Visual Communications (VC), the nation’s premier Asian Pacific American media arts center, announced its program of outstanding films for the upcoming 31st edition of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) running April 23-30.
This annual film celebration will be presented across Los Angeles from Little Tokyo to the Arts District to Koreatown and to West Hollywood.
VC proudly celebrates 31 years of 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 134 films (32 features, 102 shorts) from both Asian Pacific American and Asian international directors from over 20 countries. For over three decades, the festival has presented more than 3,700 films and shorts.
This year’s LAAPFF kicks off with the world premiere of Wong Fu Productions’ “Everything Before Us,” from directors Wesley Chan, Ted Fu and Philip Wang, starring Aaron Yoo (“Disturbia,” “21”), Brandon Soo Hoo (“Enders Game,” “Tropic Thunder”), Brittany Ishibashi (“Revenge of the Bridesmaids,” “Eagle Eye”) and introducing Victoria Park. This is the first feature film production to be developed and produced through the VC Film Development Fund in collaboration with Comcast.
“Everything Before Us” screens Opening Night, Thursday, April 23, at 7 p.m. at the Aratani Theatre at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center.
“We are excited and proud to be opening with ‘Everything Before Us,’ states VC Interim Executive Director Francis Cullado. “It is imperative for our organization to support our filmmakers and content creators by producing feature films. Through the VC Film Development Fund, we are able to work together with talented and groundbreaking creative artists such as Wong Fu Productions, one of the first successful filmmaking teams of the YouTube generation, with over 2.4 million subscribers. Funding their first feature gave us the opportunity to truly to nurture Wong Fu’s evolution to narrative feature filmmaking. This is a milestone.”
The Festival Centerpiece Presentation of the West Coast premiere of “KTown Cowboys” from the talented Daniel Park takes LAAPFF back to Koreatown, home of designer hotels, noraebangs, Korean BBQ joints and more. Park’s award-winning web series by the same name is now a full-length feature, and reunites that fun-loving crew of young bucks trolling the bars and cafes and hangouts of K-Town, including Jason (Shane Yoon), Sunny (Sunn Wee), Peter (Peter Jae), Danny (Danny Cho) and Robby (Bobby Choy).
“KTown Cowboys” will screen Saturday, April 25, at 8 p.m. at the Aratani Theatre.
The Festival Centerpiece documentary presentation is the West Coast premiere of the award-winning “Twinsters” from Samantha Futerman and Ryan Miyamoto. This is the real-life story of actress Futerman and budding fashion designer Anaïs Bordier — twin sisters separated shortly after birth and respectively adopted by American and French families. Discovering each other’s existence for the first time via social media, their unique experiences are documented through a series of video blogs, Skype conversations and real-time footage. Every intimate moment is captured from their first meeting to the DNA test results, home visits and their first visit back to Seoul.
The film explores the idea of family, adoption, nature vs. nurture, and the power of social media, ultimately redefining conventional definitions of “family.”
“Twinsters” screens Saturday, April 25, at 5 p.m. at the Aratani Theatre.
Closing out this year’s celebration is the Los Angeles premiere of the acclaimed “Margarita, with a Straw” from director Shonali Bose. Based loosely on the experiences of the director’s own sister, this is a winning film with vitality and heart. Kalki Koechlin stars as Laila, a Delhi University student and aspiring writer who crafts lyrics and electronic sounds for an indie band.
A wheelchair user with cerebral palsy, Laila is an adventurous soul who doesn’t let much get in the way of her life. When Laila is admitted to New York University and leaves India with her mother (Revathy) for Manhattan, she meets a fiery activist, Khanum (Sayani Gupta), who challenges her beliefs, sparks her creativity, and, eventually seduces her. Thus, she embarks on a journey of sexual discovery that threatens the relationships between her family and friends, yet offers a way to gain a measure of independence and self-worth.
“Our lineup this year of the number of Asian American filmmakers and Asian American stories is impressive,” states Festival Co-Director David Magdael. “Our Opening Night, Centerpiece and Closing Night films all represent stories and directors based here in the U.S.
