Lineup for L.A. Asian Pacific Film Fest Announced

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Jeremy Lin in a scene from Evan Jackson Leong’s “Linsanity.”

Visual Communications (VC), the nation’s premier Asian Pacific American media arts center, has announced its program for the upcoming 29th edition of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF), to be held May 2 to 12 at the Directors Guild of America (DGA), CGV Cinemas in Koreatown, the Tateuchi Democracy Forum at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, and the historic Art Theatre of Long Beach.

As Southern California’s largest and most prestigious film festival of its kind, the LAAPFF launches the celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month through this year’s slate of over 140 films from both Asian Pacific American and Asian international directors from over 20 countries. Over the past 29 years, the festival has presented more than 3,600 films and shorts; this year, 33 feature films and 108 shorts will be showcased during the 10-day event.

The festival will feature many returning filmmakers and producers who continue to make films and still hold true to their own voices, as exemplified by curated programs, special presentations and sneak previews of upcoming commercial releases, and the launch of two new programs for the production of new Asian American content. In addition, this year also offers an array of celebrated works from prestigious global film festivals, including Sundance, Berlin, Toronto and Cannes.

The LAAPFF kicks off with the Los Angeles premiere of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival hit “Linsanity,” directed by Evan Jackson Leong, a longtime music video director, non-fiction filmmaker and VC/LAAPFF alum. Screenings are on Thursday, May 2, at 5:30 and 7 p.m. at the DGA.

This highly anticipated documentary, which received its world premiere at Sundance 2013, casts a trained eye on Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin, starting from his humble beginnings in Palo Alto High School to his Harvard college basketball days and through his magical run in the NBA with the New York Knicks in February 2012. Leong chronicles Lin’s inspirational story long before that fateful month and at a time when Lin was still struggling to find a place in a league that didn’t want him while never wavering in his faith and hope for an opportunity.

“Linsanity” is produced by Christopher C. Chen (“Looper”; “Year of the Yao”; “Every Little Step”), actor Brian Yang (“Hawaii Five-0”; “The Man with the Iron Fists”), and Allen Lu. Daniel Dae Kim (“Hawaii Five-0”; “Lost”) narrates the film.

“We are excited to host the L.A. premiere of ‘Linsanity,’” says David Magdael, festival co-producer. “Celebrating opening night with this film, with Evan and his production team, is definitely a proud moment for our Asian American film community.”

Jake Shimabukuro performs for kids in a scene from Tadashi Nakamura’s “Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings.”

The U.S. Centerpiece Presentation features the insightful “Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings” by award-winning documentary filmmaker Tadashi Nakamura (“Yellow Brotherhood”; “Pilgrimage”; “A Song for Ourselves”). Nakamura’s first feature film offers a compelling portrait of Honolulu-based musician Jake Shimabukuro, an inventive artist whose virtuoso skills on the ukulele transformed the instrument’s understood potential and whose YouTube videos catapulted him into stardom.

“Life on Four Strings,” which reveals the cultural and personal influences that have shaped the man and the musician, screens on Saturday, May 4, at 7 p.m. at the DGA.

The LAAPFF welcomes back director Arvin Chen (“Au Revoir Taipei,” Festival 2010 Opening Night) with his new feature film — “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” — as the International Centerpiece Presentation. Fresh from its hit world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival, this romantic comedy reveals Chen’s growth in filmmaking, and confirms his place as one of Taiwan’s next generation of talented new filmmakers.

“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” tells the story of Weichung, a 39-year-old husband and father who lives an idyllic life, with a doting wife and adorable young son. As he approaches his 40th birthday, he realizes that he has lost all recollection of the younger gay man that he used to be. It will screen on Sunday, May 5, at 4 p.m. at the DGA.

“Films like ‘Life on Four Strings’ and ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’ reflect the diverse talent across the broad, global spectrum of Asian American cinema,” says Anderson Le, festival artistic director. “This is what we strive to bring our audiences every year, and we are proud to showcase these works in Los Angeles.”

A scene from Kenji Uchida’s “Key of Life.”

