The eighth annual San Diego Asian Film Festival Spring Showcase, from Pacific Arts Movement, will feature 15 films from eight countries — with more than half directed by women — screening April 19-26 at Mission Valley UltraStar Cinemas and the Natural History Museum Theater in Balboa Park.
Festival artistic director Brian Hu invites movie-goers to: “Step outside the mainstream, gaze into the distance, see onto forever, picture possibilities, imagine across oceans, aim beyond, travel through time, loop, crisscross, rewind, circle around, flash forward, resist ... survive!”
Amateur filmmakers who attend will have the opportunity to talk to five directors, an actor and a producer.
The most novel aspect of the festival will be the documentary about Filipino cuisine, titled “ULUM: Main Dish,” which will be followed by a “kamayan” (Tagalog for “by hand”) communal feast catered by 15 local Filipino chefs. The event will take place 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 23, on the first floor of the Museum of Natural History, under the watchful eyes of whales, dolphins and dinosaurs.
A kamayan is the traditional Filipino way of eating at home with friends and family where you use your fingers as utensils. The style is all the rage in modern Filipino restaurants across the country. The kamayan technique is to scoop up some rice up with your four fingers, put a little liver or sausage on the pile, then spoon it all into your mouth with your thumb. Don’t worry the chefs will teach you how!
Showcase executive director Kent Lee and Hu agreed: “We want to tell Asian-American stories through food, and ULAM reminds us that there’s no better way to do so than to bring together artists in the community and have them each bring a dish to share. This is the real meaning of ‘potluck storytelling!’ ”
The opening night film will be the Canadian production of “Meditation Park,” an old-fashioned comedy set in Vancouver’s Chinatown, screening 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19. It’s about a wife who discovers her husband’s infidelity, but is able to turn the situation into something that leads to her own growth and development.
The closing night film, 7 p.m. April 26, will be a biographical piece about Japanese-American artist Yayoi Kusama, titled “Kusama-Infinity.” Kusama gained fame for her pattern-and-design art, exemplified by colorful polka dots.
The feature film event, “Falling for Angels,” will include a screening of the final three feature films, last short, and an assortment of commercials, which were made by the Malaysian-muslim director Yasmin Ahmad, known for her filmmaking devotion to love, family, God and community. It’s reported Ahmad gets you into your feelings and will make you swoon and cry.
All her films, including the three features “Muksin” (a story of young love), “Muallaf” (a friendship story about two young Muslim women), and “Talentime” (a musical love tale set in the context of a talent contest) will be shown throughout the day on Sunday, April 22. In addition, a documentary about her life, titled “Yasmin-San,” by Edmund Yeh, will also be screened that day.
Other films in the showcase include: “1987: When the Day Comes,” a Korean drama about a college student who is tortured and killed by the government; “Kiko Boksingero,” the story of a boy who reunites with his long, lost boxer father; and “Love Education,” a comedy that shares the struggles of relatives battling over the rights to move the grave of a family member.
“Minding the Gap,” which was made in the USA by Bing Liu, is the tale of a group of skateboarders from an Illinois factory town. “Take Me To The Moon,” is a Korean teen musical that takes us back in time, to the hero’s high school rock band days.
The two films I’m most looking forward to are: “The Third Murder,” a quirky Japanese suspense drama about a lawyer defending a man on trial for murder; and “Waru,” a compilation of eight short tales, each made by one of eight collaborating female directors, offering eight different perspectives on the death of a child in a Maori community in New Zealand.
IF YOU GO: All-access pass $75-$110. Film tickets $9-$12. ULUM film and feast $24-$32. Schedule and tickets at sdaff.org