“Asian Pacific American filmmakers make up over half of our feature film lineup and we are very excited that our own filmmakers are raising the bar in terms of creating and producing feature films that add to the American cinematic experience and to our ever-growing Asian American cinema.”
This year’s LAAPFF casts its Artist Spotlight on the award-winning documentary filmmaker Arthur Dong, who will present a remastered version of his classic “Forbidden City, USA,” accompanied by a live performance from the film’s legendary singers and dancers. Dong will also present the Southern California premiere of his latest film, “The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor,” which tells the dramatic story about the most recognizable survivor of the Cambodian genocide – a man who became a world ambassador for justice in his homeland, only to be murdered in an L.A. Chinatown alley – a case still muddled with conspiracy theories. Ngor won an Oscar for his portrayal of real-life journalist Dith Pran in “The Killing Fields” (1984).
This special program takes place on Sunday, April 26, beginning at 4:30 p.m. with “Forbidden City, USA” and continuing at 7:30 p.m. with “The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor” at the Tateuchi Democracy Forum at the Japanese American National Museum.
“Arthur Dong is one of our most prolific filmmakers of our time and our community,” says longtime Visual Communications staff member Abraham Ferrer. “We are proud to have Arthur bring back the classic ‘Forbidden City, USA’ and then present his latest film and discussion around the controversial case of the murder of Academy Award-winning actor Dr. Haing S. Ngor. This will be a very exciting and eye opening session at the festival.”
The LAAPFF is again ecstatic to present two programs with a long and historic significance to Visual Communications: The Armed With a Camera Fellowship and Digital Histories.
The Armed With a Camera Fellowship nurtures the next generation of Asian Pacific American media artists to capture their world, surrounding, and outlook on life. Past fellows have gone on to premiere award-winning feature films as well as building a career in television. These short films will be a part of the crowd-pleasing program “Digital Posse” on Wednesday, April 29, at 8 p.m. at the Aratani Theatre.
Since 2003, Digital Histories has provided a professional and artistic work environment for underserved, ethnic-minority seniors in the L.A.-based Asian Pacific American community. Digital Histories will screen on Sunday, April 26, at 2:30 p.m. at the Tateuchi Democracy Forum.
The LAAPFF will also feature this year’s edition of C3 – the Conference For Creative Content — where creative and Hollywood industry leaders join together to create a dialogue with the community discussing important issues and trends taking place in the entertainment arena. This year’s C3 marks the fifth edition of this important gathering of creatives and decision makers both in front and behind the camera and in film, network TV, cable TV, and new media. The theme this year is “Celebrating Normalcy.”
“As showrunner and creator Shonda Rhimes spoke in March, telling stories involving women, people of color and LGBTQ characters should not be considered rare and ‘diverse.’ It’s a reflection of our world, and in this case ‘normalizing,’” states Milton Liu, VC’s director of programs and artist services. “Partnering with the industry guilds such as Writers Guild of America (WGA), Directors Guild of America (DGA), Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), the SAG–Producers Industry Advancement Cooperation Fund, and the Motion Picture Editors Guild, this year’s C3 will be dissecting ways in which normalizing continues to be a constant battle in Hollywood.”
C3 takes place over the weekend of April 25-26 in the Tateuchi Democracy Forum.
Every year, the LAAPFF International Showcase of new works from Asian highlights films and filmmakers from throughout the continent. This year is no different as the festival boasts acclaimed features from Vietnam, the People’s Republic of China, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan and Hong Kong.
“Our International Showcase is one of the strongest ever,” states Festival Co-Director Anderson Le. “We have some amazing films from all over Asia, including award-winning documentaries, romantic comedies, thrillers and outstanding dramatic stories. This year, we have something for everyone.”