The festival’s closing night gala presentation is Japanese director Kenji Uchida’s award-winning screwball comedy “Key of Life,” a satirical take on identity theft and finding one’s true self, starring award-winning Masato Sakai as a failed actor who contemplates suicide after being dumped by his girlfriend. Before committing suicide, Sakurai heads off to a public bathhouse, where he sees a man named Kondo (Teruyuki Kagawa) slip on a bar of soap and get knocked out. On a sudden whim, Sakurai switches locker keys with Kondo and takes his identity.

Kondo is whisked to the hospital, where he suffers amnesia. He is then given the contents of Sakurai’s locker and soon embodies his strange, new life. Unbeknownst to Sakurai, he soon realizes that his new identity has yakuza ties.

The film received its world premiere at the 2012 Shanghai International Film Festival and will be released in U.S. cinemas in June. It will screen on Thursday, May 9, at 7 p.m. at CGV Cinemas.

This year, the LAAPFF will present a number of award-winning films from some of the world’s most prestigious film festivals. This year’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary World Cinema, “A River Changes Course” by San Francisco-based director Kalyanee Mam, will have its Los Angeles premiere on May 4 at 12:15 p.m. at the DGA. Her first feature film covers the lives of three young Cambodians struggling to overcome the crushing effects of deforestation, overfishing and overwhelming debt working and living on the Tonle Sap River in Cambodia. Mam was the director photography for the Oscar-winning film “Inside Job.”

Other global festival favorites include: “Jiseul” by O Muel (winner, World Cinema Narrative Grand Jury Award, 2013 Sundance Film Festival); “Fallen City” by Zhao Qi (2013 Sundance Film Festival); “Abigail Harm” by Lee Isaac Chung (2012 Busan International Film Festival), starring Amanda Plummer; “When I Walk” by Jason DaSilva (2013 Sundance Film Festival); “The Playback Singer” by Suju Vijayan (New Visions Award Winner, 2013 CineQuest Film Festival); “Sake-Bomb” by Junya Sakino (2013 SXSW Film Festival); and “Comrade Kim Goes Flying” by Anja Daelemans, Nick Bonner and Kim Gwang Hun (Toronto International Film Festival/Busan International Film Festival/Pyongyang International Film Festival).

“The LAAPFF has become one of the main stops on the festival circuit for these major award-winning festival films,” states Abraham Ferrer, LAAPFF senior programmer. “We are honored to showcase these important voices from our filmmakers from around the world bringing their films to Southern California.”

New Media

In addition to features, documentaries and short films, the festival also presents content from the burgeoning new media space. Two productions, made especially for online distribution, are highlighted in this year’s program.

The cast of “Nice Girls Crew.”

In “Nice Girls Crew” from award-winning director Tanuj Chopra (“Punching at the Sun”), creator-producer Christine Kwon returns to the festival with a second season of comedy between three frenemies (played with zeal and zaniness by Michelle Krusiec, Lynn Chen and Sheetal Sheth) who bond, fight, and cry together in their own solitary book club. For this new season, the cast has grown to accommodate the talents of Leonardo Nam (“The Perfect Score,” “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”) and Parvesh Cheena (“Outsourced”).

The second web-based project is an adaptation of award-winning play and produced by Justin Lin’s YOMYOMF (You Offend Me, You Offend My Family) Network on YouTube. “Yellow Face” is about DHH (Ryun Yu), an Asian American playwright who casts Marcus (Christopher Gorham), a Caucasian actor, in his new show after mistakenly believing Marcus is part Asian. An entertaining mix of fact and fiction that defies any easy categorization, Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang’s play — a planned YouTube adaptation — features a distinguished cast including a mix of veterans and newbies from film, TV, theater and YouTube.

This “work-in-progress” presentation will be followed by a panel discussion led by Bing Chen, global creator development and management lead at YouTube, Philip W. Chung, creative director of the YOMYOMF Network, Jeff Liu, the director of this project, and members of the cast.

