Family Inc.

Early Saturday afternoon and I was all rested up and ready to hit some movies – really thankful that the sake headache from the night before had gone away.

Kicked off the day with Helen Jen and Emily Ting’s “Family Inc.” which sees Emily turning the camera on herself and her family as she documents the decision to crack under familial pressure and drop a career in filmmaking in order to work at TL Toys, a major plush toy manufacturer in Hong Kong created, owned and operated by her toy biz tycoon father, Charles Ting. It is his desire…nay…demand that she learn the ropes of the business in order to one day take over the company.

Okay, so it’s not one of those heartwarming family movies, but it’s not loaded with gloom and doom, either. In fact, as tragic as it is to watch someone take a life path forced upon them by others, it’s also a little amusing here as Emily’s story is so relatable to many of us who have felt that kind of family pressure. It also helps that Charles Ting, although a very shrewd man in the way he deals with personal and professional business, is also kinda funny to watch and it’s even funnier watching his family take jabs at him.

At 47 minutes, “Family Inc.” is at the perfect length for Emily to do a fairly thorough job taking the lid off her family’s history which reveals her mother having been driven to become a Buddhist nun after being married to Charles, her brother being alienated from the family and her father’s numerous marriages and children. It’s all wrapped up in a nice, neat, entertaining and informative package.

The Killing of a Chinese Cookie

Ever wanted to know how fortune cookies came about? Well…so do the people in this fun little documentary that reveals that many have their own idea of what the origin of the fortune cookie is. For years it was thought that the Hong Kong Noodle Co. in Los Angeles was the fortune cookie’s birthplace, but recent evidence has revealed that it was, in fact, San Francisco baker Makoto Hagiwara. Yes, fortune cookies were invented by a Japanese man.

Once the history lesson is revealed and the origin debate pretty much settled, the film then gets into the mechanics of how a fortune cookie is made – from factory assembly line footage to interviews with the people that actually write the fortunes.

The film then spends a great deal of time looking at the fortune cookie’s place in popular culture through the years. It’s funny, informative and it goes down easy much like the cookies themselves.

Do These Shorts Look Queer?

Next up was the gay/lesbian shorts block titled “Love is Queer.” This block of shorts is always a huge draw for the festival and this year was no different as a line of people circled the theater outside in the chilly San Diego weather – I overheard someone affectionately describing the line as “all that shivering queer flesh.”

As with any shorts block, you take the good and you take the bad. And there were definitely some films in this program that really didn’t do anything for me, while there were others that were so experimental in nature that I see it pointless to try and recount what happened in them. But there were a few that really stuck out, including “You’ve Got Male” which takes a look at a guy who accidentally orders a mate from a “Male Order Bride” service. Instead of finding a blushing young bride on his doorstep, he gets a little Asian guy instead and he’s ready for love. Cue awkwardness. “S/he” has us watch a little girl as she struggles with her sexual identity. She carries herself as a boy and wishes to chop her long, black hair off in order to achieve a more boy-like appearance, but her parents refuse to let her do so. “Kali Ma” sees an Indian mother turn to violence when her son comes home from school all bruised and beaten by the hands of a bully. Funny, scary and a little uneasy all at once as Mom forces herself into the bully’s home to show this young punk who’s the boss. And “The Postcard”, my favorite of the bunch, rolls out a quirky love story that plays like classic Wong Kar-wai. A young gay man is hopelessly attracted to his hot mailman and so he proceeds to send postcards to himself with little notes to the mailman that he will hopefully read upon delivery. A really sweet and charming short – I would love to see this expanded into a feature.

Caribbean King

Saturday night and we were done with movie watching, so it was time for a little social gathering as a festival karaoke party had been organized in the ballroom of our hotel – super convenient because this meant I could crawl back to my room if things got really out of hand.

But, alas, even though the free Michelob flowed all night, I was still a good boy and didn’t get into any trouble. I did, however, treat everyone to a thrilling version of Billy Ocean’s “Caribbean Queen.” Pretty easy song to sing until you get to that pesky chorus and you realize where your vocal limitations are.

The festival continues in part three of MOVIE VACATION AT THE 2008 SAN DIEGO ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL>>>

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