• “2030 (Nuoc)” (Vietnam) (L.A. premiere) Dir.: Nghiem-Minh Nguyen-Vo
• “Cat Funeral” (South Korea) (U.S. premiere) Dir.: Lee Jong-hoon
• “The Chinese Mayor” (PRC) (L.A. premiere) Dir.: Hao Zhou
• “How to Win at Checkers (Every Time)” (Thailand/South Korea/U.S.) (U.S. premiere) Dir.: Josh Kim
• “In the Absence of the Sun” (Indonesia) (U.S. premiere) Dir.: Lucky Kuswandi
• “Kung Fu Killer” (Hong Kong) (L.A. premiere) Dir.: Teddy Chen
• “The Last Reel” (Cambodia) (U.S. premiere) Dir.: Kulikar Sotho
• “River of Exploding Durians” (Malaysia) (L.A. premiere) Dir.: Edmund Yeo
• “(Sex) Appeal” (Taiwan) (U.S. premiere) Dir.: Wang Wei-ming
• “That Thing Called Meant-to-Be” (Philippines) (L.A. premiere) Dir.: Antoinette Jadeone
• “The Vancouver Asahi” (Japan) (L.A. premiere) Dir.: Yuya Ishii
• “We Are Moluccans” (Indonesia) (U.S. premiere) Dir.: Angga Dwimas Sasongko
• “Where I Am King” (Philippines) (U.S. premiere) Dir.: Carlos Siguion-Reyna
• “The World of Kanako” (Japan) (U.S. premiere) Dir.: Nakashima Tetsuya
In addition, the LAAPFF is proud to present the following special programs.
• “East of Main Street.” Conceived as a project to demonstrate the breadth of Asian Pacific American voices and stories, this is a multi-part series created for HBO by independent producer Jonathan Yi of Eyepatch Productions. Episodes exploring those who have pursued non-traditional careers, observed significant life milestones, and sounded off on what makes them happy or angry are part of the wide spectrum that comprises the series.
A special episode will be screened and a discussion will follow on Friday, April 24, at 5 p.m. at the Tateuchi Democracy Forum.
• “Himalaya Song,” from The Shanghai Restoration Project, merges film, live music, and narration in a critically acclaimed multimedia presentation conceptualized, produced, and performed by a trio of internationally renowned artists.
Gingger Shankar is an extraordinarily gifted singer, virtuoso violinist, composer, songwriter, and only woman to play the double violin — a unique instrument that covers the entire orchestra range. Mridu Chandra has produced award-winning documentaries and narrative films that have premiered at Sundance and other prestigious festivals. Accomplished classical and jazz pianist Dave Liang is producer of The Shanghai Restoration Project, a group that blends Chinese instruments and culture with hip-hop and electronica.
Today’s music blends with traditional instruments on a cinematic journey through past, present, and future — myth and reality. This performance will include an exclusive work-in-progress preview of the trio’s upcoming production, “Nari.” Saturday, April 25, at 7:30 p.m. at the Tateuchi Democracy Forum.
• “Unbroken Blossoms,” staged reading of new play by Philip W. Chung, directed by Jeff Liu. After accusations of racism dogged the release of his masterpiece “The Birth of a Nation,” director D.W. Griffith vowed to prove that he was not a bigot. So in 1919, he directed and produced “Broken Blossoms,” Hollywood’s first interracial love story featuring a Chinese man and a Caucasian woman. And to make sure his film was “authentic,” he hired two Chinese American consultants: one an aspiring filmmaker and the other a devoted family man. This is the story of those two men, the making of a classic movie, and how even the best of intentions can go terribly awry.
Chung is the co-founder/co-artistic director of the acclaimed Asian American theater company Lodestone Theatre Ensemble. He currently oversees the creative content for YOMYOMF (You Offend Me You Offend My Family), the digital media company founded by director Justin Lin (the “Fast & Furious” franchise) and is a writer/producer on the upcoming Lin-produced feature “Hollywood Adventures.”
Monday, April 27, at 7 p.m. at the Tateuchi Democracy Forum.
• Top 8 — The #WeOwnthe8th Short Film Program. Held at the creativity-inducing venue The Great Company, #WeOwnthe8th stems from the grassroots movement spearheaded by actor/artist Dante Basco (“The Debut,” “Hook”) and showcases its nationwide API filmmaking talent. Conceived as a response to the API community’s current role within the creative industries, this movement seeks to foster creation of opportunities while providing a platform for supportive and positive mutual growth.
Tuesday, April 28, at 7:30 p.m. at The Great Company.
