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‘Norwegian Wood,’ ‘Hibakusha’ at Vietnamese International Film Festival

IRVINE — The sixth biennial Vietnamese International Film Festival, an eight-day showcase of Vietnamese and Vietnamese diaspora filmmakers, takes place from April 4 to 7 and 11 to 14 at Edwards University Town Center 6 in Irvine, UC Irvine, UCLA, and the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana.

Among the 69 films from around the world are these works with Japanese or Japanese American connections:

• “Norwegian Wood” (Japan, 2010, 133 min.), directed by Tran Anh Hung and starring Kenichi Matsuyama, Rinko Kikuchi and Kiko Mizuhara, on Saturday, April 6, at 6 p.m. at the Edwards University Town Center 6, located at 4245 Campus Dr.

“Norwegian Wood”

VIFF staff member Khanh Ho gives the following synopsis: “‘Norwegian Wood,’ the novel by Haruki Murakami, is a masterwork of postmodern despair — stark, subtle, monotone; ‘Norwegian Wood,’ the movie by Tran Anh Hung, is a hybrid effusion — lush, rich, emotional. The world that the movie explores bristles with nostalgia in a way that the book’s mise en scène does not: saturated colors, polyester shirts, cluttered dorms.

“This is not the landscape of modernity but of coming-into-modernity: a world of precipice and edge. This is a universe at a doorway before an economic boom period, that might just as well recall present-day Viet Nam as it does a Japan of yore — a world altogether easy to forget ever existed.

“Into this world, two lovers are brought together by a loss — a suicide — that is the hole in the center of their broken lives. Tran Anh Hung’s genius takes over where Murakami’s ends. We get the suffering but also the exuberance, the profound sadness but also the ecstasy. Heavy themes dot the landscape of this Norwegian wood: mental illness, infidelity, guilt, repression.

“Fans of Haruki Murakami’s writing, just like all fans of all books-cum-movies, will likely be disappointed by riffs and departures, but just as Murakami took the iconic Beatles song ‘Norwegian Wood’ and turned it into his own story, so Tran Anh Hung has adapted the narrative into his signature creation. It represents an entryway into the director’s own special world of heartbreaking, tender emptiness.”

A French-trained and internationally acclaimed director, Tran studied at the Louis Lumière film school. His first feature, “The Scent of Green Papaya,” won the 1993 Caméra d’Or prize at Cannes, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, making him the first Vietnamese director to be so honored.

“Hibakusha”

Tran will be present to receive the VIFF’s Inspiration Award.

• “Hibakusha” (USA, 2012, 40 min.) will be shown on Sunday, April 7, at 1 p.m. at the Edwards University Town Center 6 as part of a shorts program titled “War’s Stories.” Also featured are “Innocent Memory” (Singapore, 2012, 3 min.) by Nguyễn Thị Nam Phương and “Julian” (USA, 2012, 40 min.) by Bao Nguyen.

“Hibakusha” is an animated short featuring Kaz Suyeishi, an 84-year-old woman who vividly recalls her horrific experiences as a 17-year-old Hiroshima student on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, when the atomic bomb dropped on her hometown.

Co-director Nguyen has helped produce over 40 independent films. His appearances in television and film include “Las Vegas,” “Scrubs,” “Freaks and Geeks,” and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” He co-manages ChannelAPA.com, a site devoted to broadcasting Asian American entertainment, which has produced numerous videos featuring notable artists in the Asian American community.

Co-director Belen made his first mark in the industry in such films as “Orphan,” “The Factory,” and “Whiteout.” His first major independent work was as director for the music video “Sleep,” written by Deep Foundation and featuring Jay Legaspi. Far East Movement, known for their hit “Girls on the Dance Floor,” will have Belen direct their next video, “I Party.”

“My Americana”

• “My Americana” (Cambodia, 2011, 3 min.), directed by Anida Yoeu Ali and Masahiro Sugano, will be shown on Friday, April 12, at 11 a.m. at the Bowers Museum, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, as part of a shorts program titled “Here and Now.”

Also featured will be “Play Lunch” (Australia, 2011, 10 min.) by Cassandra Nguyen; “BBoy” (USA, 2012, 12 min.) by Vincent Tran; “Picture, Perfect” (USA, 2012, 24 min.) by Winston Titus Tao; “Upstream” (Viet Nam, 2012, 14 min.) by Lê Hoàng; “Steven and the Beetle” (Poland, 2012, 12 min.) by Piotr Loc Hoang Ngoc; and “16:30” (Viet Nam, 2012, 12 min.) by Trần Dũng Thanh Huy.

“My Americana” presents the narratives of Cambodian Americans impacted by U.S. deportation policies. It’s the simple things they miss. Exiles and expats, they grew up in the U.S. but are long and far from home.

Performance artist, writer and global agitator, co-director Ali is a Muslim Khmer American. She earned her MFA in studio arts/performance from School of the Art Institute Chicago. “My Asian Americana” won the public vote for the White House “What’s Your Story” Video Challenge. Ali has received grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, the NEA, and the Illinois Arts Council.

A Sundance Film Festival alum, co-director Sugano has accolades stretching from a Student Academy Award nomination in 1997 to LinkTV’s 2010 One Chicago One Nation grand prize. He holds an MFA in film/video/animation from the University of Illiniois, Chicago. His first feature film, “Art of Love,” is now on DVD; he is working on his second from Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

• “The Crumbles” (USA, 2012, 75 min.), directed by Akira Boch and starring Katie Hipol, Teresa Michelle Lee, Ebony Perry, and Jeff Torres, will be shown on April 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bowers Museum.

“The Crumbles”

VIFF staff member Ivan Small gives the following synopsis: “‘The Crumbles’ is an independent film about young musicians navigating friendship, romance, and L.A.’s indie music scene. A cast of colorful characters holds day jobs at coffee shops and bookstores to pay the rent while aspiring to be actors and musicians.

“The story centers around Darla, a responsible and somewhat staid young woman who dreams of starting a band. Enter Elisa: her creative, energetic, and flaky friend who shows up after a break-up and crashes on her couch indefinitely. Add Darla’s sensitive crush down the street, Dante, and an adorable stray dog that becomes part of the gang, and you have the recipe for a dynamic band that seems set to take the LA indie music scene by storm. But, the group has a lot of drama (and hangovers) to overcome before they can make that happen.

“The film is interspersed with a number of energy-driven, underground music performance scenes, which stand on their own as a soundtrack worth listening to.

“Director Akira Boch has directed a number of shorts, music videos, and documentaries. ‘The Crumbles’ is his first feature-length film. One of the main characters (Elisa) is played by Teresa Michelle Lee, who is also featured in ‘Beyond the Mat,’ this year’s opening night selection. Lee is working on a documentary about her grandmother in Viet Nam. Co-producer Lisa Nguyen is also Vietnamese American. The producers of ‘The Crumbles’ actively encouraged people of color to audition and intentionally cast women in the lead roles.”

Boch grew up in San Juan Bautista, next door to renowned Chicano theater company El Teatro Campesino, where he first learned about theater and film production. He has an MFA in film directing from UCLA. His films and videos have appeared on MTV and PBS, and in film festivals across North America and Japan.

For full program listing and ticket information, visit www.VietFilmFest.com. Tickets are also available at Tu-Quynh Book Store, (714) 531-4284; Bolsa Tickets, (714) 418-2499; and on-site before each screening.

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