From new works by familiar faces to debuts by fresh new voices, the 26th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) offers another stellar lineup of the best in Asian American and Asian cinema. The Festival runs March 13-23, 2008 in San Francisco, Berkeley and San Jose and is pleased to return to the newly remodeled Sundance Cinemas Kabuki (1881 Post Street, San Francisco), as well as adding the Landmark Clay Theater (2261 Fillmore Street, San Francisco) to its family of venues in San Francisco. Film screenings, filmmaker tributes and panel discussions will also take place at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street in San Francisco; Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft Way in Berkeley, and the Camera 12 Cinemas, 201 South Second Street in San Jose.
Tickets go on sale beginning February 18, 2008. For more information or tickets please visit www.asianamericanmedia.org or telephone 415-865-1588.
Big Nights, and a Spotlight on Wayne Wang
The Festival opens with A THOUSAND YEARS OF GOOD PRAYERS, which marks pioneering Chinese American filmmaker (and San Francisco resident) Wayne Wang’s return to Asian American storytelling, fifteen years after THE JOY LUCK CLUB. The screening of the film-a quiet, Ozu-esque tale of a Chinese father who visits his estranged daughter in America-at the Castro Theatre will be followed by an opulent Gala reception at the Asian Art Museum. The film also kicks off the Festival’s Spotlight on Wayne Wang, featuring an intimate conversation with the director as well as screenings of THE JOY LUCK CLUB, LIFE IS CHEAP…BUT TOILET PAPER IS EXPENSIVE and THE PRINCESS OF NEBRASKA, a companion film to A THOUSAND YEARS.
Closing the Festival will be Tony Ayres’ Australian feature THE HOME SONG STORIES, a sumptuous chronicle of a young Chinese family valiantly trying to keep itself together despite the complicated world around them. The magnificent Joan Chen (also a San Francisco resident) delivers an award-winning performance as a mother capable of both explosive anger and sultry decadence. The screening at the Sundance Cinemas Kabuki will be followed by the Closing Night Party at Bambuddha Lounge.
Centerpiece, Special Presentations and a Tribute to Edward Yang
The Centerpiece Presentation is Michael Kang’s (THE MOTEL, SFIAAFF ’05) second feature, WEST 32ND, a stylish Koreatown noir set in the underbelly of New York, starring John Cho and Grace Park. As part of a new wave of American productions undertaken by Korean film companies, the film highlights a salient motif throughout the program: the deepening relationship between Asian American filmmakers (and actors) and Asia. Even the 1936 Japanese jazz musical WHISPERING SIDEWALKS-this year’s “Out of the Vaults” selection-features Betty Inada, a Japanese American from Sacramento who became a star in Japan. The rare archival print, restored by the Pacific Film Archive, will be presented for the first time with English subtitles.
Special Presentations include Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg’s HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY, the hilarious and raunchy sequel to the hit stoner comedy HAROLD & KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE starring John Cho and Kal Penn, and a special sing-along presentation of Richard Wong’s popular COLMA: THE MUSICAL, a film that premiered at the Festival in 2006 before becoming a sensation on the festival circuit.
The late Edward Yang, acclaimed Taiwanese filmmaker who passed away in 2007, will be remembered with screenings of THE TERRORIZER, YI YI: A ONE AND A TWO (perhaps his best known work) and A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY, his rarely screened masterpiece. An impeccable storyteller, Yang was considered one of the foremost figures in the Taiwanese New Wave movement.
Best in Asian American and Canadian Cinema Featured in the Competitions
The Festival’s competition sections-in many ways the heart of the program-feature a record nine world premieres and two U.S. premieres, and showcase the best in Asian American and Canadian cinema. Award winners will be announced before the Closing Night screening at Sundance Cinemas Kabuki on March 20.
The Narrative Competition offers nine titles, including five world premieres. Many works from familiar directors, including NEVER FOREVER from Gina Kim (INVISIBLE LIGHT, SFIAAFF ’04), PING PONG PLAYA from Jessica Yu (THE PROTAGONIST) and OPTION 3 from Richard Wong (COLMA: THE MUSICAL). Others are met with auspicious debut works like Richie Mehta’s AMAL, Ron Morales’ SANTA MESA, KISSING COUSINS from Amyn Kaderali (CALL CENTER) and more. The jury will consist of filmmaker and playwright Philip Kan Gotanda (LIFE TASTES GOOD), producer Gina Kwon (ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW) and screenwriter Iris Yamashita (LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA). Yamashita will also participate in a conversation session about the business and craft of screenwriting.
The Documentary Competition offers seven titles, including three world premieres. The films encompass a wide range of subjects like fortune cookies (Derek Shimoda’s THE KILLING OF A CHINESE COOKIE), breakdancers (Benson Lee’s PLANET B-BOY) and kamikaze pilots (Risa Morimoto’s WINGS OF DEFEAT.) Veteran documentarian Christine Choy returns with LONG STORY SHORT, an insightful portrait of a popular husband-and-wife nightclub act of the ’40s and ’50s. The film will be paired with Elaine Mae Woo’s ANNA MAY WONG: YELLOW FROSTED WILLOWS, the long-awaited documentary about the subject of our posthumous Spotlight in 2004. The jury will be PBS’ Kathryn Lo, filmmaker Stanley Nelson (JONESTOWN: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF THE PEOPLE’S TEMPLE) and filmmaker/scholar/writer Celine Parreñas Shimizu.
A Spectrum of the Finest Cinema From Asia Featured in the Showcases
Five acclaimed documentaries from Asia will be presented in the Documentary Showcase, with many of them exploring the effects of war (like Rithy Panh’s PAPER CANNOT WRAP UP EMBERS and Li Ying’s YASUKUNI) and natural tragedy (SERAMBI, by four directors including Garin Nugroho).
The International Showcase presents fifteen features that provide a glimpse into the wide spectrum of contemporary Asian cinema. International blockbusters like Alexi Tan’s 1930s Shanghai crime drama BLOOD BROTHERS, Shusuke Kaneko’s sci-fi thriller DEATH NOTE and Farah Khan’s Bollywood extravaganza OM SHANTI OM offer pure entertainment, while cinephiles will be able to feast on some of the most acclaimed selections from the festival circuit, like Hou Hsiao Hsien’s FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON, Hana Makhmalbaf’s BUDDHA COLLAPSED OUT OF SHAME, Zhang Lu’s DESERT DREAM, Brillante Mendoza’s FOSTER CHILD and SLINGSHOT, and Nobuhiro Yamashita’s A GENTLE BREEZE IN THE VILLAGE, to name a few.
Beyond the Screenings
In addition to the film screenings, the Festival offers a plethora of special events, including two Directions In Sound live music events, panel discussions, talk sessions, happy hours and afterparties. The Festival will also present the Festival Forum, a one-day-only program of activities taking place at the Japantown Peace Plaza on Saturday, March 15, 2008. The Festival Forum will feature live performances by bands and dancers, guest appearances and an outdoor screening. Booths by the Festival and its sponsors and community partners will offer giveaway items as well as interactive opportunities. More details will be announced at www.asianamericanmedia.org