• Crane-Kick Commentary: The Karate Kid, Part II. A film screening and live commentary with Phil Yu and friends. Inspired by “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and local improv groups such as Cold Tofu, noted blogger Yu (aka Angry Asian Man) leads an impromptu panel in a real-time commentary of “The Karate Kid, Part II,” director John Avildsen’s follow-up to the 1984 blockbuster. Yu and friends revisit what happens when Danny (Ralph Macchio) and Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) travel to Okinawa to visit Miyagi’s dying father -— reuniting with the old sweetheart (Nobu McCarthy); meeting the winsome niece (Tamlyn Tomita); and encountering the local bully Chozen (Yuji Okumoto). And let’s not forget the famous “drum” technique.
Tuesday, April 28, at 7 p.m. at the Tateuchi Democracy Forum.
The 31ST LAAPFF competition film line-up is as follows:
• “Advantageous” (West Coast premiere) Dir.: Jennifer Phang
• “Everything Before Us” (world premiere) Dirs.: Wesley Chan, Philip Wang
• “KTown Cowboys” (West Coast premiere) Dir.: Daniel Park
• “Love Arcadia” (L.A. premiere) Dir.: Lawrence Gan
• “Man Up” (L.A. premiere) Dir.: Justin Chon
• “Margarita, with a Straw” (L.A. premiere) Dir.: Shonali Bose; Co-Dir.: Nilesh Maniyar
• “Miss India America” Dir.: Ravi Kapoor
• “There Is a New World Somewhere” (world premiere) Dir.: Li Lu
• “Changing Season” (L.A. premiere) Dir.: Jim Choi
• “Everything Will Be” (U.S. premiere) Dir.: Julia Kwan
• “I Have Seen My Last Born” (world premiere) Dirs.: Samuel Gray Anderson, Lee Isaac Chung
• “June Bride: Redemption of a Yakuza” (world premiere) Dir.: Derek Shimoda
• “Top Spin” (L.A. premiere) Dirs.: Mina T. Son, Sara Newens
• “Twinsters” (West Coast premiere) Dirs.: Samantha Futerman, Ryan Miyamoto
• “Visions in the Dark: The Life of Pinky Thompson” (West Coast premiere) Dir.: Ty Sanga
• “Winning Girl” (L.A. premiere) Dir.: Kimberlee Bassford
For program information, a complete listing of sponsors and partners, and to purchase tickets, log on to www.vconline.org/festival or contact Visual Communications at (213) 680-4462, ext. 59. Tickets are on sale now.
Aratani Theatre @ Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, 244 S. San Pedro St., Little Tokyo
Tateuchi Democracy Forum @ Japanese American National Museum, 111 N. Central Ave., Little Tokyo
Downtown Independent, 251 S. Main St., (between Third and Second streets), Los Angeles
CGV Cinemas, 621 Western Ave. (between Sixth Street and Wilshire Boulvard), Los Angeles
The Great Company, 1917 Bay St. (between Wilson and Mateo streets), Los Angeles
Directors Guild of America, 7920 Sunset Blvd. (at Hayworth), West Hollywood
The 2015 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival is sponsored by:
Platinum — Comcast NBC Universal; Sony Pictures Entertainment
Gold — Directors Guild of America; Nielsen
Silver — HBO
Bronze — FilmLA; Creative DCP; SAG Indie; STAR: Modern VideoFilm; Motion Picture Editors Guild; SAG-AFTRA; Union Bank; Writers Guild of America/West; Yu & Co.
Venue sponsors: Aratani Theatre/Japanese American Cultural and Community Center; Directors Guild of America; Japanese American National Museum; Downtown Independent; CGV Cinemas; The Great Company
Media sponsors: AngryAsianMan.com; KPFK-FM; LA-18 KSCI; LA Weekly; MYX TV; Yelp
Government: National Endowment for the Arts; Los Angeles County Arts Commission; Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; California Arts Council; Cal Humanities
Foundation: Aratani Foundation; James Irvine Foundation; Weingart Foundation; Parsons Foundation; SAG-P IACF; Asian Pacific Community Fund; Sony Pictures Entertainment
Reception: Asahi; Kirin; LA-18 KSCI; Stella Artois; Ketel One; MYXTV
In-kind: Telepath Corporation; IKON Office Supplies; Meiji; LA18; HBO; Red Giant