After a run that saw more than half of its 97 screenings sell out, the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival named its jury and audience award winners earlier this week. Twenty-five thousand people, including over 200 filmmakers, actors, and industry guests attended this year’s festival. The fest was bookended by Aasif Mandvi and David Kaplan’s romantic comedy “Today’s Special” and Arvin Chen’s “Au Revoir Taipei.” Quentin Lee’s “The People I’ve Slept With,” starring Wilson Cruz and Archie Kao, was the fest’s centerpiece. Suzi Yoonessi’s “Dear Lemon Lima,” which debuted at LAFF, took home the jury award for Best Narrative Feature. Stephanie Wang-Breal’s “Wo Ai Ni Mommy” was named Best Documentary Feature by the doc jury. The fest’s audience gave Arvin Chen’s “Au Revoir Taipei” the Comcast Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature and gave the Comcast Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature to Deann Borshay Liem’s “In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee” and S. Leo Chiang’s “A Village Called Versailles.”
The full list of winners with commentary from the fest’s juries:
Best Narrative Feature: DEAR LEMON LIMA, Dir. Suzi Yoonessi
Special Jury Award: THE MOUNTAIN THIEF, Dir. Gerry Balasta
Jury Recognition for Visual Achievement: FOG, Dir. Kit Hui
The Narrative Competition Jury included: independent film producer Karin Chien (THE MOTEL), Tokyo-based producer Yukie Kito (TOKYO SONATA, A THOUSAND YEARS OF GOOD PRAYERS), and California College of the Arts professor of visual studies Jeanette Roan.
“Our Best Narrative Award goes to an emerging talent whose film builds a charmingly unique world. Set in Alaska against the struggle to properly acknowledge Native Alaskan heritage, this exploration of identity, multiculturalism, and the timeless theme of adolescent fitting in celebrates difference in the director’s stylish and masterfully-crafted vision. Our congratulations to DEAR LEMON LIMA, directed by Suzi Yoonessi.”
“We were moved by this earnest and heartfelt portrayal of community, compelling drama of life, love, and loss, and work of social advocacy. This story of survival, ambition, and redemption directed by a talented up-and-coming director draws us into its world with consciousness and compassion. We’re happy to present this year’s Special Jury Award to THE MOUNTAIN THIEF, directed by Gerry Balasta.”
“This intimate film about one man’s search for his personal history and identity as told against the backdrop of the history of Hong Kong utilized the visual language of cinema to communicate a lyrical and captivating world full of uncertainty. For this work we’re pleased to honor FOG, directed by Kit Hui.”
Best Documentary Feature: WO AI NI MOMMY, directed by Stephanie Wang-Breal
The Documentary Competition Jury included: Baltimore-based filmmaker Ramona Diaz (IMEDLA), New American Media editor and radio host Sandip Roy, and Emmy-award winning writer and producer Steve Talbot.
“Out of the six films in this year’s SFIAAFF Documentary Competition, the jury chose to give the Best Documentary Feature Award to an intimate film that takes the camera to a place you don’t have access to. With no fortune cookie answers, the film brings up more questions than answers, producing complicated and conflicted emotions. It’s a well-crafted and assured film, giving its audience a rarely-seen look into a child’s perspective of transnational adoption.”
Comcast Audience Award:
Best Narrative Feature: AU REVOIR TAIPEI, Dir. Arvin Chen
Best Documentary Feature (tie): IN THE MATTER OF CHA JUNG HEE, Directed by Deann Borshay Liem
and A VILLAGE CALLED VERSAILLES, Directed by S. Leo Chiang