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13th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival

Five Fingers Of Death’ Is Classic Screening Tonight

Credit: SDAFF

Above: "Five Fingers of Death" is one of the classics SDAFF is screening this year.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando previews the 13th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival.


The San Diego Asian Film Festival kicked off last night at the Birch North Park Theater. Tonight it moves to the UltraStar Mission Valley for 8 days of film.

Now in its 13th year, the San Diego Asia Film Festival continues to thrive and grow. Last night it screened its opening night film, "Don't Stop Believing" at the Birch North Park Theatre. It was the first time the festival used that venue says operations manager Phillip Lorenzo, "I think one of the most amazing things about opening night for us was it seemed to be such a risk, putting our festival in a new venue for opening night especially one with 700 plus seats seemed to be just a little bit ambitious in comparison to our traditional 400 seat opening night."

The film sold out. The festival highlights films by, for, and about Asians and Asian Americans. There are shorts, documentaries, musicals, dramas, and comedies from around the world.

One of the pleasures of this year's festival is a screening tonight of "Five Fingers of Death" from 1972. Check out this trailer and note how they say "martial arts" like it was something you might never have heard of (which was probably the case for most mainstream filmgoers). Enjoy the trailer and head over to see the film tonight.

Lorenzo is proud of the festival's commitment to showing classics of Asian and Asian American cinema, "One of the things that's ignored or seems to be ignored for me when I see the YouTube generation and specific to the experience for the Asian American in the YouTube generation is that somehow the classics are left behind and what I mean by that is pioneers, and not just Asian but Asian-American pioneers such as Wayne Wang. But when looking at 'Five Fingers of Death' it represented the first ever huge US box office hit featuring Asians on screen and for director Chung Chang-wha to be able to bring this seemingly... if you think about this vision, it's a Korean filmmaker, with a Chinese cast, and a Japanese crew, and just the idea of all those elements coming together in that time period represents something very momentous and it really brought on the craze of kung fu that inspires films that are releasing this year such as 'The Man with the Iron Fists.' So thinking about the martial arts and how it has changed cinema and how it changed action in cinema, if you look at 'Taken' and 'Unknown' and all these other films that have all these martial arts mixed in, that are not Asian, it shows that 'Five Fingers of Death' inspired way too many films to count.

In addition to popular mainstream titles, Lorenzo likes to highlight the smaller, more daring films, "I think this year the programming is really ambitious and very challenging and wonderful. We also programmed films like 'Mondomanila,' which is a very extreme Filipino look at political life and corruption and poverty, we have films, another film from the Philippines called 'Graceland,' which is like a perfect Hollywood thriller set against the backdrop of a very difficult place to live. Also 'Viette,' a very personal story directed by our former artistic director Mye Hoang and that film again is very independent, low budget, ultra low budget, but very profound experience about a young woman coming of age and specific to dating someone who was not of her ethnicity and also dealing with her family and it's a remarkable tale. And there are films that are extreme like 'Henge,' which is probably the best 57 minutes ever on screen."

Here's the trailer for "Henge." But in some ways, the less you know about this the better. But it begins with something along the lines of, "One morning Gregor Sampsa woke up to find that he had transformed into a giant cockroach." Take that to an Asian extreme and throw in a romance and well, you have "Henge."

Earlier this year the San Diego Film Foundation, the non-profit organization overseeing the festival, changed its name to Pacific Arts Movement.

"For us the name change was that we needed to do 2 things," says Lorenzo, "One, we needed to distinguish our organization from the film festival. A lot of times it got missed that we were a year-round organization so people from all over San Diego and people that we would come across would always say oh you're the film festival and not think about the year round programs. And this name change reinforces and reminds that we are in fact a year round organization that provides not only fine exhibition of films whether it's through our film festival, our spring showcase, our quarterly screenings, our member film forums exclusive to members, our senior screenings that we do for local senior citizens, our outdoor screening partnerships, our filmmaking education programs including Reel Voices and Reel Voices Journey, and so all those year-round programs. We needed to find a way to remind people that yes we do run a film festival and I think we do it really well but also we have a year -round organization. And Pacific Arts Movement really does reinforce the idea that we are open, that this is not just the San Diego Asian Film Festival, don't come in, this is in fact a very diverse, very inclusive organization that welcomes all walks of life, all sorts of genders, ethnicities, orientations, everything is welcome here and that Pacific Arts Movement also inspires movement. And that's what our organization is and what we are."

Basically, something for every taste. The San Diego Asian Film Festival continues through November 9th at the Ultrastar Mission Valley Theaters at Hazard Center.

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