One of my favorite FFs is the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAFF). There's definitely something for everyone in this FF. Here are my suggestions:
Dude flick: Baby
Sex, drugs and violence. Think Reservoir Dogs with a teenage gangsta Asian American spin. Prolific actor Tzi Ma (Catfish in Black Bean Sauce) plays the role of the alcoholic father in this story of revenge in East LA. Another very stylish film for the boyz is Undoing, which is very noiresque. This is a great comeback film after almost a decade since Chris Chan Lee's last film, Yellow. However, I got a little lost in parts but enjoyed that it was a story with AA characters but seemingly without AA (Asian American) themes.
Date movie: The Trouble with Romance
Don't be fooled by the name, this movie is a romantic comedy with a little something for men and women. Basically, it's 4 stories deconstructing relationships in different rooms within the same hotel. Trouble got a few extra points in my book since it had David Eigenberg, who plays the role of Steve in Sex and the City -- he's not AA but whatever, I still loved that show. By the name you might think that Shanghai Kiss might be a better bet for a romantic night out. It's well done and pretty slick by Hollywood standards, but personally, I couldn't get over the fact that the main romance occurred between a 16-year-old genius girl and a 28-year-old emotionally stunted man. Not hot in my book. No matter how hard the film tries to justify the age difference, it's just plain "eewww."
History Buffs: Hollywood Chinese
I haven't seen this flick yet, but it's in my "Top 10." The story behind this film is that in researching the history of Asian Americans in film for this documentary, director Arthur Dong found 2 reels of what has recently been dubbed the earliest Asian American film ever made, Curse of Quan Gwon, which was made in 1916 and directed by female director, Marion Wong -- ground breaking! There will also be a special screening of the entire 35 minutes of found footage and will be the first time that it will be screened.
Hollywood Fans: Dark Matter
This film directorial debut from Chinese opera director Chen Shi-Zheng is based on a true story. That should be enough of a clue for you to figure out that it's not the typical Hollywood happy ending. I'm just suggesting this one for those that are into Hollywood flicks, due to the fact that Meryl Streep is in it. And I would see any movie with Meryl in it.
Tearjerker Doc Fans: New Year Baby
I'm not recommending this documentary because KQED is sponsoring its screening, but because there are definitely those who attend the SFIAAFF in order to see touching personal stories that are real. This is the one for those tissue-toting types. Filmmaker Socheata Poeuv returns to Cambodia with her parents after they make a startling admission about their family. Their voyage reveals a deeper story than Poeuv had anticipated.
Chick Flick: Tie a Yellow Ribbon
I fell in love with director Joy Dietrich's haunting short, Surplus, so this first feature by her was top on my list. I had problems with how heavy-handed the stereotypes and AA issues were in this film, but it does address the often-ignored, yet abnormally high rate of suicide and depression among AA women. For a first feature, it's worth a see.
Here's one of the lists I promised in part one: Returning SFIAAFF directors:
• Arthur Dong, Hollywood Chinese, directed Sewing Woman (SFIAAFF 82), which was just screened at SFMOMA in February 2007; Coming Out Under Fire (SFIAAFF 96)
• Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, Motherland, directed A Forgotten People, The Sakhalin Koreans (SFIAAFF 95), Sa-I-Gu: From Korean Women's Perspectives (SFIAAFF 93), Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women (SFIAAFF 99), Wet Sand: Voices from L.A. Ten Years After (SFIAAFF 03)
• Chris Chan Lee, Undoing, directed Yellow (SFIAAFF 97)
• Hong Sang-Soo directed Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, which also screened at SFIAAFF 01. For this year's FF they have given him a retrospective, which includes 7 of his features, so I assume that there are more that screened at previous SFIAAFF but this is the only one off the top of my head that I'm sure of.
• Joy Dietrich, Tie a Yellow Ribbon, directed Surplus (SFIAAFF 01)
• Gene Rhee, The Trouble with Romance, directed The Quest for Length (SFIAAFF 02)
• Justin Lin, Finishing the Game directed Better Luck Tomorrow (SFIAAFF 02)
• Romeo Candido, Ang Pamana: The Inheritance, directed Lolo's Child (SFIAAFF 02), Rolling Longaniza (SFIAAFF 06)
• Paul Mayeda Berges, Mistress of Spices, technically Mistress is Berges' directorial debut, but he produced and co-wrote Bend It Like Beckham (SFIAAFF 03) with his wife Gurinder Chadha. Interesting tidbit: Berges was a director of the SFIAAFF when he met Chadha.
• Eric Byler, Tre, directed Charlotte Sometimes (SFIAAFF 03), Americanese (SFIAAFF 06)
• Grace Lee, American Zombie, directed The Grace Lee Project (SFIAAFF 05)
Ok, you've read this far, so I'll give you my "Top 10" (after all the previews I've seen which I suppose is cheating since I saw 10). Disclaimer: My list is always subject to change up until I actually get to the box office to buy the tix:
1. Finishing the Game screening March 15 at 7pm at the Castro Theatre -- For this comedy spoof Justin Lin brings back his ensemble from Better Luck Tomorrow minus John Cho but plus Dustin Nguyen from one of my all time favorite shows 21 Jump Street. Now that's hot!
2. Pavement Butterfly screening March 18 at 12:30pm at the Castro Theatre -- This 1929 silent film stars the famed Anna Mae Wong and is rarely screened.
3. Hollywood Chinese screening March 18 at 6pm at the Castro Theatre -- See notes above.
4. In Between Days screening March 16 at 7pm at Berkeley's PFA and March 17 at 2:30pm at AMC Van Ness Theatres -- Pure gut selection
5. Year of the Fish screening March 16 at 9:15pm at AMC Van Ness Theatres, March 21 at 7pm at Landmark Opera Plaza Cinema, and March 25 at 9:30pm at San Jose's Camera 12 Cinemas -- I'm a sucker for animation, and this one is like Richard Linklater's Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, in which each live-action frame is painted.
6. Exiled screening March 21 at 9:15pm at AMC Van Ness Theatres -- This is the latest action flick by Hong Kong director Johnnie To, whose 1991 film The Mission, made me question my loyalty to Quentin Tarantino.
7. Umrao Jaan screening March 18 at 8:30pm at the Castro Theatre -- A Bollywood film with Aishwarya Rai, who has been called the most beautiful actress in the world. At the Castro Theater. Priceless.
8. Flower Drum Song screening March 17 at 9pm at the Castro Theatre -- This special screening is a sing-along. What Bay Area straight chick or tranny doesn't know "I Enjoy Being a Girl"?
9. Music Video Asia 2007 screening March 20 at 9:30pm at AMC Van Ness Theatres -- This annual shorts program shows music videos from Asian and AA bands. Totally rockin!
10. The Great Happiness Space screening March 18 at 9:30pm at AMC Van Ness Theatres, March 23 at 7pm at PFA, and March 25 at 12pm at Camera 12 Cinemas -- What? A documentary on Japanese twenty-something male escorts, sign me up.