Friday, March 22, 2013

Jason goes to Asianfest--Day 8

Just...need...to...make it through the weekend. Man, this non-stop festival after festival after festival action is kinda killing me. Living off too little sleep and a new, more powerful source of caffeine. Only a few days ago I noticed the warning to limit the use to no more than 10 pieces a day (which I've held to) and no more than 2 pieces in a three hour period (which...I actually looked up the symptoms for caffeine toxicity today and...I need sleep.) This was easier last year when I didn't have that day job getting in my way.

Anyway, my problems aren't yours, let's get back to the movies.

First up I made my way to the Asian Art Museum for DOSA HUNT and the accompanying party. The movie was very funny and might just be the start of a series of culinary adventures (there were rumors of a possible DOSA HUNT 2 set in San Francisco.) First time filmmaker and long time music blogger Amrit Singh gathers his friends--who are all "brown" musical luminaries (Vijay Iyer, members of Das Racist, Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer, Neon Indian, etc. Yeah, I'm kinda cribbing from the program notes and IMDb page, I'm not actually all that up on the music scene these days) and takes them on a quick journey to find the best Dosa in New York (spoiler alert: Dosa Hutt in Queens wins.) But it's not just about the tasty south Indian crepe, it's about the camaraderie and comedy from all these highly charismatic people. As rock stars, it took about a year to get them all in the same place with a free day on their schedule, but once that happened the magic was palpable. I especially liked the joking about rating the dosas on a scale of how many "Bobby Jindals." For the record, the fewer Bobby Jindals the better. At one point there's a debate about the scale--if Bobby Jindals are bad, then shouldn't something good be scored as negative Bobby Jindals? In any case, the winner was scored negative Jindals, 5/5 Ghandis, and I don't remember how many mangoes, etc. But it was funny, I swear.

The event included a reception, admission to the museum (including the Terra Cotta Warriors, which I skipped because I saw them opening night and didn't want to deal with the crowds again), one ticket for a free Sapporo (more beer, wine, or vodka was available for purchase. I stopped myself at the Sapporo and one glass of Merlot), a DJ set before the movie, a performance by Indian Bastards from Hell (former members of Das Racist) and food trucks serving dosa and frozen custard.

It was a lot of fun, and I hope they keep up this mix of movie, music, and food in future years. But it needs to be better organized, managed, and communicated to the fans. Example: the schedule said 6:00, so I busted my ass to get there by 5:45, thinking the movie was starting at 6:00 (and all the other party stuff--music, food, drinks, touring the museum) was after. In fact, the movie didn't start until 7:00 (I don't know if that was the original plan, or if logistics of setting up the equipment just pushed it back.) When I got there, I was given conflicting information about where to get my will-call ticket, and once I got it I got conflicting information on where the screening actually was (I was first told downstairs around the side, then upstairs at the top of the grand staircase.) If I had known that the movie wasn't going to start until 7:00, I would have gotten a dosa at the food truck first. By the time I got to the food--after the movie and chatting with people for about 20 minutes--they were out of potato and I settled for a "dosaritto" wrap instead of an authentic dosa. In fact, I went to the dosa truck right as Indian Bastards from Hell were starting their set, and the line was long enough I pretty much missed them, once I got my food I had to run off to Japantown for another movie there. While in line, I actually talked to the DJ who did the set before the movie, and he remarked how odd it was that everyone was just sitting there like a recital. I told him I think that's because most people thought the movie was supposed to start at 6:00 and they were patiently waiting for that rather than really getting into his music.

Maybe I can't blame CAAM too much for the confusion, but I feel like if I knew when and in what order things were happening (especially movie at 7:00, not 6:00), I would've done it differently. Got a dosa first. Maybe have time to tour the Terra Cotta Warriors again. I certainly wouldn't have been so impatient getting my ticket. Have a leisurely drink and some chocolate (oh yeah, free treats from Jade Chocolates! Yummy!), watch the movie, and actually see some of Indian Bastards set before heading off to Japantown. That would've been the right way to do it, if I knew then what I know know.

Anyway, I made it to the New People cinema in Japantown in plenty of time, in no small part because the show that was originally (in the printed mini-guide) scheduled for 9:20 was actually moved back to 9:45. Made getting there easy, but getting to BART and eventually home afterwards was more stressful, as it didn't get out until about 11:45. Anyway, for this show I will state in advance that I struggled to stay awake, even though it might have been my favorite program of the festival (might have been. Maybe all the parts when I dozed off kinda sucked)

First up was the short SHANGHAI STRANGERS, directed by Joan Chen. Christmas Eve, Shanghai. A brief power outage, a British man and a Chinese woman get to talking. He compliments her child, she reveals something to him that she's never told anyone. But somehow this stranger is just the right person to take her confession.

And then the feature, BEIJING FLICKERS, a funny, violent, sad, and thrilling look at down-and-out young adults in Beijing. San Bao opens the movie by saying his first word in 127 days--"Me." Before that, he hadn't spoken since his girlfriend left him for a rich guy, his dog ran away, he was nearly arrested for punching a guy on a bike who got in the way of his pursuit of his dog, he lost his job, and he lost his home. Yeah, he's not having a very good life. He even tries to end it all, by drinking a lot and then eating the glass he was drinking from. He wakes up in a hospital with a bandaged mouth and a new friend. And he, and more friends, become a new sort of impromptu family that...well, if they don't cheer up San Bao, they at least help him through life until he gets to a non-suicidal point. This is where exhaustion caught up with me, so I don't remember all the details exactly, but most every time I snapped back to consciousness something weird and funny was going on. I really need to watch this again when I'm well rested. Oh yeah, and SPOILER ALERT! his dog eventually comes back to him, so there is a happy ending.

Total Running Time: 139
My Total Minutes: 322,813
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