Sunday, February 27, 2011
Narratives at the 29th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival
San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) offers unique opportunity for accessing great Asian films that you will not be able to see on the big screen in the US otherwise. Sometimes, small independent films do not have a distributor even in Asia.
For example, an acclaimed Chinese film "Grain in Ear" (芒种 | China 2005) was only released in South Korea, but we had the luxury to see it at the 24th SFIAAFF in 2006.
The following is my selection of not-to-be-missed narrative features at this year's festival. As always, any title or film image is linked to the festival Web site that contains showtime and ticket information.
The following is a few films that I have not seen yet (for some, on purpose), but I am looking forward to at the festival.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Documentaries at the 29th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival
The San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) has a great track record on showing superb documentaries that can be thought provoking, socially conscious, often educational, and surely unforgettable. There is no exception in this year's documentary selections.
These are my picks of documentaries at this year's festival. Any title or film image is linked to the festival Web site that contains showtime and ticket information.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
The 29th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF)
With a new logo (see right), a new tagline ("Stories to Light"), a new trailer, a new festival director (Masashi Niwano), and a new Web site, the 29th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) reveals its new identity March 10-20 in San Francisco, Berkeley, and San Jose.
Despite the freshness of this year's festival, one focus remains the same: "present stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience" and to bring the largest Asian cinema showcase in North America to the audience.
This year's SFIAAFF presents 108 films (including 31 feature narratives and 16 feature documentaries) and 58 programs during its 10 day run.
The opening night film "West Is West" (UK 2009 | 102 min.) is a comedy about a Pakistani immigrant family living in London.
This year's centerpiece presentation is a Vietnamese film "Clash" (Bẫy Rồng | Vietnam 2009 | in Vietnamese | 100 min.). The film is like a marriage between a Hong Kong martial art flick and a Hollywood violent action blockbuster. It tells a story about cracking down a gangster's operation, and it has nothing to do with the Vietnam War, for a change.
Besides these big nights, the festival presents a wide spectrum of recent Asian cinema as well as a few retrospective programs that certainly enchant the sophisticated and diverse cinema lovers around the Bay.
I will write more about those films in the near future.
Let's bring the stories to light. But first, turn off the light and watch some great movies at the 29th SFIAAFF.
My picks of some must-see films at this year's SFIAAFF:
Friday, February 4, 2011
By now, anybody who has even just heard about the movie "127 Hours" probably already gets the message—bring a sharp knife when you go explore in a never never land (or the lack of). Some cave divers indeed bring a sharp knife with them. However, that does not seem enough to save their fate during their adventure in director Alister Grierson's 3-D thriller "Sanctum" (USA/Australia 2010 | 109 min.). Nor will it save the film from sinking into the deep cave.
Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) leads a National Geographic team inside South Pacific's underwater Esa-ala Caves that is regarded as "the mother of all caves." His resentful 17-year-old son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) comes for a visit, joined by an uppity financier Carl Hurley (Ioan Gruffudd) and his equally arrogant girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson). After they reach inside the cave, a heavy storm causes a flash flooding and cuts off the route for getting out of the cave. They must find a new way to escape the sanctum with limited resources, supplies, and few options, if any at all. During the struggle for survival, all hell breaks loose gruesomely, both in natural and in human.
Although we are expecting danger when a parachute is needed for falling into the cave, the film is still a hair-raising experience. It reminds us that we should leave the nature alone sometimes. Occasionally, the film displays great visual of underwater and inside the cave. The film might have been fascinating if it were a documentary about surviving on National Geographic Channel.
Unfortunately, no. The film wants to create some human drama. Actually, lots of them. Although it is produced by the creator of "Avatar," James Cameron—"the king of the world," but this film has a different writing team. Yet, this film's cheesy dialogues are just as laughable as in "Avatar," if not worse. As for the 3-D, when it is all dark in a cave, why is it matter if it is 3-D or 2-D? Unless, the film crew turn on the superb lighting.
Most of the characters are stubborn and ego driving. Whenever they escape from a terrifying episode in the extreme condition, they shout at each other, quarrel with each other, when they are not trying to kill each other. Here is my advice for them: next time when you dive into that mother of all caves, you should learn from James Franco in "127 Hours,", go by yourself, and do not tell anybody where you are going, but do bring a sharp knife, just in case.