Sunday, March 16, 2008

Jason goes to Asianfest--Day 3

Holy crap, I've been way too busy at work. But I've still been going to movies every night, I just haven't had time to write, I'm about 14 movies behind in my write-ups. So here's a quick shot at last weekend at Asianfest:

First up Saturday was the shorts program "Memory Arcade". Here's the rundown, as best as I can remember 5 days later:
"Recollections"--Half narrative, half documentary, about an old man, reflecting on his life as he prepares for the last moments.
"Silence"--Family...cannot speak.
"The Nothing Pill"--A really cool sci-fi thriller about a scientist attempting to isolate a drug that will cure feelings of isolation.
"Cross Fader"--Fun with audio from the radio, and an unmet love connection.
"Dan Carter"--An old discarded answering machine tape tells the story of Dan Carter, his love affair, and his son.
"24 Frames Per Day"--Experimental film, a fixed, time-lapse shot of a door with audio of a strange, slightly racist taxi ride (includes the question "Indian? Red dot Indian or feather Indian?)
"Pierre-Pierrot"--A Laotian man tries to reconnect with his twin. They were separated during the Vietnamese war.
"Dream of Me"--Filmmaker A. Moon learns she had a sister who died. She searches newspapers on microfilm at the library looking for evidence of her.
"The Chestnut Tree"--A Korean animated film about a mother and a daughter and the chestnut tree where they used to play.

Here's a pic of some of the short filmmakers. I lost my notes, but going from memory and the program guide I believe they are Chihiro Wimbush of "Cross Fader", Allen Ho of "Silence", A. Moon of "Dream of Me", Yu Gu of "The Nothing Pill", and David Oh of "Recollections". But I could be wrong:

Next up was a break from movies for a conversation with festival honoree Wayne Wang. More of a clip show than a conversation, New York Times film critic Dennis Lim talked to Wayne briefly before Wayne introduced clips from movies that inspired him. Going back to the European New Wave with Godard, Antonioni, etc. and then the Hong Kong swordplay operas of King Hu. The program started a little late, and the clips were long (~5 minutes each), with left very little time for audience questions. But still, it was pretty fun and I'm now solidly a Wayne Wang fan.

Here's Dennis Lim talking to Wayne Wang.

Next up was a wonderful documentary (and, in fact, I'm writing this so late that I already know it went on to win the jury award for best documentary), "Planet B-Boy". Don't call b-boys "breakdancers" (although that's what they are), because that brings up the negative memories of the exploitation and near destruction of their dance form in the 80's. But check them out now, this is not your silly 80's fad. This is wild, this is amazingly athletic, it's intense, it's an art form, and it's a competition. Specifically, the "Battle of the Year" features b-boy crews from around the world--each national champions, vying to be crowned the greatest in the world. The movie follows around a half-dozen teams (basically the teams favored to win) as they prepare, win their national championships, and arrive in Germany for the competition. We follow the Americans (Knucklehead Zoo--from Las Vegas, it's not just a New York thing anymore), the French team (Phase T, featuring a little kid who's easily the youngest b-boy in the movie), the Japanese team (Icheguki, looking to avenge their embarrassment of the previous year) and two Korean teams (the defending champs automatically get in, and a second up-and-coming crew one their national championship). Actually, the second Korean crew (Last For One) are the most compelling. They're almost all living on the borders of poverty, and look to dancing as a means to economic success (the defending champs, Gamblerz, were featured in a Korean tourism ad and make good money performing). The movie is full of jaw-dropping moves, and a good ol' time. I loved it, even though I know nothing of the b-boy scene (in fact, just getting a taste of it and realizing it's not an 80's joke anymore, is totally worth it). Here's composer Woody Pak, director Benson Lee, and producer Amy Lo:

So from a wild, fun documentary I went to a bitter, depressing documentary. "Behind Forgotten Eyes" tells the story of the "comfort women" enslaved to the Japanese forces during WWII. After the Rape of Nanking, the Japanese military realized something needed to be changed to prevent these rapes. After all, the STD problem was becoming unmanageable. So they built a series of comfort stations brothels, and filled them mostly with Korean girls who were sold into slavery. These women are now in their 80's, and their story has never really been told to the world. They're running out of time, and the Japanese government still hasn't apologized or really acknowledged their existence (the Prime Minister has apologized personally, but the government hasn't officially done anything). The movie interweaves the women's testimony with testimony from Japanese soldiers (most of whom, to their credit, are greatly ashamed after the fact), and Japanese government officials (who are really, really frustrating to listen to). A powerful, and deeply sad movie. Here's a pic of cinematographer/editor Ryan Seales:

And finally, the last show of Saturday was the shorts program "Let's Get Outta Here" (about escaping, or trying to). Here's the rundown:
"Little Forest"--A cool extremely short animated film about a tree, it's roots, and a fierce little girl.
"Souvenirs From Asia"--A complex comedy about Asian adoptees. In this case, the daughter feels like she's shown off like a souvenir. Escape from your family.
"Smile"--Another escape from your family movie. This time, about a Chinese American family and the balance of the two cultures. Don't smile in your family portrait, or you'll be showing off to the Chinese relatives how happy you are.
"Graceland"--Thailand...Elvis Weird.
"Moon Lady"--Escape from sanity? Or escape from an insane mother.
"Giving Care"--Escaping from poverty, from work, to family. A Filipina woman working in America taking care of an elderly man, can't escape back home to give the same care to her own family.
"Triple 8 Palace"--Escape from prostitution. An immigrant girl, sold into sex work to pay off debts. Can't make enough money if she doesn't go all the way.

Here's a pic of some of the filmmakers. From left to right they are (to the best of my knowledge) Maya Bankovic (cinematographer, "Souvenirs From Asia"), Brent Martin (producer, "Souvenirs From Asia"), Joyce Wong (director, "Souvenirs From Asia"), I don't know her name (Asianfest speaker who led the Q&A), Wendy Cheng (director, "Moon Lady"), and Rinee Shah (director, "Little Forest"):

And that was Saturday at Asianfest.

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