Visual Communications (VC), the nation’s premier Asian Pacific American media arts center, announced the opening, closing and centerpiece film programs for the upcoming 32nd edition of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF), which runs April 21 to 28.
This annual cinematic celebration will be presented across Los Angeles from Little Tokyo to Downtown to Koreatown and to West Hollywood, featuring over 130 films from over 20 countries.
VC will celebrate 32 years as Southern California’s largest and most prestigious film festival of its kind. The LAAPFF launches the pre-celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month through this year’s slate of films from both Asian Pacific American and Asian international directors. The festival has presented nearly 5,000 features and shorts.
Opening this year’s festival at the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo is the world premiere of dramatic comedy “The Tiger Hunter” (April 21, 7 p.m., Aratani) from the amazing new director Lena Khan. The film centers upon Sami Malik (Danny Pudi of NBC’s “Community”), a young South Asian man who travels to America to become an engineer in order to impress his childhood crush and live up to the legacy of his father — a legendary tiger hunter back home.
When Sami’s job unexpectedly falls through and he ends up living in a tiny co-op with two oddball roommates, he must resort to constructing an elaborate charade with the misfit accomplices in hopes of convincing his sweetheart that he’s far more successful than he truly is…or perhaps ever could be. As Sami tries to pull off the farce of a lifetime, what ensues is a series of adventures involving outlandish schemes, an arch-nemesis in an absurd office environment, and a somewhat functional Dodge Charger with a character of its own.
Together, although their plans may contradict each other with terrible consequences, Sami and his rag-tag group must work together while meeting the usual host of obstacles — the “usual,” that is, if back-alley brawls, trips to prison, or catastrophic LSD-related misunderstandings are just your everyday fare.
The film also stars Rizwan Manji, Jon Heder, Karen David, Kevin Pollak, Sam Page and Iqbal Theba.
Jonathan Lim’s powerful drama “Pali Road” will close out the eight-day festival at the Directors Guild of America on April 28 at 7 p.m. It centers on Lily (Michelle Chen), a Chinese doctor doing her residency in a Hawaiian hospital under Dr. Kayne (Sung Kang). She had fallen in love with schoolteacher Neil (Jackson Rathbone) — at least this is what she remembers. But after a terrible car accident, Lily wakes up to discover, in horror, a married life with Dr. Kayne that includes a 5-year-old son she has never seen.
With everyone around her denying Neil’s existence, Lily begins to question her own sanity, but memories of Neil force her to embark on a journey to retrace her past and discover the truth.
The LAAPFF Centerpiece offering this year is the moving and insightful documentary “Tyrus” (April 23, 8 p.m., Aratani) from director Pamela Tom, which brings the life of Chinese American painter, production illustrator, lithographer, and kite builder Tyrus Wong to the big screen. Wong is best known for his concept art for Walt Disney’s feature animated film “Bambi.” His strikingly beautiful concept paintings and sketches continue to influence the work of generations of animators and production designers.
“Tyrus” celebrates not only the beauty of his art, but reveals to a larger audience a lesser-known part of the Chinese American experience — that of its artists and creators.
“We are excited and proud to present these three films as our celebrations,” states VC Executive Director Francis Cullado. “Having Lena Khan’s ‘The Tiger Hunter’ as our Opening, Jonathan Lim’s ‘Pali Road’ as our Closing Night, and Pamela Tom’s ‘Tyrus’ as our Centerpiece film certainly highlights the amount of Asian American directorial talent out there.
“The big word this year in Hollywood has been ‘diversity’ … and the festival is one of the ways we address this issue. For us at the festival, it’s not just about diversity – it’s about inclusivity … Everyone will be able to celebrate inclusion and diversity on the screen, as it should be.”
Other festival highlights include:
• Festival Artist’s Spotlight: Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, featuring her documentaries “SA-I-GU: From Korean Women’s Perspective” (April 24, 5:30 p.m.), “Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women” (April 27, 4:30 p.m.), and “People Are the Sky” (April 27, 7 p.m.) at the Tateuchi Democracy Forum.
• Special Presentations, including Janice D. Tanaka’s “Rebel with a Cause: The Life of Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga” on April 24 at 1 p.m. at the Downtown Independent and April 26 at 4:30 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum.
• International Showcase, including Cellin Gluck’s “Persona Non Grata” (Sugihara Chiune) on April 23 at 3:30 p.m. at the Aratani and Henry Mittwer’s “Zen and Bones” (Zen to Hone) on April 27 at 6:30 p.m. at the Downtown Independent.
• The sixth edition of C3: Conference for Creative Content on April 23 and 24 at the Japanese American National Museum. C3 brings together foremost media professionals in film, television, cable, digital, and transmedia to create a dialogue on the ever-changing media industry, share best practices, network, celebrate and build a collective vision for the Asian Pacific American community.
For program information, a complete listing of sponsors and partners, and to purchase tickets, visit www.vconline.org/festival or contact Visual Communications at (213) 680-4462.
The screening venues are as follows:
• Aratani Theatre at Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, 244 S. San Pedro St. in Little Tokyo
• Tateuchi Democracy Forum at Japanese American National Museum, 111 N. Central Ave. in Little Tokyo
• Downtown Independent, 251 S. Main St. (between Third and Second streets) in Downtown L.A.
• CGV Cinemas, 621 Western Ave. (between Sixth Street and Wilshire Boulevard) in Koreatown/Mid-Wilshire.
• The Great Company, 1917 Bay St. (between Wilson and Mateo streets) in Downtown L.A.
• Directors Guild of America, 7920 Sunset Blvd. (at Hayworth) in West Hollywood