Wednesday, March 28, 2007

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

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 volunteered all day on Monday, March 19 (12:00pm - 9:30pm) and then caught a 9:30pm film, so I was pretty much at the VMS Van Ness theater for 11.5 hours straight. How's that for dedication to the festival?

There was a special screening for SF high school students (I think there were about six high schools in total that came) on Monday of American Pastime. It actually was a good film for high school students to see (in my opinion), balancing heavy issues of civil rights and social justice during internment of Japanese Americans during WWII and a passion for baseball that transcends cultural boundaries.

You can check out a summary of the film online, so I won't give you one. I found it to be very touching--perhaps it was overly simplistic in terms of the story with a happy ending, pulling the heart-strings sort of thing. Given that my grandparents were interned at Topaz (where the film took place, and was actually shot just outside of the old Topaz camp site), it was particularly moving for me. And I guess other people thought it was pretty good too, since it won the audience Comcast award.

I also saw Pig Fell into a Well, a Korean film that was originally premiered at the SFIAAFF ten years ago. I don't think I was alone when I left the film thinking and saying out loud: "Huh?!" Can someone explain what was going on in that film?

One of the nice things about volunteering (there are many reasons), is being able to catch films during your shifts. This is not always guaranteed--you may miss 1/2 of the beginning and/or end, but depending on your volunteer duties, you can usually catch several films (being an usher lends itself particularly well for this). I made the most of this opportunity and packed in as many films as possible, while making use of my volunteer vouchers and other free tickets offered to volunteers.

Monday night, I saw Blackout, a Filipino thriller. Really, that is the best way to describe it. A father of a young boy and a heavy alcoholic who lost his wife (though it's not clear if she left him, or she died... because as viewers we're unclear as to the mental stability of the father) regularly blacks out and can't remember what he does during his blackout periods. Anyhow, he thinks he accidentally kills his neighbor's daughter and then tries to hide her body... and the story unfolds from there. At times suspenseful, and at a few moments during the movie, I jumped in my seat.

Tuesday, March 20th, I caught Owl and the Sparrow, a very sweet Vietnamese film (also covered by Yasmine Gomez below). The story was beautiful and the young actress in this is just amazing. I really enjoyed this film, though honestly, I got really nauseous watching it--it's filmed with a hand-held camera and when it's up on the big screen, all the shaking and moving with the camera angles and shots gave me motion sickness. So despite having to close my eyes and steady my stomach during several parts, I still really enjoyed it. And it won best narrative feature, which is awesome.

My last volunteer shift was on Wednesday, March 21 and I was able to catch Love for Share, which is a very interesting look at the growing prevalence of polygamy in Indonesia. The film follows the stories of three main women, and very loosely ties them together. The last story drags a bit, but overall I found the film to be both informative and very engaging.

Wednesday night after my shift, I hung out with a bunch of the festival staff, who are all awesome people. This is the other main reason I enjoy volunteering--the people involved are very committed and interesting folk (volunteers and staff alike), and I've made several friends over the years through the festival.

I'm looking forward to next year's festival already! And I know that festival staff start their planning for next year about two weeks after the current year's festival ends. It's a big project, but I'm very grateful that the festival brings so many wonderful films to SF every year.

Stay tuned for one last update from San Francisco...

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Blogger MosSteph said...

re: above post and other reports from SF International Asian American Film Festival . . .

wow! when did hip hapa get multiple on location correspondents??? Do we have a similar festival in LA?

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I beleive that SF was the only CA location.

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