“New media is a sector that Asian American content creators have thrived through innovation and capturing dedicated audiences. With the likes of Ryan Higa, KevJumba, Freddie Wong, and Wongfu Productions, who have huge followings and have managed to monetize their content on YouTube, online media is where its at,” says Le. “The YOMYOMF Network is doing innovative things by becoming a de facto entertainment network that can do a plethora of content, from reality competition shows, to music videos, to broad comedies.

“‘Yellowface’ and ‘Nice Girls Crew’ are two examples of now trying to carve specific niches within the broad world of Asian American online consumers, who are looking for diversified and prestige content.”

Project Catalyst

As independent film continues to grow and change at a rapid pace with respect to funding and getting productions off the ground, so do the available resources for filmmakers.  Once again, VC, through the LAAPFF, will also host Project Catalyst, a film and TV project development initiative specifically designed to help usher in new stories and ideas into production and distribution.

Project Catalyst serves as a launch pad for filmmakers of Asian descent to showcase their narrative feature and TV spec projects to financiers, producers, production companies, artists, agents, managers and industry executives. At last year’s Project Catalyst (previously known as Project Market), filmmakers had over 140 meetings and numerous networking engagements, providing them with the contacts, information and confidence they need to make their film.

This year, in an effort to find visionary stories, nine narrative projects have been chosen to participate. In addition to participating in the panels, a pitch session with the jury and one-on-one industry meetings, a cash prize will be awarded. This award will be determined by an esteemed panel of jurors and will be announced at the closing ceremonies of the festival.

“At Visual Communications, it is our goal to ensure that our stories are being told by our artists,” states Shinae Yoon, VC executive director and festival executive producer. “Project Catalyst is a unique opportunity to provide resources and access to help nurture and incubate our Asian Pacific American talent. We are looking forward to the scripts and potential projects that our filmmakers will present this year with the hope of discovering new talent and new stories.”

With over 60 women directors showcased this year, the LAAPFF celebrates the voices of women filmmakers. Festival-goers will be able to interact with the “Women Got the Power!” panel on Sunday, May 5, at 1 p.m. at the DGA. It will focus on female producing talent who have put their stamp on the current landscape by claiming their own voice in a very male-dominated industry. A new generation of Asian Pacific American women producing talent will be featured, including Soojin Chung, Vera Miao and Suju Vijayan.

Linda Mabalot (1953-2003)

The LAAPFF will mark the 10th anniversary of the passing of VC’s visionary executive director Linda Mabalot with the special program “Howzit! A Visual Communications Tribute to Linda Mabalot.” The program will be dedicated to her policy of nurturing the next generation of Asian Pacific American filmmakers.

Selected works by past recipients of the Linda Mabalot New Directors/New Visions Award, a LAAPFF juried award recognizing innovative use of cinematic language, will be shown, and the inaugural Linda Mabalot Legacy Fund Scholarship will be presented to a woman filmmaker whose work reflects Mabalot’s deep commitment to community justice and social issue documentary filmmaking. This will take place on May 5 at 2:30 p.m. the DGA.

Continuing last year’s success, the LAAPFF expands to the South Bay during the closing weekend. On Saturday, May 11, selected works will be presented in Long Beach, including encore presentations of film festival award-winners and curated films from Pacific Islander, Taiwanese, Filipino and Native Hawaiian communities. This festival extension will showcase “Tongues of Heaven” by Anita Chang; “To Weave a Name (E Haku Inoa)” by Christen Marquez; “The Haumana” by Keo Woolford; and “Harana” by Benito Bautista.

This year’s competition of Asian American feature films reflects a varied group of compelling storytellers.

Documentary Competition

“A River Changes Course” – Kalyanee Mam (Cambodia/U.S.)

“Harana” – Benito Bautista (Philippines/U.S.)

“Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings” – Tadashi Nakamura (U.S.)

“Linsanity”  – Evan Jackson Leong (U.S.)

“Raskal Love” – Byron Q (U.S.)

“Stateless” – Duc Nguyen (U.S.)

“To Weave a Name (E Haku Inoa)” – Christen Marquez (U.S.)

