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15th San Diego Asian Film Festival Challenges Stereotypes

140 Films From 20 Countries In 8 Days

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando gets a preview of the 2014 San Diego Asian Film Festival from Pac-Arts artistic director Brian Hu.

Transcript

Photo caption: "The Girl Prince" screens at this year's 15th Annual San Diego Asian Film Fes...

Photo credit: San Diego Asian Film Festival

"The Girl Prince" screens at this year's 15th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival as part of a sidebar called Remembering Queer Korea.

The 15th annual San Diego Asian Film Festival kicked off last night with a full house at the Reading Gaslamp Theaters for the opening night film, "Revenge of the Green Dragons." It was executive produced by Martin Scorsese and takes place in New York’s Chinatown, involving some real cases of famous Asian gangs in the Big Apple in the 1980s and 1990s.

This year the festival showcases 140 films from 20 countries, including two countries that have never been represented at the festival before.

"We actually have the very first ever produced in Brunei, it’s called 'Yasmine.' And then we have a film from Kazakhstan called 'The Owners,' which just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year," said Hu, who serves as artistic director of Pacific Arts Movement, the organization that puts on the festival.

"We don’t have an international film festival. So a lot of other niche festivals have stepped in. And as a result we kind of have a year round international film festival and that’s something that I’m really excited to be a part of," added Hu. "But more importantly I think that San Diego is a city that’s becoming increasingly diverse and there’s greater interest in Asia among Asian and non-Asian Americans."

Hu said the Festival is trying to challenge a wide array of stereotypes: "Basically we’re trying to capture the entire spectrum of creativity from Asia and Asian-Americans, especially trying to go beyond the stereotyped genres that Asian Americans are associated with. So genre-wise, not only do we have martial arts but also romantic comedies, melodramas, thrillers, pretty much anything you can think of."

If you feel overwhelmed by a selection of 140 shorts, features and documentaries, Hu explained that it is more like five mini festivals under one big tent: "We have sections on just Asian-American films; a section on pop films from Asia, entertainment films, genre films; we have a section just on discovering new voices and new kind of ways of telling these stories; and this year we're particularly excited to be working with a center at UCSD to present this really landmark sidebar called Remembering Queer Korea. This is a retrospective of queer images in the history of Korean cinema from the seventies onward. And this has never been done anywhere else outside of Korea before. So we are really lucky to have those kinds of partnerships in San Diego and we hope our audience is curious about film history and making sense of Korean culture."

Hu added that "looking at the sections helps you identify what your sensibility is. Some people just want to go to see a movie to have fun. Other people want to be challenged, other people want to go to films to be part of a community. And we have sections that fit each of those sensibilities. In terms of a survival guide, I know when I go to film festivals I have everything mapped out. I have the calendar, I have highlighting on the calendar of which film I’m going to watch first, second, third. Even to the point of if there’s a short film program in between two features that I am going to see, I’ll go in and watch a couple of shorts and move on to the next one too. So it’s really about being curious and taking a chance on things that you would never be able to see. Because if you don’t see it now, for the most part, you’ll never be able to see these films again."

Once again, the home base for the Festival is the UltraStar Theaters at Hazard Center. Closing night will be at Sherwood Auditorium at The Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. The centerpiece film, "Fresh Off the Boat" on Nov. 8, will be screened at the University of San Diego Shiley Theater where this festival first began 15 years ago.

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