Saturday, March 21, 2009

Jason goes to SFIAAFF--Day 4

Sunday, Asianfest continues, starting with YOU DON'T KNOW JACK: THE JACK SOO STORY. If you remember "Barney Miller" on TV (and I barely do), you may remember Jack Soo as the deadpan Sgt. Nick Yemana. Well, here's some things you might not know about Jack. He was born Goro Suzuki (yes, that's a Japanese name). He started entertaining at a young age, and was an exceptional singer. He was put in internment camps during WWII, where he often emceed entertainment nights (learned a lot about live performance there). When he was offered an entertainment job in Cleveland, he had to change his name to Jack Soo so it would sound Chinese, not Japanese. He honed a lot of his comic timing working with Jack Benny. His big break was in "Flower Drum Song" on Broadway (and eventually in the movie version). He wanted to change his name back to Suzuki, but by then he was known as Jack Soo, and since FLOWER DRUM SONG is a Chinese-American story and they already had too many Japanese names in the credits (including a Suzuki), the name Jack Soo stuck. This movie was interesting, illuminating, and funny. But at one hour, it was pretty brief. I can't help but think there's more to be said about Jack.

But as it is, one hour was perfect because I had to run out during the credits (so sorry I missed the Q&A), to catch the next program.

That next program was the shorts program "Family Portraits." I've mentioned before that family seems to play a larger role this year in SFIAAFF than it has been in previous years:
GRAND TETON: Julia Kim Smith, with her mother and sister, recreates a family portrait taken 35 years ago.
DIDA REEMA ANJANA: Three generations of Indian women, living (or trying to live) their dreams, sometimes clashing with tradition.
WET SEASON: Stop-motion daddy issues. With a skeleton.
KATONG FUGUE: I...don't remember this at all. I remember there was one short that was scheduled but didn't play. I can't remember which program, or which short. Maybe this was it?
ONE FOR THREE: I...don't remember this one, either. Obviously I shouldn't be waiting a week (and 20-some movies) before I write up my reviews. I'm so sorry.
WANDA & MILES: It's difficult moving all the time. Especially if the worry makes you scratch a big scabby hole in your head.
DIM SUM AND THE RACETRACK: Suilma Rodriguez looks through her late father's possessions, remembering the times he took them to Dim Sum and the times he too often spent gambling away all their money.
A GREEN MOUNTAIN IN THE DRAWER: Dreamlike (very dreamlike) story of an old woman getting a letter, going back to Korea, and remembering the war. And forgetting her family in America (they hardly ever visit her, anyway).

Next up was the Sikh-Canadian-American story, OCEAN OF PEARLS. Dr. Amrit Singh is apparently a genius, because despite his young age he's the premier transplant specialist in the world. He works at a hospital in Toronto, but is recruited by a hospital in Detroit that's looking to start it's own state-of-the-art transplant center. He's very successful, very smart, but still has to deal with prejudice because he wears a turban, as is Sikh custom. This means he's always pulled aside for extra checks at the airport, he's hassled by idiot racists who don't know that Sikhs are not Muslims and had nothing to do with 9/11 (not that harassing innocent Muslims is a good thing, either. But harassing Sikhs is way, way off the mark). Even in the hospital, where he's widely respected, he has to compete for the chief's job against a Senator's son who's a "better face" to show prospective investors. So his life is a tightrope act between his goals and his traditions, and that conflict drives the story. The story itself is fairly predictable, with some painful cliches (an almost affair with a board member of the hospital could be completely cut). As a Sikh movie...well, it feels like you could adapt the story to any group that faces discrimination and a conflict between assimilation and tradition. Sikh was just the flavor they dropped on this movie. It's more or less competently made, but it's something you've seen time and time again, just with different faces on it.

And then Sunday ended with the Times of Departure shorts program:
BEIJING HAZE: I knew it, I did see this before. At Cinequest, last year. Still a pretty good movie.
THE DWELLING: Homeless dignity, with an amazing man living in Tokyo.
NOT HERE: Is it so hard to find a place to fuck?
HOMECOMING (KELUAR BARIS): I don't know, this was missing the English subtitles. A guy comes home, then has to go to war?
FLUTTER: Paper wings on his feet, he flies through different animated worlds.
CROCODILE: A paragon of quiet strength. Good role model for a boy living in a difficult home life.
SAVE ME: Korean Americans at church, talking about church, and why they go (and sometimes how they don't want to be there).
ANDHERI: Hey, I just saw this yesterday, in the 3rd I Shorts program. Still good.

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