28th Asian American Film Fest Underway in New York City
by Vanessa Romo
The Asian American International Film Festival got a tidy kick-off on Friday (July 15th) with the help of international cinema star Maggie Cheung at the Opening Night screening of Olivier Assayas' award- winning film "Clean," followed by a gala reception. The 28th annual festival will continue through July 31, taking place in three locations (Asia Society, IFC Center and Cinema Arts Centre) and screening a number of films, including Michael Kang's Centerpiece, "The Motel."
Assayas' "Clean" earned Cheung the Best Actress award at Cannes in 2004 and her performance as a junkie struggling to get her life back together is one of more than 80 roles that has garnered Cheung AAIFF's CineVisionary Award for her contributions to the landscape of international cinema on the opening night of the festival.
A mini-retrospective spanning Cheung's 20 year film career will feature special screenings of Peter Chan's romantic comedy "Comrades: Almost a Love Story," Johnnie To's superhero action film, "The Heroic Trio" and newly announced, "Song of the Exile," replacing "Center Stage."
Coming full circle, this year's Centerpiece film is the 2001 AAIFF Screenplay competition winner and Michael Kang's feature film debut "The Motel." The film, which screened at Sundance earlier this year, is the story of a 13-year-old Korean American misfit desperate to create his own identity, finding guidance and dubious inspiration from a washed-up tenant in his parents' seedy motel.
Other New York premieres include Gaurav Seth's "Pink Ludoos" about a Punjabi Canadian girl whose impending arranged marriage is cramping her untraditional lifestyle. Yasmin Ahmad's Malaysian film "Sepet" (Malay for "single eyelid"), about the taboo romance between a Chinese peddler of pirated videos and a Malay Muslim schoolgirl who likes the Hong Kong movies he sells. And the Taiwanese documentary, "62 Years and 6,500 Miles Between," which tells the story of the nation's struggle for self-determination through a portrait of director Anita Wen-Shin Chang's own grandmother.
Another documentary making its U.S. premiere is Heesook Sohn's "Happy Family" about a Korean American woman living in Berlin with her family who sets out -- from Los Angeles to New York to Seoul -- to learn about the fate of her scattered relatives. The sex caper "AV" by director Ho-cheung Pang about four Hong Kong University students who dupe a Japanese porn star into acting in their bogus X-rated movie so that they can have sex with her is another American premiere, as well as, Yuthlert Sippapak's "Pattaya Maniac," an action filled romantic comedy about two best friends who unwittingly find themselves on the outs with the Thai mafia.
And Indonesian director Joko Anwar's "Janji Joni" about Jakartan man in a race against time as he delivers film reels to a movie theater for the chance to meet a beautiful woman, will enjoy its international debut at the festival.
In all, the complete festival program includes 19 world premieres, 14 U.S. premieres and 47 New York premiers, 36 of which are also East Coast debuts. The films represent Asian filmmakers from the U.S., Peru, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan.
[ For more information, please visit: http://www.aaiff.org. ]