“Tongues of Heaven” – Anita Chang (U.S./Taiwan)

“When I Walk” – Jason Dasilva (U.S./Canada)

“Xmas Without China” – Alicia Dwyer (U.S.)

Narrative Competition

“Abigail Harm” – Lee Isaac Chung (U.S.)

“Best Friends Forever” – Brea Grant (U.S.)

“Chink” – Stanley Yung (U.S.)

“The Haumana” – Keo Woolford (U.S.)

“The Playback Singer” – Suju Vijayan (U.S.)

“Sake-Bomb” – Junya Sakino (Japan)

“Someone I Used to Know” – Nadine Truong (U.S.)

International Showcase

“Comrade Kim Goes Flying” – Kim Gwang-Hun, Nicholas Bonner, Anja Daelemans (North Korea/Belgium/U.K.)

“Dreams for Sale (Yume Uru Futari)” – Miwa Nishikawa (Japan)

“Fallen City” – Zaho Qi (China)

“Jiseul” – O Muel (South Korea)

“Key of Life (Kagi Dorobo no Mesoddo)” – Kenji Uchida (Japan)

“The Sound of Crickets at Night (Ainikien Jidjid Ilo Boñ)” – Jack Niedenthal, Suzanne Chutaro (Marshall Islands)

“Tokyo Boy” – Yoshinori Sato (Japan)

“Touch of the Light” – Chang Jung-Chi (Taiwan)

“What Isn’t There (Ang Nawawalang)” – Marie Jamora (Philippines)

“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” – Arvin Chen (Taiwan)

Special Presentations

“Dead Dad” – Ken J. Adachi (U.S.)

“Hafu: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan” – Lara Perez Takagi, Megumi Nishikura (Japan)

“Nice Girls Crew: Season 2” – Tanuj Chopra (U.S.)

“Yellowface” – Jeff Liu (U.S.)

Secret Screening Presentation – (U.S., South Korea)

For program information and to purchase tickets, go to www.vconline.org/festival or call VC at (213) 680-4462, ext. 59. Tickets go on sale on Friday, April 5.

The festival is honored to partner once again with the Directors Guild of America. 7920 Sunset Blvd. (at Hayworth, one block west of Fairfax), West Hollywood, as its main screening venue during the opening weekend. This state-of-the-art theater is where the festival will screen its opening night film as well as its Centerpiece Presentations.

The festival will also screen at CGV Cinemas, 621 S. Western Ave. (between Sixth and Wilshire), Los Angeles. Screenings will begin on Friday May 3, continue through the Closing Night Gala, and wrap on May 12.

The Art Theatre of Long Beach is located at 2025 E. 4th St., Long Beach.

This year’s festival sponsors include:

Platinum — Directors Guild of America; Wells Fargo

Silver — NBC Universal; Remy Martin; Sony Picture Entertainment

Bronze — CBS Television; SAG/AFTRA; SAG/Indie

Star — Jenner & Block LLP; L&L Hawaiian Barbecue; Pacific Islanders in Communications; TC Charton Asian Fit Eyewear; The Famous Group; Tunnel Post; Valley View Casino & Hotel; Writers Guild of America/West; YesStyle

In-kind — Ace Beverage Distributor; Creatve Floral Designs; Far Bar; FestPro; Glico/Pocky; IKON Office Supplies; Molla Space; Movie Magic; Stella Artois; Suey Creative

Government Support — National Endowment for the Arts; Los Angeles County Arts Commission; Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; California Arts Council

Foundation Support — The James Irvine Foundation; California Community Foundation Venue Sponsors — Directors Guild of America; CGV Cinemas; Art Theatre of Long Beach

Media Sponsors — AngryAsianMan.com; LA-18 KSCI-TV; LA Weekly

VC, established in 1970, has established a lengthy track record of pioneering achievements in producing, presenting, and preserving more honest and accurate representations of Asian and Pacific Islander communities in America. It is also recognized as an incubator of emerging Asian Pacific American cinematic talent. VC’s works have been exhibited in numerous venues and broadcast outlets around the world. Its mission is to promote intercultural understanding through the creation, presentation, preservation and support of media works by and about Asian Pacific Americans.

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