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San Diego Asian Film Festival’s Spring Showcase Starts On Positive Note

Music documentary kicks off 8 days of films

The documentary

Credit: HBO

Above: The documentary "The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble" kicks of the San Diego Asian Film Festival's Spring Showcase on April 28 at UltraStar Mission Valley.

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando previews the San Diego Asian Film Festival's Spring Showcase.


Pac-Arts and the San Diego Asian Film Festival host the annual Spring Showcase April 28 through May 5 at the UltraStar Mission Valley.

Spring Showcase kicks off on an upbeat note with the documentary "The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble." The film is directed by Morgan Neville who won an Oscar for another musical documentary, "Twenty Feet From Stardom."

This time around Neville looks to cellist Yo-Yo Ma and his project to bring musicians from along the famous trade route together. The film looks to the role music plays and to creating unexpected connections. Festival programmer Brian Hu said for the opening night screening in San Diego, Pac-Arts is bringing in local musicians "to give some of the instruments in the film a local dimension."

A nostalgic note is hit by the documentary "The Lost Arcade," a gorgeous valentine to New York City’s last arcade — The Chinatown Fair.

The film opens with a man returning to the arcade and recalling the feelings he had going there as a kid: "The quarter was my wager, it embodied the game, the goal, which could be won or lost, all my pride, and disappointment and joy was held in that quarter."

The film is not only about documenting a video arcade but also also about the sense of community it created.

The showcase also boasts the compelling sidebar China Now: Independent Visions. One of the documentaries featured is "A Filmless Festival," about the 2014 shutdown of the Beijing Independent Film Festival. That festival specializes in underground Mainland Chinese films, films that Hu said "aren't even submitted to the censors because there's no way they'd get passed."

It's a fascinating look at how artists are making films that voice dissent and the price that they can pay in a country where the government wants to control their speech.

Spring Showcase also highlights animated shorts, narrative features, and my favorite event, Mystery Kung Fu Theater (where you have to trust the programmers to pick a classic action film, usually from the 1960s or '70s). Spring Showcase runs April 28 to May 5 at the UltraStar Mission Valley. The full schedule can be viewed here.

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