Monday, March 19, 2007

Dispatches from the SF International Asian American Film Festival - Part I

Hip Hapa's coverage of this year's SFIAAFF features two intrepid hapa reporters whose skill, dedication, moxy, and insight will bring you the low-down on the hottest film festival in town. Today's entry is brought to you by Elli Nagai-Rothe:

I went to see Na Kamalei: The Men of Hula on Friday, March 16th. It was the first film of the SFIAAFF that was sold out. Indeed, the theater was packed and there was a large contingent of local hula dancers, fans, and supporters. So the energy in the theater was great--very appreciative and happy to share their enthusiasm prior to and during the film.

The film follows the oldest all-male hula group and among other things, addresses stereotypes about men dancing hula, and reveals the touching stories of many of the men in this hula group throughout the group's 30-year history. The highlight of the film is clearly Robert Camizero, the founder and leader of the group. His outspoken personality combined with the passionate dedication of the "hula brothers" over the course of their journey to the Merrie Monarch hula competition is engaging and draws us (well, me at least) into their journey in an way that I quite enjoyed. Also, plenty of hapas in this film!

I found the film moving and very well done. The director of the film, Lisette Marie Flanary, was present for the screening and received a standing ovation from the entire theater once the film finished and before opening for Q & A. I highly recommend watching Na Kamalei, and doing some hip-shaking of your own.

I also saw Dirty Carnival tonight, a Korean gangster film. I'm still processing this film, since it was pretty violent, but very well done. The characters were well developed and the story certainly had a "human" edge, in the sense that it dealt with some of the more complex layers of emotion and psychological investment in gang life. And a plus, the main characters are cuties. ;0) I left the theater thinking, "well, I guess the moral of that story is, gang life doesn't pay." If you like violent movies of gangster hierarchies, this Korean version of Goodfellas is for you.

I didn't get a chance to see Great Happiness Space: A Tale of an Osaka Love Thief, but I can tell you that it was sold out weeks in advance and that the rush line to see the film was ridiculous. So, clearly it's a film festival favorite.

Thanks Elli. Stay tuned for future updates from San Francisco...

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