Best of Asian cinema comes to San Diego


Actors Harry Shum Jr. and Shing Ka on the red carpet for their film “Revenge of the Green Dragons,” the opening night film for the 15th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival on Nov. 6 at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp 15. Photo credit: Angelica Wallingford

Angelica Wallingford, Editor in Chief

With the credits rolled and the screens at the theaters already faded to black, the 15th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival proved to be a star-studded event bringing together an eclectic mix of films, actors, directors and fans of Asian cinema.

The festival kicked off Nov. 6 with the premiere of the Martin Scorsese produced film “Revenge of the Green Dragons.” Attended by the cast and crew, including actors Harry Shum Jr., Shing Ka, Leonard Wu, Eugenia Yuan and co-director Andrew Loo, the cast and crew didn’t hesitate to mingle with the crowds in the lobby after working the red carpet.

Before the film started Lee Ann Kim, executive director and founder of both the festival and the Pacific Arts Movement, the organization behind the festival, and Board Chairman Harlen Bayha and Artistic Director Brian Hu shared some words with the audience, thanking them for attending giving them a small glimpse of other films that were screened at the festival this year.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer was also on hand for the opening night festivities and announced the reforming of the San Diego Film Commission, which was cut by former Mayor Bob Filner in July 2013.

“We’re going to look at over 140 films from 21 different countries and close to 20,000 people that’s going to be here for the film festival,” Faulconer said. “That is a huge shot in the arm for this city, that is a huge shot in the arm for arts and culture.”

Screenings of festival films were peppered through out San Diego with a majority of them at UltraStar Cinemas Mission Valley-Hazard Center.

Among the plethora of films screened at UltraStar Cinemas were the charming “Anita’s Last Cha-Cha,” the return of festival favorite “Mystery Kung-fu Theater,” and a special screening of “RU” featuring a Q&A; after the film with director Jeff Wong and members of the cast.

One film that packed the house was the west coast premiere of “The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness,” a documentary about legendary Studio Ghibli founder and animator Hayao Miyazaki while working on his last feature film “The Wind Rises,” on day three of the festival.

[nggallery id=20]

“This is one of my favorite films of the festival,” Social Media Coordinator Erwin Mendoza said when introducing the film. “As many remember the studio announced that it was halting production, this film gives insight to that.”

The festival’s third day also showcased the festival’s centerpiece: the world premiere of the upcoming ABC sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat,” based on the memoir by chef Eddie Huang. Showcased at the USD Shiley Theatre, the premiere was attended by the cast and crew of the show including executive producers Nahnatchka Khan and Melvin Mar and actors Hudson Yang, Randall Park, Forrest Wheeler and Ian Chen.

Day four of the festival hosted MOVEfest, presented by SDAFF and Outreach Through Dance, which according to its website, is an organization that produces events to raise funds for non-profit organizations nationally and globally.

The event was an arts showpiece involving dance, song and short films, with all performances and videos dedicated to the Philippines. Live performances included a video performance from the popular web series The LXD entitled “Duet” choreographed by Shum, Christopher Scott and Galen Hooks, and a performance from acapella group The Filharmonic from NBC’s “The Sing-Off.”

“We are proud that we are fusing together dance and film and throughout this program you are going to see a mix of live performances and videos,” Kim said introducing the Nov. 9 event. “… Performances are paying tribute to the resilient people of the Philippines as this marks the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan, so you’re going to see that spirit of resiliency all through out the performances and the videos.”

This year’s festival also focused its lens on queer cinema with screenings of films surrounding LGBT issues and people.

The retrospective “Remembering Queer Korea” explored queer images in Korean film and included films such as “The Girl Princes” and “The Pollen of Flowers.” A documentary exploring transgender issues, “Kumu Hina,” won the Special Jury Prize at the SDAFF Gala Awards Nov. 8. Another documentary, “Limited Partnership,” addressed both the issue of immigration and marriage equality while bringing to light one of the first cases of same-sex marriage that most people haven’t heard of.

The closing night film was the documentary “Meet the Patels,” showcased on Nov. 14 with the filmmakers and subjects in attendance at MCASD Sherwood Auditorium. Concluding the festival was a series of films screened at the La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas and the UCSD Visual Arts Presentation Lab on Nov. 15.