San Diego Asian Film Fest kicks off

Jennifer Manalili

The largest showcase of Asian cinema in the western U.S. will embark on its 13th year with its producers under a new banner called the Pacific Arts Movement.

The San Diego Asian Film Festival, an event that USA Today recently named one of the “Ten Reasons to Visit San Diego,” will have more than 150 films from 20 different countries joining the line-up this year. Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, China, Bollywood and Iran will all be represented and showcasing their unique creative perspectives at the nine-day festival, with participating locations expanding throughout the county.

The Pacific Arts Movement, which until this year went by The San Diego Film Foundation, is a non-profit organization that produces the annual festival each year, is also revamping itself for the first time in its thirteen year history.

The festival originally began as a fundraiser through the Asian American Journalists Association in 2000. It now stands on its own with the help of founder and executive director Lee Ann Kim.

Kim, who was honored by the San Diego Film Critics Association last year for her commitment to cinema, calls the festival her biggest accomplishment. A former KGTV Channel 10 news anchor, herself a Korean-American, she admits that getting the festival on its feet initially proved difficult.

“I started it from nothing,” she told www.againstthegrainproductions.com. “I never even went to one film festival before I started one. Thirteen years later and we’re still around with 6 full-time staff presenting 40+ events throughout the year. I’m very proud of the community in which SDAFF created and the impact we’ve had on the lives of artists and students.”

For the first time since it’s inception in 2001, the festival will have five different locations throughout the county holding film screenings.

Opening night will be held at the North Park Birch Theatre, a Taiwanese film showcase will be held at UC San Diego, Cinepolis Del Mar and the Museum of Photographic Arts will also play host.

But the central theater location will remain, as it has in previous years, at the UltraStar Cinemas Mission Valley at Hazard Center.

The festival’s prestigious opening night slot will go to “Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey,” a documentary about rock band Journey’s search for a new front man and their subsequent discovery of Arnel Pineda, a formerly homeless cover-band singer from the Philippines whom the group discovered on Youtube.

Closing night will go to Japan’s romantic comedy “Love Strikes!,” which is just one of many films that will enjoy it’s North American debut at the festival.

Different narrative features, documentaries, short films and animation will be showcased and special events will take place nearly every day of the festival with receptions, art shows, live music, film discussions, karaoke, a lifetime achievement award presentation to Korean filmmaker Chung Chang-Wha, and a gala awards dinner.

Kim, who also serves as executive director at Pacific Arts Movement, says that her life’s work is dedicated to giving others a voice, a commitment fulfilled through her work with the festival.

“…SDAFF’s commitment is to connect those diverse voices with an audience,” she said.

The San Diego Asian Film Festival returns Nov. 1 through 9.

General admission tickets will range from $9 to $11.50 per movie. Special discounted rates are available for students, military and co-presenters at $9. Ticket packages are $60.

They can be purchased online before the festival or at the Mission Valley Hazard Center UltraStar box office starting on Oct. 30.

Last year, the number of festival attendees exceeded 20,000.

For a full schedule of films visit www.sdaff.org.