Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | Austin Asian American Film Festival screens Nov. 12-15
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Austin Asian American Film Festival screens Nov. 12-15

The Austin Asian American Film Festival.

Alas, there is no Asian film festival in Denver. There used to be — the Aurora Asian Film Festival was held in Denver’s eastern suburb (people in Aurora hate for their city to be called a suburb). It was sponsored by the Denver Film Society, the folks who bring the annual Deniver International Film Festival to town. But it folded after a few years because the local AAPI community didn’t support it (Japanese only went to Japanese films, Chinese went to Chinese films, Filipinos… well you get it. And, many of the communities tried to have too much of a say in what movie should or should not screen. If it was racy, or showed a negative side of the community, the Film Society would get push back to switch the film, or have to fight to show it. So ultimately, it was too much hassle for the trouble. As the Japanese would say, it was mendokusai (a pain in the ass).

So I read with envy as the months go by about the San Diego Asian Film Festival, the San Francisco Asian Film Festival, and others. Because I can’t go, I usually don’t write about them. I tend to write about things that affect readers here in Debver, whether it’s a national issue that affects all Asian Americans, or about a Denver Asian community event.

But I want to say a few words about the Austin Asian American Film Festival, because 1) it’s in one of my all-time favorite towns and 2) I beat up on Austin a little bit a couple of months ago when I wrote about an Asian festival down there that used the “wonton” font, which bugged me, and 3) because Eugenia Beh is doing the publicity for the festival and she’s cool and works tirelessly for AAPI causes including Asian Americans for Obama.

I traveled to Austin for many years during my music critic days, to spend a blissful week at the South By Southwest Music & Media Conference, and most of the time was spent enjoying Austin and the great food and the great people… and oh yeah, listening to a lot of music.

I wish I could go to the AAAFF — it sounds wonderful.

I’d love to see a bunch of films, including the documentary, “Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority,” “Old Partner,” “All About Dad” and “Children Of Invention.” These are the types of movies that might come to Denver, but only for a week at the art cinema, and it’s gone before most of in the community hear about it. There is one film that we did see (even though it showed in Denver for a week), “White on Rice.” I recommend it highly to anyone in Austin, and I’m sure the filmmaker Dave Boyle, a quiet, shy Mormon kid (he looks like a kid) from Utah, will be there. He’s worth meeting because he’s so low key but passionate — and respectful — about his Japan-related themes.

There’s also live music — it is Austin, after all — with JenRO, an underground, Filipina queer hip-hop DJ, in concert.

Sounds like a perfect Austin road trip!

Here are excerpts from te press announcement for the festival:

The 6th annual Austin Asian American Film Festival (AAAFF) is slated to run November 12th through November 15th at the Alamo, South Lamar. The 2009 movie line-up includes 40 outstanding feature films and shorts selections from over 300 submissions from around the world. In addition, we have a wide variety of special events and film-festival related parties to pick from. Click for a complete listing of movies and events for this year.

The 2009 Film Festival kicks off Thursday, November 12th with a 7:00pm screening of local filmmaker Ed Radtke’s award-winning drama, Speed of Life, followed by a one of a kind opening night party at KTV Silhouette Lounge featuring DJ Chris Klassen spinning Cambodian girl rock and other feet tapping tracks from around the globe.

VIP Badges for the festival are now on sale @ for $50 (the price goes up to $60 starting November 1st). Use “AAAFF” Coupon code for a 10% discount coupon on badges (until coupons last). Badge holders will enjoy:
o VIP access to all festival screenings, events and unlimited drinks @ selected events
o No waiting in line for any screenings or events, guaranteed entry to sold out shows
o Exclusive opportunities to meet with the filmmakers, actors and special guests
o Admission to a private brunch – the coveted AWM Visionary Awards will be announced at this event
o A goodie bag containing an impressive array of treats and surprises including discount coupons to popular Austin restaurants

Films line-up, most premiering for the 1st time in Austin, include –
o “White on Rice” (Dave Boyle, 2009), a sleeper hit romantic comedy with lead actress Lynn Chen (Saving Face) in attendance
o “Ramchand Pakistani” (Mehreen Jabbar, 2008), a moving story of a young Pakistani boy imprisoned for accidentally crossing the India-Pakistan border
o “Fruit Fly” (H.P. Mendoza, 2009), the exuberant and wildly creative musical, which will also be accompanied by a “surprise” viewing
o “Old Partner” (Lee Chung-Ryoul, 2008), South Korea’s highest grossing independent film of all-time, the heartbreaking and charming tale of an elderly man and his beloved ox
o “Persepolis” – A bonus screening – AAAFF is bringing this Oscar nominated and Cannes Festival winner for a one-time outdoor screening on Town Lake! This captivating animated film about an Iranian girl’s journey from young punk rebel to outspoken political dissident will be accompanied by the delicious cuisines of three Austin favorites (Sushi-A-Go-Go, Satay Thai, and Get Sum Dim Sum), and will be preceded by the phenomenal Iranian band Tehranosaurus.

Other Events & Parties –
o Bollywood-themed party at Malverde
o Concert at the Music Gym headlined by underground hip-hop superstar JenRo (showcased on VH1’s The Coolest Years and featured in the documentary Rebel Girls)
o Free student screenings and discussion panels on the UT campus

About the Festival: Founded in 2004, the Austin Asian American Film Festival celebrates the best in Asian and Asian American independent cinema. The festival aims to highlight the complexity and vitality of Asian/Asian-American communities through cutting-edge narrative, documentary and experimental films in a world far from home. Visit our website @ for more information.