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March 10, 2005 2:00 AM
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Alice Wu's "Saving Face" Opens San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival Tonight

Alice Wu's "Saving Face" Opens San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival Tonight

by Brian Brooks



Michelle Krusiec (left) and Joan Chen in Alice Wu's "Saving Face," which will open the 23rd San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival Thursday night. Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.


The San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival opens tonight with Toronto and Sundance festival feature "Saving Face" by Alice Wu, ushering in the United State's largest Asian film event, which will feature more than 130 features, shorts and videos from 23 countries in three Bay Area cities, running through March 20. Additionally, the festival will screen three world premieres, and will fete Oscar-winning Japanese-American filmmaker Steven Okazaki, with a look at his 25-year career.

San Jose-born Alice Wu's "Saving Face," which had its world debut last year in Toronto, is a romantic comedy centering on Wilhelmina (Michelle Krusied), a successful and loyal daughter who, to her mother's (Joan Chen) dismay, is still single. Friends in the close-knit community in Queens try to attach her to eligible men, but instead, Wilhelmina's affections like with Vivian (Lynn Chen). Wu and cast members are expected to attend the screening, which will be followed by a party at the Asian Art Museum.

Curtis Choy's ("Fall of the I-Hotel") new doc, "What's Wrong with Frank Chin?" will have its world debut at SFIAAFF. The film follows the author and activist Frank Chin, who has established himself through writings and controversial critiques on the state of Asian-American culture. Satsuki Ina's "From A Silk Cocoon," meanwhile, takes a look at a Japanese-American family's decision during the period of internment of that community to return to Japan.

Evans Chan's U.S. premiere documentary "Sorceress of the New Piano," will screen as this year's Centerpiece presentation. The film is a portrait of Margaret Leng Tan, who has been hailed by New Yorker magazine as "the diva of avant-garde pianism." Adam Del Deo's "The Year of the Yao" follows Chinese-native basketball star Yao Ming, as he arrived in the U.S. rookie, dealing with culture shock and representing the hopes of a nation back home, while showing hilarious and awkward moments with fellow teammates as well as a 'Fortune Cookie Night' at an opponent's stadium.

"An Evening with Steven Okazaki" will take place during the event with an onstage interview with award-winning journalist and author, Nguyen Qui Duc, preceded by the world premiere screening of Okazaki's latest, "The Mushroom Club." The film is reminiscent of his 1982 documentary "Survivors," which featured interviews with Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bomb survivors. The latest film explores the subject again to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Additionally, the festival will screen his romantic comedy "Living on Tokyo Time" (1987) and three of his short docs, "Hunting Tigers" (1988), "American Sons" (1994), and "Days of Waiting" (1990), winner of the 1991 Academy Award for best documentary short.

Michael Kang's coming of age story, "The Motel" will close the festival March 20. The film is described by the festival as being about a "hapless and chubby Chinese-American teen [who] meets the new tenant at his parents' motel, a cool-handed vagrant" who changes his life. "The Motel" takes a look at masculinity and ethnicity as seen through the eyes of a confused 13 year-old.

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the National Asian American Telecommunications Association (NAATA), which organizes the annual SFIAAFF, the festival will feature "choice cuts" from its vault. Guest programmers Renee Tajima- Peña ("My America... Or Honk if You Love Buddha"), Justin Lin ("Better Luck Tomorrow"), and the team of Gurinder Chadha ("Bride & Prejudice") and Paul Mayeda Berges will select the films.

Founded in 1980, NAATA has been a leading Asian-American media arts organization, awarding over $3 million in grants to filmmakers, and supporting more than 1,000 Asian-American projects through educational distribution, public television broadcasts, and festival exhibition.

SFIAAFF takes place in San Francisco at the AMC Kabuki 8 Theatres and the Castro Theatre as well as in Berkeley at the Pacific Film Archives, and in San Jose at the Camera 12 Cinemas.

[ For a full list of films and other SFIAAFF programs, please visit http://www.naatanet.org". ]

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