Thursday, April 7, 2011

2011 San Francisco International Asian American Fiim Festival (Part 1)

The 2011 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) ran from March 10 to 20. The main venues were the Sundance Kabuki, Viz Cinema, the Landmark Clay, the Castro, PFA and Camera 12 Cinemas. I saw films at each venue except the Viz. The festival screened in San Francisco from March 10 to 17 and San Jose from March 18 to 20. It ran in Berkeley from March 11 to 19.

Last year, I donated money to the Center for Asian American Media which is the parent organization of SFIAAFF. My donation entitled me to a festival pass which was good for admission to all screenings this year except the Opening Night film, San Jose Opening Night film and the San Francisco Closing Night film. The Opening Night film was West is West which I saw at the Mostly British. The Closing Night film was Surrogate Valentine which I was able to catch in San Jose. The San Jose Opening Night film was Upaj a documentary about Indian classical dancing. That was the only screening so I missed Upaj.

With my pass in hand (which I discovered was very rare particularly when compared to Cinequest and other film festivals), I was able to see 31½ programs. ½ because I caught the second half of a short film program.

I watched the following feature length films.

One Kine Day with Jolene Blalock; (2010) - Official Website
The House of Suh; documentary; English and Korean with subtitles; (2010) - Official Website
Histeria; Malay with subtitles; (2009)
It's a Wonderful Afterlife starring Shabana Azmi, Goldy Notay, Sendhil Ramamurthy & Sally Hawkins; directed by Gurinder Chadha; (2010) - Official Website
Saigon Electric; Vietnamese with subtitles; Official Website
Resident Aliens; documentary; (2011)
Nang Nak; Thai with subtitles; (1999)
Almost Perfect starring Kelly Hu, Ivan Shaw, Roger Rees & Edison Chen; directed by Bertha Bay-Sa Pan; (2011) - Official Facebook
Bend It Like Beckham starring Parminder K. Nagra, Keira Knightley & Jonathan Rhys-Meyers; directed by Gurinder Chadha; (2002) - Official Website
Clash; starring Thanh Van Ngo & Johny Tri Nguyen; Vietnamese with subtitles; (2009) - Official Website
Raavanan; starring Chiyaan Vikram, Aishwarya Rai & Prithviraj; Tamil with subtitles; (2010)
Abraxas; Japanese with subtitles; (2010) - Official Website
Dooman River; Korean and Mandarin with subtitles; Official Website
Open Season; documentary; (2011) - Official Facebook
Anna May Wong: In Her Own Words; documentary with reenactments; (2010)
Dance Town; directed by Jeon Kyu-Hwan; Korean with subtitles; (2010)
Living in Seduced Circumstances; directed by Ian Gamazaon; Vietnamese with subtitles; (2010) - Official Website
Passion; documentary; Mongolian with subtitles; (2010)
The Taqwacores; (2010) - Official Website
Piano in a Factory; directed by Zhang Meng; Mandarin with subtitles; (2010)
Made in India; documentary; English and Hindi with subtitles; (2010) - Official Website
When Love Comes; Mandarin with subtitles; (2010)
The Fourth Portrait; directed by Chung Mong-Hong; Mandarin with subtitles; (2010)
Surrogate Valentine starring Goh Nakamura; Chadd Stoops & Lynn Chen; directed by Dave Boyle; (2011) - Official Website
Bi, Don't Be Afraid!; Vietnamese with subtitles; (2010)
Break Up Club starring Jaycee Chan & Fiona Sit; directed by Barbara Wong; Cantonese with subtitles; Official Website

A few of the films were preceded by short films.

Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded; directed by Elaine Kim; documentary; 30 minutes; (2010) - Official Facebook
Fumiko Hayashida: The Woman Behind the Symbol directed by Lucy Ostrander; documentary; 15 minutes (2010) - Official Website

Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded preceded Anna May Wong and Fumiko Hayashida preceded Resident Aliens.

The 2011 SFIAAFF had a full line-up of short film progam; most of which I was able to catch.

