San Diego Asian Film Festival Opens Thursday Night At theNAT

Festival runs through Nov. 18 with home base at UltraStar Mission Valley

Thursday, November 9, 2017
By Beth Accomando

"Before We Vanish"

"Caniba"

"Dragonfly Eyes"

"Great Buddha+"

"Have A Nice Day"

"Marlena The Murderer in Four Acts"

"Mon Mon Mon Monsters"

"Mystery Kung Fu Theater"

"One Day"

"Paradox"

"Samui Song"

"Shopping For Fangs"

"A Taxi Driver"

"Youth"

UPDATE: Mystery Kung Fu Theater

San Diego Asian Film Festival continues tonight at the Ultrastar Mission Valley Theaters with Mystery Kung Fu Theater (MKFT), a unique film experience.

But there are some rules you regarding MKFT. First you have to put your absolute trust in San Diego Asian Film Festival artistic director Brian Hu and second you have to be able to keep a secret.

"It’s a secret," Hu explained,"[attendees] are not allowed to tell anybody after they leave the theater, they just have 90 minutes where this belongs to them. It’s usually some classic martial arts film, I try to find films that have not been released in the United States… and you probably, definitely haven’t seen it on the big screen with a group of hollering friends and people who should be your friends and it’s one of the great communal experiences of the film festival."

I’ve been to every Mystery Kung Fu Theater and Hu never fails to deliver a kick ass film. So I hope you accept my invitation to be part of a secret society of Asian action fans as Mystery Kung Fu Theater convenes at 9:40 tonight at Ultrastar Mission Valley Theaters at Hazard Center.

SDAFF Begins

The 18th annual San Diego Asian Film Festival launches Thursday night with "Oh Lucy" screening at the San Diego Natural History Museum's Kaplan Theater and continues through Nov. 18 at multiple venues.

Artistic Director Brian Hu brings a diverse array of films to the festival every year. He programs crowd pleasers as well as extreme cinema and everything in between.

To help attendees navigate through the multitude of features, documentaries and shorts, he has set up what is called Festival Sections, which he said helps you decide what kind of filmgoer you might be.

"If you are in it just for entertainment, then the Asia Pop section is for you," Hu said. "If you want to see something on the more artsy side or experimental side then try Discoveries. If you just want to see great filmmakers at work then the Masters section. But if you are a little more adventurous, get an all-festival pass. That means with your badge you get front of line access, watch something and if you don't like it, watch something else. Walk out if you don't like it. No one judges you here at the festival."

Film festivals are the perfect place to make bold choices and experience films that you may not be able to see anywhere else or ever again.

The festival serves up rom-coms, socially conscious documentaries, melodramas, martial arts action and science fiction.

It's also unafraid to show films that may challenge and provoke filmgoers in terms of both content and style. One such film is the documentary "Caniba" by Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor.

Hu described the film: "While studying at the Sorbonne in 1981, Issei Sagawa raped, killed and ate a classmate. Declared insane and shipped back to Japan, Issei spent the following decades exploiting his notoriety, writing books, drawing manga, working in pornography and even becoming a food critic. Now he is the subject of the latest documentary by Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, a project that gets this backstory out of the way in the opening title cards and an introductory audio clip. For the rest of the film, we simply share a space with Issei and his brother today at home. It is a space we cannot take lightly, but which we don’t fully glimpse. All we can see are close-ups, mostly of Issei’s face, scarred and numbed, features slipping in and out of focus. These are the eyes that witnessed the cruelest acts imaginable. This is the mouth that fulfilled an atrocity."

The film is riveting but some may be disgusted by the nonjudgmental tone the film takes toward its subject and by its stylistic approach shooting in claustrophobic and often out of focus close-ups. It is not an easy film, but it is unlike anything you have ever seen, and it is fascinating. It pairs up nicely with the Netflix original series "Mindhunter" that focuses on FBI agents as they look into the psychology of murder by interviewing real serial killers.

You can find more about the films and buy tickets online at the festival's website.