A ‘Model’ of Success

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From left, Lily Mariye, Nicole Bloom and Boney James admire Mariye’s award for directing “Model Minority,” during the closing ceremonies of the L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival in Koreatown on May 17. (Rock Chang)

Lily Mariye’s feature film “Model Minority” won three awards at the just-concluded Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Mariye herself took home the Special Jury Award for directing, while John Matysiak was honored for his cinematography. The award for breakthrough performance by an actor went to star Nicole Bloom.

“Model Minority” is the first feature directed by Mariye, an actress who is best known from her 15 seasons as Lily Jarvik on NBC’s “ER.”

Joining the celebration May 17 were, from left: actress Annie Hwang; “Viette” director Mye Hoang; musician Goh Nakamura; actor Michael Aki; Giant Robot founder and president Eric Nakamura. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

Her film is the story of Kayla Tanaka (Bloom), an underprivileged Japanese American 16-year-old, who endangers her promising future as an aspiring artist when she becomes involved with a drug dealer. The film was shot in Los Angeles and includes Takayo Fischer and Academy Award winner Chris Tashima, with music by Grammy-nomined saxophonist Boney James, who also happens to be Mariye’s husband.

Among the other winners announced at the May 17 closing ceremonies was Musa Syeed’s “Valley of Saints,” which won the Grand Jury Prize for narrative feature.

Additional narrative film awards  included outstanding screenplay for writer H.P. Mendoza, for the script for “Yes We’re Open” and outstanding first feature to Daniel Hsia for “Shanghai Calling.”

Acting awards recipients included Dante Basco for his performance in “Paradise Broken,” Kevin Wu for “Hang Loose” and the ensemble cast of “Sunset Stories,” with performances from Sung Kang, Monique Curnen, Michelle Krusiec, Joshua Leonard and Sandy Martin.

Short films this year were in abundance, with over 140 entries being screened at the festival. The moving film “NANI” from Justin Tipping received the Golden Reel Award, while Mitsuyo Miyazaki was honored with the Linda Mabalot New Directors/New Visions Award.

Also making its debut was “More Than 1,000 Words,” the Steve Nagano short exploring the work of Mario G. Reyes, the longtime photographer for the Rafu Shimpo, and how he became an integral part of the community.

In the documentary jury competition, “WHERE HEAVEN MEETS HELL” directed by Sasha Friedlander received the Grand Jury Prize for Best Film.  Debbie Lum was awarded the Outstanding Director Award for her film, “SEEKING ASIAN FEMALE”.  The award for Outstanding Cinematography was a tie and it went to Sasha Friedlander and Bao Nguyen for “WHERE HEAVEN MEETS HELL” and to Sun Shaoguang for “CHINA HEAVYWEIGHT”.

Mario G. Reyes, center, with Steve and Patty Nagano, who produced a short film about his life and work for the Rafu Shimpo. (Martha Nakagawa)

Filmmakers Michael Collins and Marty Syjuco received the Special Jury Award For Human Rights, for their film “GIVE UP TOMORROW” which chronicles the frenzied legal and media circus that surrounds the decade long campaign to execute or save one young man, Paco Larrañaga.

Rounding out the event was the presentation of the C3: Project Market Award.  This is a new program started at this year’s festival recognizing new projects with a $5,000 prize for the best project pitch.

“Over the course of two days, the C3: Project Market filmmakers had over 140 meetings connecting them to financiers, producers, production companies, agents, managers and industry executives,” states Milton Liu, Director of Programs and Artists Services.  “These wonderful voices evidence the depth, breadth and continued strength of Asian American storytellers, and we are so proud that they made the inaugural C3: Project Market an overwhelming success.”

The C3: Project Market Jury Award went to Liselle Mei and Derek Nguyen for their project titled, “SEEING RED.”  An honorable mention was awarded to Musa Syeed and Nicholas Bruckman for “THE DOCTOR.”

The 2012 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival kicked off on May 10 with “SHANGHAI CALLING”, directed by Daniel Hsia and starring Daniel Henney.  The Fest will conclude May 18 -20 with encore screenings of award winners along with special Pacific Islander and Cambodian programming in Long Beach , including: “THE ORATOR” directed by Tusi Tamasese; “SIONES 2: UNFINISHED BUSINESS” (aka Samoan Wedding 2) directed by Simon Bennett; and “GOLDEN SLUMBERS” directed by Davy Chou.  For more info go to www.vconline.org

Prior to Model Minority, Lily’s award-winning short film “The Shangri-la Cafe,” gained her many accolades including The National Organization for Women’s Filmmaker of the Year Award. She was also named Up and Coming Filmmaker of Color by PBS/Colorvision, as well as  a Top 15% Finalist for the Nicholl Fellowship, the Rockefeller foundation Fellowship and four time finalist for the Sundance Feature Film Labs

For more information on Lily go to www.lilymariye.net, and Model Minority is found at www.modelminoritymovie.com.

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