Life, Interrupted
Room #11; Mandarin with subtitles; (2010)
Pink Chaddis; documentary; English & Hindi with subtitles; (2010)
My Name is Mohammed; Arabic with subtitles; (2009)
Made in China; documentary; Mandarin with subtitles; (2010)
Lychee Thieves; (2010)

Chicken Proof
Chubby Can Kill; Cantonese with subtitles; (2010)
Junko's Shamisen; Japanese with subtitles; (2009) - Official Website
Masala Mama; Tamil & Hokkien with subtitles; (2010)
Gophers in Space; animated; (2009)
Hang in There; animated; (2009)
To Wander in Pandemonium; English & Korean with subtitles; (2009) - Official Website
The Godmother; (2010) - Official Website
Amazonia; animated; (2010) - Official Website

3rd I South Asian Int'l Shorts
Kunjo; Rjasthani & Punjabi with subtitles; (2009) - Official Website
You Can't Curry Love; (2010) - Official Website
Grant St. Shaving Co.; English & Hindi with subtitles; (2010)
Raju; (2011)
Victor Ramirez, Assesino; (2010)

Silent Rituals and Hovering Proxies
Inhalation; Mandarin with subtitles; (2010)
Solitary Moon; (2010)
Nature On Its Course; animated; (2009) - Official Website
Linger; Mandarin with subtitles; (2009) - Official Blog
Hovering Proxies; (2010) - Official Website
A Loud Quiet; Mandarin with subtitles; (2010)
Bicycle; Japanese with subtitles; (2009) - Official Website
Rare Fish; Indonesian with subtitles; (2009)
Triangle; English & Korean with subtitles; (2010) - Official Website

Play/House Shorts
Firecracker; (2010)
Andy; Korean with subtitles; (2010)
Once Upon a Rooftop; documentary; Cantonse with subtitles; (2010)
Withholding; (2010) - Official Website
Top Spin; documentary; (2010)

Tainted Love
The Bus Pass; (2010)
To Get a Date; documentary; (2010)
Boys & Girls; (2010)
Dirty Bitch; Mandarin with subtitles; (2009)
Yulia; animated; (2009) - Official Website
A Lover's Fragment; Korean with subtitles; (2010)

Tainted Love was the short program that I only saw half the programs. I walked in while A Lover's Fragment was playing and walked out in the middle of Yulia. I completely missed four short films in the program.

The short film I regret missing in hindsight was part of Living Life Large. It was a 16 minute Japanese film called Grandpa's Wet Dream. I think the synopsis says it all.

Shigeo Tokuda, a 76-year-old hard-working family man, pursues a new passion in order to create a lasting legacy: starring in adult films. Tokuda grapples with his double-life in this humorous and genuine portrait.


Despite watching over 60% of the programs offered by SFIAAFF, I missed nearly half the festival award winners.

2011 Comcast Narrative Competition
Best Film - The Imperialists Are Still Alive!
Special Jury Prize - The Taqwacores

2011 Documentary Competition
Best Film - Made in India

Visual Achievement Award - Summer Pasture

Award for Achievement in Citizen Journalism - Open Season

2011 Verizon Audience Awards
Best Narrative Feature - Surrogate Valentine
Best Documentary Feature - One Voice

2011 Loni Ding Award in Social Issue Documentary - Once Upon a Rooftop


Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded generated some controversy. Quentin Lee, director of The People I Slept With (which played at the 2010 SFIAAFF) and a memeber of the 2011 Narrative Competition Jury, objected to the use of footage from People I've Slept With in Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded. He claims director Elaine Kim did not get his permission to use the footage. Kim who attended the screening of Dragon which I attended said she removed the clip from the film out of consideration for Lee. She felt she was entitled to use it as part of the fair use doctrine.

In response, Lee, Lela Lee, Justin Lin, Karin Anna Cheung, Koji Steven Sakai and Stanley Yung (who are associated with Better Luck Tomorrow, First Day of School and The People I've Slept With) wrote an editorial to the San Francisco Chronicle objecting to her use of their footage in her film. The editorial was posted on March 19 which was the penultimate day of the festival. Editorial Page Editor John Diaz wrote a response which supported Kim in the March 20 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.


I don't recall how I learned this tidbit but actress Lynn Chen (Saving Face, The People I've Slept With and Surrogate Valentine) has a blog called The Actor's Diet. I've frequently appreciated her performances which seem to always be in supporting roles. I'd like to see her in a lead role.

Anyway, Chen seemingly photographs every bit food she eats and posts the photos to The Actor's Diet. Having read several entries now, I discovered that she used to have an eating disorder so the blog, and most likely the photos, are therapeutic. She is as compulsive about documenting her food intake as I am about documenting my film viewing.


This post has exhausted me. I need to split in two. Next time, I will write a little about the films that made an impression on me at the 2011 SFIAAFF.

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