Monday, January 20, 2020



If the San Francisco International Film Festival and other film festivals year round in the City are not indie enough for you, there is actually an annual SF Independent Film Festival (SF INDIEFEST) where you can indulge yourself in indie films even more. The 22nd SF INDIEFEST takes place January 29 - February 13, 2020 at the Roxie Theater and the Victoria Theatre in the Mission neighborhood. This year's edition presents 57 shorts and 47 features of new independent films from 21 countries.


Here are a few Asian flavored films at this year's festival.

  • The Wild Goose Lake (南方车站的聚会 | China/France 2019 | in Chinese | 113 min.)

    The Wild Goose Lake on IMDB The only Chinese language film in competition at last year's Cannes Film Festival, Chinese director Diao Yi'nan's (刁亦男) grim "The Wild Goose Lake" tells another underground crime story in China.

    Zhou Zenong (Hu Ge) is a gang leader who has been absent from his wife (Regina Wan) and his young son for five years. When a brawl between motorcycle theft gangs goes out of hand, Zenong is injured and on the run from police's dragnet led by Captain Liu (Liao Fan). There is a thirty-thousand-yuan reward money for Zenong's capture. After he meets a prostitute Liu Aiai (Kwei Lunmei), they team together to outsmart the gang and police by sacrificing himself for the reward money to be given to his wife.

    The director Diao Yi'nan has been known for crafting crime stories in modern China in realistic form, despite the fact that there are far less violent organized crimes over there, especially with the heightened surveillance security in recent years. You have to rely on his storytelling to overcome your skepticism about the unconvincing plot. Yet, the film is irresistible to watch with the help of an exquisite cinematography by Dong Jingsong.

  • Mellow (メロウ | Japan 2020 | in Japanese | 106 min.)

    Mellow official site The prolific Japanese writer-director Rikiya Imaizumi's (今泉力哉) quiet and bitter-sweet dramedy "Mellow" is a charming delight portraying its characters' unrequited love.

    The artistic and polite Natsume (Kei Tanaka) is a passionate florist running a boutique flower shop called Mellow. He frequently patronizes a young woman Kiho's (Sae Okazaki) ramen shop. Surrounding their seemingly ordinary daily routines, plenty of admiration and unrequited love are floating around involving both themselves and their customers. They deal with each incident, often comical, with candid honesty and earnest grace.

    Rikiya Imaizumi assembles his characters the same way as Natsume stylishly puts together a collection of lovely flowers from the shop. Each character has their unique quirkiness and persona, yet they share a common trait that is kind and likable. Together, they brighten the world and lift the spirit.

    Watching this feel-good film may have the same effect as you bring home a bunch of beautiful flowers. Treat yourself.

  • Come As You Are (USA 2019 | 106 min.)

    Come As You Are official site Bay Area filmmaker Richard Wong's new road-trip comedy "Come As You Are," tells an extraordinary story about three disabled young men. The film is a remake of "Hasta la Vista" (Belgium 2011) that is inspired by a true story.

    In order to lose their virginity by visiting a brothel in Montreal that caters to disabled men, wheelchair-bound Scotty (Grant Rosenmeyer) and Matt (Hayden Szeto), joined by blind Mo (Ravi Patel), hire a driver Sam (a terrific and hilarious Gabourey Sidibe) to take them up north.

    Good at heart, the film is enjoyable to watch despite some cliché moments.

  • Things I Do For Money (Canada 2019 | 89 min.)

    Things I Do For Money official site Claimed to be the first Japanese-Canadian-cello-crime-heist-caper-music-movie by the writer-director Warren P. Sonoda, "Things I Do For Money" is more impressive for its wonderful music than its farcical crime story.

    To audition for the Banff Conservatory, 17-year-old Eli Yaguchi (Theodor Aoki) composes a duo-cello piece that he is going to perform with his older brother Nick (Maximilian Aoki). But their rehearsals leading to the audition are constantly side-tracked by Nick's involvement with an underworld crime organization. The two become the lookout for a gangster Alexi Raduli (Dax Lough).

    Before you get lost in the overstuffed plot, money exchanges hands, people get shot and kidnapped, painting is stolen, and fantastic music is performed.

    Music is the best part of the film, the rest of it is actually quite dreadful. The two talented siblings Theodor Aoki and Maximilian Aoki not only give a terrific acting debut, but also write and perform the film's music. This would have been a pretty good movie if it got rid of all the implausible crime subplot nonsense and told just the interesting story about two young cellists making music and pursuing higher education as Japanese Canadians.

    Of course, that wouldn't be a Japanese-Canadian-cello-crime-heist-caper-music-movie.

  • Vise (Manriki | Japan 2019 | in Japanese | 78 min.)

    Vise official site Silly, bizarre, comical, explicit, and gory Japanese B-movies are never short in supply at the SF INDIEFEST. This year's selection is Japanese director Yasuhiko Shimizu's (清水康彦) "Vise" about a surgeon's unique solution for women's desire for a smaller face.

    A young cashier (Julian Koike 小池樹里杏) at a supermarket keeps failing her audition for modeling and she blames it on her face for being too big. She comes to a cosmetic surgeon (Takumi Saitoh 齊藤工) for help to make her face smaller. But the surgeon's method for doing it is nothing you can imagine.

    The film might be a social commentary toward Japanese' culture, but the language used in expressing its view might also be lost in translation. The over the top horror-comedy scenes perhaps can only be appreciated by the faithful fans of Japanese B-movies.

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