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Women Dominate Eighth Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival Spring Showcase

Heather Lenz' "Kusama: Infinity," closing night film at the Spring Showcase,  looks to artist Yayoi Kusama.
SDAFF
Heather Lenz' "Kusama: Infinity," closing night film at the Spring Showcase, looks to artist Yayoi Kusama.

Eight day fest opens Thursday with Mina Shum's 'Meditation Park'

Women Dominate 8th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival Spring Showcase
Women Dominate 8th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival Spring Showcase GUESTS: Brian Hu, Pac-Arts artistic director Beth Accomando, KPBS arts reporter

>> This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Maureen. The San Diego Asian film Festival has an embarrassment of riches every year in terms of films they want to show, so in addition to its main festival in the fall, it also hosts a spring showcase. Beth speaks with the festival's artistic arrestor -- director about some of the highlights. >> With a Lotta focus on diversity in film, you're opening with a film by a woman a filmmaker. What made you want to open with this particular film, which is meditation parked? >> When we picked the film, we didn't think about it in terms of it being a woman director. It had all of the ingredients for a fun opening night. It is a comedy, it is about injuring aging. We recognized that if we closed our film festival with a woman director as well, and we have with a film called [ Inaudible ] what if we make our main we can spotlight a woman filmmaker, so we chose [ Inaudible ] from Malaysia. We realized by the end of the day, most of our films in our showcases here were directed out woman. >> Your centerpiece one is a woman filmmaker who is also Muslim. What kind of sensibility does she bring to the screen that people are maybe not seeing elsewhere? >> If anyone hasn't seen a Malaysian film before, you may not realize that Malaysia is a multicultural place. As a result, they have different religions. Most people kind of stay in their own lanes. If you're Chinese, you're born into a Chinese society. Same if you are from India, same if you are ethnically. I don't know where this comes from from her, maybe she studied in the UK. She sees things from more of a cosmetology and -- cosmopolitan perspective. They are really cute movies. They are romances, there are films about family. >> You also have a film that focuses on a woman artist. >> Are closing night film is [ Inaudible ] it is about the artist who is now arguably the biggest artist in the world. Anyone who has been to the proud [ Inaudible ] every direction you look into, it looks like it goes on forever, like the stars go on forever. It is quite an experiential spectacle. That she is known around the world for. Very few people know about her story about being a Japanese person in the United States in the 1960s. First of all people do not accept her, because she was Japanese and a woman. It is about her decades of struggling with recognition and has a happy ending because we know that she becomes the biggest artist in the world. >> Another adventure is going to combine food and film which always seems to be a good pairing. This event is already close to sold out, if not sold out. I am going to have you talk about this, because maybe next time you bring it around, people will be a little bit more on the ball and get their tickets early. This is a little bit new for you guys doing this. >> The masses have spoken, this is what they want. Last year during the summer, there was a trailer that went viral, especially in the Asian American community featuring a documentary. This was a documentary about Filipino American food. Not necessarily foot from the Philippines, but food made by Filipino Americans, combining what they grew up with that home with their Filipino parents and grandparents, but combining that with their sensibilities as Americans. >> I think the impact of Filipino food becoming popular is just almost justifying our culture. In order for us to be accepted and not be considered Third World minority. Our food has to speak volumes. >> This documentary obviously makes you very hungry. We figured not only is it a chance to show the audience some of the things that are in the movie, but more importantly to me, is showcasing the fact that here in San Diego, there are Filipino American chefs that were not featured in the film that may have stories to share with their stories. By the end we had 12 chefs. We are showing the documentary, and afterwards, everyone in the film is going to be party to a combined feast, where you can eat with your hands. You can partake in something that is truly historic in San Diego. >> Another one of your events is the mystery kung fu theater. Even though you don't tell us what the film is, I understand there is some inkling that this one may be on 16mm. >> If history is going to repeat itself, it may be indeed on 16 millimeter. 16mm for those who don't know, this is by today, it is a format. It is how films used to be shown. Our theater doesn't have a projector for 16mm anymore. If we are going to do 60 millimeter, it would have to be in the spring showcase when we have a little bit more time and space to be naughty in the production booth. This is our opportunity to really prove why festivals are important as a communal event. Is about people getting together and experiencing something together that they couldn't have in their own homes. >> We have to trust you to pick a film that will be great. You always have. Give people a little idea of what kind of thing they can expect, just so that they can kind of brace themselves for what might be coming out mystery kung fu theater. >> I think we are all very familiar with the classic figures of martial arts films. The Bruce lease, the Jackie Chan's, that is really just the tip of the iceberg of the talent involved, the kinds of stories that can be told, their production values, where they originate from. What I love doing with the mystery kung fu theater, is sometimes I find some classics that Americans don't know about. Sometimes I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel. Sometimes the bottom of the barrel, you find things that have not aged well, or have aged in ways that maybe they weren't intended to. Bring them out of the vaults reminds us that there are so many ways to enjoy films. Whether it is intended or not, and sometimes it goes against what we think of the genre. I wanted to find a way to live around that, but also give a way to see martial arts films a new. >> Is there anything else you want to highlight? >> Since we mentioned women filmmakers, there is one that is really special. It is from New Zealand. It is directed by eight women directors. It is eight short films, and each of the short films takes place at ten a.m. on the same day. Earlier we talked about how women have a diversity of different perspectives here within one film, you get a different perspectives about the experience. I've never seen anything quite like it before. It is quite amazing. >> Thank you very much, looking forward to another year. >> Thanks. >> That was Beth, speaking with Brian about the San Diego Asian film Festival's Springs showcase the showcase runs April 19 through the 26th of the ultra Star Mission Valley act hazard center. Be sure to watch the evening edition of five, and that 630 tonight on K PBS television. Join us again tomorrow for K PBS mid-day addition at noon, if you ever miss a show, you can check out the Midday Edition podcast online. I am more in, thank you for listening. -- I am Maureen, thank you for listening.

