Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | Minneapolis hosts an Asian Film Festival this week
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Minneapolis hosts an Asian Film Festival this week

The Girl in yellow Bootsis the opening night film of the Minn/St Paul Asian film Festival

The Denver area used to have an Asian Film Festival held in Aurora; Erin and I loved attending it. It attracted a loyal core audience of film lovers of all ethnicities. But our Asian communities didn’t support the festival as much as they needed to.

Unfortunately, the programming was too cautious, because the Denver Film Society, the folks who bring us the annual Starz Denver Film Festival (which starts this week), had to get approval from various groups. And, the various groups would turn down any movie that might show their homeland in a light they didn’t like (such as showing sex and violence, or a negative image of the country). During the festival, each community attended their movies but didn’t show much interest in movies from other countries.

Erin and I would see Japanese at the Japanese movies but not Chinese, or Filipino, or Vietnamese movies. We’d run into Chinese friends at Chinese movies, and so on. In the end, the festival couldn’t generate enough interest across all Asian communities, in addition to non-Asian movie fans, to keep going.

So I watch wistfully as I get emails and Facebook event invites or a plethora of Asian and Asian American Pacific Islander film festival across the country — Philadelphia, New York, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco. Tonight I got an email from a blogging pal, Slanty of Slant Eye for the Round Eye, about the first-ever Asian Film Festival in his hometown of Minneapolis/St. Paul. So even the Twin Cities, land of chill and Prince and the Replacements and Prairie Home Companion, land of a significant Hmong community, and land of Slanty (who wrote about the festival last week), has an Asian film festival.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Asian Film Festival, which has the tagline “In Search of Asia,” opens tomorrow with “That Girl In Yellow Boots,” an Indian film (photo above). Here’s a description:

A groundbreaking Indian film that earned rave reviews at both the Toronto and Venice Film Festivals, will kick off the Minneapolis-St. Paul Asian Film Festival on November 3rd at St. Anthony Main Theater in Minneapolis. From critically acclaimed writer/director Anurag Kashyap, “That Girl in Yellow Boots” tells the story of Ruth (played by co-writer, Kalki Koechlin), a young woman from Brighton (ENGLAND) who travels to the bustling city of Mumbai (INDIA) in search of her long lost Indian father. But Ruth’s search soon takes her down a dark path as she becomes entangled in the seedy underside of life in Mumbai.

Nearly broke, and following a series of less than pleasant encounters with a host of unsavory characters, she is forced to work at a massage parlor which offers sexual favors to its clientele. The films narrative unfolds with twists and turns around every corner, (meaning no viewer will find this film “predictable”) and ultimately, Ruth must confront the explosive truth about her father, the only man, she believes, truly loves her. The movie’s unflinching and unforgiving look at sex, violence, drugs, and incest (a forbidden topic in India) offers a stark contrast to the cheerful and glossy Bollywood films that people have come to expect from Indian cinema today.

Marissa Bronfman, a critic for the influential blog The Huffington Post, calls “That Girl”, “another example of a film breaking ground in Indian cinema, one that doesn’t rely on a sexy star and a popular soundtrack, but instead seeks to share stories with audiences that are real, difficult and often times uncomfortable.”

For the next 10 days people in the Twin Cities area can see over 30 films from a dozen countries, as well as panels, Q&A with filmmakers and actors, and the usual cool fun stuff that goes with film festivals.

Dang, I wish someone would start up another Asian film festival in Denver again!