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Pac-Arts' Spring Showcase Serves Up Eight Days Of Asian Film

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Pac-Arts Spring Showcase kicks off its ninth year on April 11 with eight days of Asian cinema.

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Speaker 1: 00:00 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh, films from the Philippines, India, Vietnam, even Iran are featured as the San Diego Asian Film Festival. Spring showcase focuses on cinema from South Asia and Southeast Asia. The showcase, we'll revive films from a golden age of Philippines cinema as well as presenting several west coast premiers here to talk about the festival is Brian who pack arts movement, artistic director and festival programmer. Brian, it's good to see you. Welcome. Thank you for having me. The San Diego Asian Film Festival, the festival itself takes place in the fall each year. Why a spring showcase?

Speaker 2: 00:40 Yeah, so this is our ninth year during the spring showcase and will be realized was first of all, the good news is that audiences are demanding it. That we've built a community and an audience here that realizes that they don't want him to wait until November to get their fix of Asian cinema. Um, so probably what the kid or to demand, but there was also a good about a supply reason, which is that filmmakers, especially independent and international filmmakers, and you did increasingly more touch points with audiences, especially because with the rise of things like Netflix and iTunes and new opportunities to get your film out more quickly, that you need to get a touch point with audiences to show that your movie existed, to get marketing, to get the stamp of approval from curators like us. And so spring becomes a natural position for us, especially with Sundance in January. A filmmaker that's premiering a Sundance doesn't want to wait until November to, to release their film. So the spring is a perfect time for them.

Speaker 1: 01:37 This year. The spring showcase is putting a spotlight on cinema from South Asia and Southeast Asia. Is that because films from that part of Asia tend to get overlooked?

Speaker 2: 01:45 Absolutely. And it's not just overlooked in terms of cinema. Some more broadly when people think about Asia, the first, um, cultures and communities that come to mind are east Asians, like Chinese, Japanese, Korean. And I feel like, especially here in San Diego where our most prominent Asian communities are the Philippine community or the Vietnamese community here. Um, so it's really up to us as, as leaders here in San Diego to say, actually we need to rethink the face of Asian cinema, Asian culture and Asian communities. So that's why we really wanted to highlight southeast Asian filmmakers and then South Asian communities here in San Diego or the, amongst the fastest growing immigrant groups. Um, so it was important for us to play two films from India as well.

Speaker 1: 02:29 Well, in fact, on Sunday you are specifically focusing on classic films from the Philippines, is that right?

Speaker 2: 02:35 Yeah, this is what I'm most excited about for this year. Showcase. I mean, every year for on Sunday, we dedicate that day to a specific topic. So in the past we focused on individual filmmakers or historical moments. And this year happens to be the 100th anniversary of Philippine cinema. And, um, we could either talk about that entire history or in say what I wanted to do was think about how precious it is to even have access to. Yeah. You know, you mentioned that not a lot of copies of these classic films to remain in existence. Was it difficult to track these films down? It wasn't. It wasn't. It was in that these movies don't exist in very many places around the world and very few, very little has been written about them. So a lot of that research was diving into the scholarship and look, looking at what historians have talked about, having been talked about, sort of in theoretical terms.

Speaker 2: 03:21 It's sort of like we know about these movies, you remember them, but do we have even access to them to watch? But luckily in the last few years there have been certain efforts by film archives in Asia to digitally restore these films that is there. They tracked down the, for the last remaining 35 millimeter cellular prints of these films. They painstakingly scan every single frame and digitally remove the dirt and the sort of artifacts and present it in a way and preserve it onto a digital format that can be shown in movie theaters around the world. And in many cases we're the first in the United States would be able to play some of these films. What we're hoping is that we'll have audiences who can grew up in the Philippines or they know that their parents grew up in the Philippines or grandparents grew up in the Philippines. They've heard some of these stars before. People like Nora nor, but they never got, they never been able to see on the same screens that played Tom Hanks films. Um, and so we're showing these films on Sunday. Another film that's being featured during the spring showcase is called swing kids.

Speaker 3: 04:21 Okay,

Speaker 2: 04:23 boy, you want to dance? I dance. You put yourself at risk if you go on stage,

Speaker 3: 04:30 can you hear thousands spring to their feet?

Speaker 2: 04:38 What is this film swing kids about? Why is it can tell from the clip. Much of it is in English or in English. Yeah. Which is unusual for a Korean film. So part of it I think is South Korean cinema now that it's hit a certain, um, influction point of really having a national success. They're looking for international audiences. And this is an example of that, but it's also a way for them to think about there, about the Korean War in terms of the American presence in, in Korea at that time. So the film is kind of a fantasy. It's a musical fantasy set in a prison camp, a POW camp. And um, there was one on ones. It's run by the Americans. And on one side is the north, the North Korean prisoners on other sides of South Korean prisoners. And they decide as a PR stunt, they're going to create a dance team that includes a figures from both the north and the south.

Speaker 2: 05:25 And so on one level is just hugely enjoyable musical. But another way, it's a way to think about the relationship between America and the Korean War and as it's perceived on the level of those who find it. Now there's also films that shed light on LGBT Asian stories. Tell us about the closing film of this festival. Yeah, we're at closing the festival with the film called Ed Lucky Codex [inaudible], which is the first Bollywood film to center on a lesbian character. And, um, it's not as simple as that. So in India, you can't just put kind a progressively say we're going to do this, you're going to have to make the case for it. And you could tell you as you're watching the film, that the filmmakers are struggling to kind of play both sides. But that is exactly the struggle it needs to happen in, in India right now to, to make the case that these are important stories.

Speaker 2: 06:19 And, um, and I think that it does, it's by including a lot of elements that we're so used to from Bollywood, the songs, the dance, the colors, the, the sense of family, um, but just inverting some of the elements that we have a love story, but why can't it be a lesbian love story? And it does add a dentist. So kind of in a beautiful way, this spring showcase sounds very innovative. I want to let everyone know the San Diego Asian Film Festival spring showcase. It starts tomorrow with showings through April 18th at the ultra star cinemas in mission valley. I've been speaking with festival programmer, Brian. Hey Brian. Thank you. Thank you.

Speaker 3: 06:53 Yeah.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.