Friday, March 14, 2008

Jason goes to Asianfest--Opening Night

Okay, it's technically called the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (or SFIAAFF, of Sfee-Ahf), presented by the Center for Asian American Media (or CAAM). But I call it Asianfest.

This year, Asianfest is Wayne's world, as the opening night film is from the festival honoree and local filmmaker Wayne Wang (thank you to festival director Chi-hui Yang for that joke. Otherwise I'd have to come up with some joke about Mr. Wang meeting Mr. Wiener, and that can't be good).

Aaaanyway, the movie was "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers", based on a book by Yiyun Li about modern life in China and America. I thought it was very funny. There was a lot of laughter in the theater, but somehow at the after party I kept talking to people who thought it was sad. I'm going with funny. Maybe "bittersweet comedy". Hong Kong actor Henry O plays Mr. Shi, an old Chinese widower who travels to Spokane to visit his daughter Yilan (Feihong Yu), who's working at Gonzaga University. She's recently divorced, and he travels there ostensibly to see America, but really to help her remarry. She's having none of that, and he's left alone in her apartment most of the time. He has odd encounters with Mormons and a hot young talkative lady who wants to be a forensic scientist (he was a rocket scientist, so they have something to talk about). But the soul of the movie is in the broken English chats he has on the park bench with an Iranian widow (Vida Ghahremani). Touching and funny (the best line is his explanation of why he doesn't have a cell phone), she talks about her pride in her grandson. He talks about how he was a bad father (something I'm sure he could never tell his daughter) and how he wishes she'd find the right man so he could have grandchildren. These conversations are echoed in a later line where his daughter explains that in learning a new language you learn to say things you couldn't say in your first language.

Here's a pic of star Henry O (behind the mic) and director Wayne Wang:

By the way, in the Q&A, Wayne Wang revealed that the Mormons in the movie were really Mormons. The ex-CIA apartment manager really was ex-CIA. The bikini-clad wannabe forensic scientist really had studied forensic science (there just weren't enough murders in Spokane for her to get a job, so she's moved to L.A.) This sort of verisimilitude in even the wackiest characters really make the comic elements come to life.
So then it was off to the after party at the Asian Art Museum. Asianfest is famous for having the best food at their after parties. Only problem is, there's always a big crowd around the food. But wait long enough, and it thins out a bit, and I ended up well fed. I do miss the lychee martinis from last year, though...
Anyway, here's to a good start of another week (and a half, since I'm going the the San Jose weekend of it, too) of great Asian and Asian-American films!
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