Visual Communications, the nation’s premier Asian Pacific American media arts center, will showcase more than 140 works during the 30th Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, May 1-11. Films will be screened at the Director’s Guild of America, CGV Cinemas in Koreatown, the Tateuchi Democracy Forum in Little Tokyo, and the historic Art Theatre of Long Beach.
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 films from domestic and international directors from over 20 countries. For three decades, the festival has presented more than 3,600 films and shorts by Asian American and Asian international artists.
The festival returns to Los Angeles Little Tokyo with screenings at the Japanese American National Museum’s Tateuchi Democracy Forum, May 5 through May 11.
The 30th edition of the festival blasts off with the Los Angeles premiere of the 2014 Sundance hit “To Be Takei,” directed by Jennifer Kroot and produced by Gerry Kim and Mayuran Tiruchelvam. The documentary chronicles actor, artist, activist and icon George Takei’s life history with wit, grace and whimsy, from his days on the iconic television series “Star Trek” to his civil rights and marriage equality advocacy.
“It is exciting and appropriate for our festival to open with ‘To Be Takei,’ said Anderson Le, festival artistic director. “For us, he’s been an iconic figure and one of the first Asian American actors to achieve mainstream stardom in Hollywood. George is not only a pioneer, but also he is also one of the most outspoken and media-savvy celebrities working today.
“The film tells his whole story from his acting to his activism to his amazing personal life, which is now wide open for everyone to see. He is a living legend and kicking off our celebration of 30 years of Asian American filmmakers and artists with his life story will be historic.”
The festival will also celebrate the work of pioneering actor Sessue Hayakawa and legendary concept artist Tyrus Wong. Hayakawa began his career in the early days of the American film industry and as the owner of Hayworth Studios, is considered to be the very first Asian American movie mogul. And Wong, a son of Chinese immigrants, is revered for his game-changing design concepts on the Disney film “Bambi.” He also painted thousands of storyboards and set illustrations for many live action films.
“Too often, we take for granted the enormous legacy of our past pioneers in the mainstream entertainment industry. Our commemoration of both Tyrus Wong and Sessue Hayakawa goes a long way to rectifying that omission,” said Abraham Ferrer, LAAPFF senior programmer. “We are proud to pay tribute to Hayakawa and Wong, and invite our audiences to experience their works on the silver screen. These artists have made important contributions to American cinema.”
Hayakawa’s centennial tribute will comprise a twin-bill presentation of two of his starring vehicles, “The Wrath of the Gods” (1914) and “The Dragon Painter” (1919), to screen on May 4 at the DGA. Past Visual Communications board member and esteemed film preservation specialist Stephen Gong is slated to host the program, which will feature exclusive musical scores composed and performed by Bay Area jazz musician Mark Izu, with ensemble.
The Festival Centerpiece presentation, the road-trip comedy “Farah Goes Bang,” directed by Meera Menon, follows a woman in her 20s who tries to lose her virginity while on the road campaigning for presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004. Menon’s feature directorial debut premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and she was awarded the Nora Ephron Prize for groundbreaking woman filmmaker.
For program information and to purchase tickets, log on to www.vconline.org/festival or contact Visual Communications at (213) 680-4462.