni, and Wings of Defeat were documentaries on WWII Japan. Behind Forgotten Eyes was about Korean "comfort" women. Wings of Defeat was made by a Japanese American director whose uncle was a surviving kamikaze pilot. Yasukuni was about the controversial Japanese shrine that is also the location of samurai sword manufacturer.
As I mentioned, one of the SFIAAFF films (Planet B-Boy) opened for a limited release soon thereafter. I saw it at the Lumiere Theater. Planet B-Boy (2007) is a documentary about the World Team Break Dancing Championships in Germany. I learned that the South Koreans are a break dancing powerhouse.
This year's festival had a number of standout films. I greatly enjoyed Wings of Defeat, Death Note, Whispering Sidewalks, Ping Pong Playa, Anna May Wong: Frosted Yellow Willows, and Long Story Short. My two favorites were West 32nd and A Gentle Breeze in the Village. West 32nd is about two Korean Americans - one a lawyer and one a gangster, that have to deal with racism in their respective professions. A Gentle Breeze in the Village was directed by Linda Linda Linda's Nobuhiro Yamashita. Like his previous film, A Gentle Breeze in the Village is a sweet examination of teenage angst. In this case, it's about a high school girl in a small town that falls for the new boy from Tokyo. If her first crush isn't tough enough to deal with, she has the added burden of small town gossip, her paramour's juvenile antics, her girlfriends' petty jealousies, and her father's past dealings with her boyfriend's mother.
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