UPDATE: 11:50 p.m., April 23, 2018

"Ulam: Main Dish" screened earlier tonight to a sold out theater at the San Diego Natural History Museum. After the screening thirteen chefs prepared a spectacular Kamayan feast for 300 people. Plus there were Filipino cocktails and desserts. "Ulam" filmmaker Alexandra Cuerdo was on hand for a Q&A after the film as was Nicole Ponseca, restaurateur (Maharlika and Jeepney) and author ("I am Filipino and this Is How We Cook").

Local Fil-Am chefs and crew that helped make this impressive event happen are (in alphabetical order): Mike Arquines (The LAB: Dining Sessions), Chris Aure (Zarlitos Restaurant), Tress Balch (Happy Sushi), Jonathan Bautista (George's at the Cove), Evan Cruz (Arterra Del Mar), Phillip Esteban (Consortium Holdings Ltd.), Spencer Hunter (Hunter's Home Kitchen), Craig Jimenez (Nom Nom Bento), Leigh Lacap (Campfire), Tara Monsod (Tender Greens), Danilo “DJ” Tangalin Jr (Bivouac Ciderworks), Marcus Twilegar (Parq), Jayrell Ringpis (Snoice) , Marlaw Seraspi (Open House food + drink), and Kristianna Zabala (Nomad Donuts).

Tickets for the event sold out in less than four hours. An encore screening of the film takes place on Tuesday at 8:40 p.m. at Ultrastar Mission Valley Theaters at Hazard Center. Online tickets are already sold out but there will be limited tickets available at the box office.

'Ulam' and Kamayan Feast At Spring SHowcase

UPDATE: 11:30 a.m., April 20, 2018

Mystery Kung Fu Theater is having a last minute change. Projectionist Jon Miller — the only person in San Diego who can project 16mm film at Ultastar Mission Valley Theaters — has gotten sick. This means Friday night's MKFT will not be on 16mm film. It is still happening, and the film will still be great, but it will be just a little less special. Miller assured me that he is game to project 16mm in November for the San Diego Asian Film Festival.

Read original story below.

The Eighth Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival's Spring Showcase opens this Thursday with Mina Shum's "Meditation Park."

The San Diego Asian Film Festival, sponsored by Pac-Arts, has an embarrassment of riches every year in terms of films to show. So in addition to its main festival in the fall, it also hosts a Spring Showcase.

Although it was not the original intent of the Showcase to focus on women filmmakers, artistic director Brian Hu said it was a natural evolution that grew organically out of their film choices.

Shum's film, about family and aging, focuses on two strong women played by Sandra Oh and Cheng Pei Pei. Then for closing night it's a documentary by a woman filmmaker about a woman artist. Heather Lenz' "Kusama: Infinity" looks to artist Yayoi Kusama who struggled to gain attention as a Japanese woman artist in the 1960s and has become what Hu said is "arguably now the biggest artist in the world."

For the festival's weekend centerpiece, Hu then decided to focus on Yasmin Ahmad and crafted a showcase of her work called "Falling for Angels: The Films of Yasmin Ahmad." She is a Muslim filmmaker educated in the United Kingdom and her films reflect the cultural diversity of her native Malaysia.

The festival will also screen "Waru," a film made up of eight short films by women directors that all take place at 10 a.m. on the same day and play out in real time. The film weaves eight stories of Maori women, each dealing with the death of a child in the community.

Returning once again to the Spring Showcase is Mystery Kung Fu Theater. This is when the audience has to place absolute trust in Hu to pick a martial arts film that will kick ass. It's all very secretive but rumor has it that it will be on 16mm again, a film format that has all but vanished. This means projectionist Jon Miller has to set up his 16mm projection rig next to all the state-of-the-art digital projection at Ultrastar Mission Valley Theaters at Hazard Center. You can't get an experience like this any where else, so I urge you to check it out.

Mystery Kung Fu Theater On 16mm Film

Also worth seeking out are a pair of films from male directors, the latest from Hirokazu Kore-eda and something of a change of pace for the poetic Japanese director, "The Third Murder," and the political drama "1987: When the Day Comes" from South Korean director Jang Joon-hwan who made the audacious "Save the Green Planet!"

The San Diego Asian Film Festival's Spring Showcase runs April 19 through 26 at Ultrastar Mission Valley at Hazard Center.