The 2009 edition of the Asian American International Film Festival kicks off today in New York. Already attracting buzz is H.P. Mendoza’s “Fruit Fly,” which screened at the SF International Asian American Film and Outfest earlier this year. “Fruit Fly” is set to close the AAIFF this Sunday, July 26.
From the festival’s official website: “‘Fruit Fly,’ H.P. Mendoza’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed ‘Colma: the Musical,’ sees the director teaming up once more with actress L.A. Renigen and director/cinematographer Richard Wong. Renigen plays Bethesda, a young performance artist who has just left the Philippines to develop her craft in the San Francisco art scene. She moves into an artist commune with four others, each of whom makes the promise, ‘I Won’t Be Here Long.’ While preparing her latest performance piece, Bethesda attempts to find her biological parents, and as luck would have it, she stumbles upon a photograph that might just be the missing link in her search. As the mystery surrounding her parents unravels, she must learn to cope with the responsibilities that stem from her newfound independence and the stresses of finding a performing space and balancing relationships — all while breaking out in song.”
Nelson Kim writing for Hammer to Nail selects the film as a highlight of the festival. “The movie has a few bumpy moments, but for most of its running time, it’s a blast—inventive, energetic, touching, and hilariously filthy. Mendoza’s tunes are infectious synth-pop concoctions, and his lyrics gleam with wit. The number ‘We Have So Much In Common’ is the high point of the film; it starts as a tender flirtation-and-courtship duet before morphing into an ode to ‘versatile bottoms’ that would gross out the boys from ‘South Park.'”
The Film Society’s of Lincon Center’s blog has a piece by Wayne Lorenzo Titus in which he calls “Fruit Fly” “unlike anything else you will see in a theater I guarantee. Here are just a few reasons why: insanely catchy pop tunes that will swim in your head relentlessly for days after viewing; dazzling, funny special effects that re-imagine the San Francisco skyline as an electronic game board, Asian characters devoid of clichéd stereotypes, and an infectious sense of freedom which enlivens everything from the dialogue to the title sequence.” He also notes that the AAIFF as a whole “is leaner and more focused as a condition of our new economic reality. However, it is also an experiment on the viability of a community-minded event—spread by word of mouth and quality selections rather than by star filled premieres or flashy, usually forgettable, narrative bombs.”
indieWIRE, the San Francisco Chronicle, and SF360 all have interviews with Mendoza. In the last one, Mendoza offers a pointed critique of Asian stereotypes in contemporary films: “Sometimes you have an all-white cast that has three black friends, one Latino and then there’s always the Asian guy with the funny accent who’s delivering the pizza or else he’s the engineer, the emasculated nerd. When you deal with gay cinema, there are jokes about the Asian who can’t get a man. They’re made more effeminate than the gay white men and are referred to as geishas or lotus blossoms. I’d like to think things are more open; but, if I see one more Asian American film at a festival that has no qualms about using the word ‘faggot,’ I’m going to scream.”
Watch the trailer for “Fruit Fly” on the film’s website.