Omigosh you'll never guess who I saw yesterday! It was after a screening of 'Conventioneers' at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival and the filmmaker, the gorgeous Mora Mi-Ok Stephens, was talking to a guy with cheekbones out to HERE.
"That guy looks totally familiar," I said. "He's someone famous," my date confirmed. ... "Daniel Dae Kim!" I said rather indiscreetly (but I didn't yell it, and of that I'm am proud). And I did feel a little giddy. A lot giddy. I have been called a starf*cker in the past, and I can't deny it. Well, I can deny it in a literal sense ... but not necessarily by personal choice.
Anyway, ahem, moving right along... That's not why I've pulled my head out of the sand to blog today, not at all. I actually volunteered to take notes in the dark for a program of shorts, called "The Life Quixotic." All were centered around the theme of "love." And if you can hurry up and get there, in the 30 minutes between posting this blog and when the next showing of it starts on Sunday at noon, GO SEE IT.
Last year I saw a program of shorts at the festival that basically totally sucked. I don't remember much about it except total disappointment. But it's the luck of the draw, and this year every single one was awesome. Standouts? "Spy Moms" by William Lu takes the typical Chinese mom's prying and control to another level --a world of hi-tech surveillance and undercover tactics. It definitely got the loudest laughs, because despite rather weak acting the satiric yet somehow affectionate take on the overbearing Asian mom is all too familiar to most of us.
Another favorite: "Slip of the Tongue" by Skyline High School junior Karen Lum. Using the slam poetry of Adriel Luis as a soundtrack, the film's quick and unpredictable editing -- and Luis's even faster speaking -- deconstructs the protagonist's attempted pickup line, "What's your ethic makeup?" to a girl at the bus stop. Really interesting cuts and cinematography, plus the extremely sharp spoken word, completely made up for the low-budget, DV look of the piece. Lum admitted in the Q&A later that the film "cost about 5 bucks."
Hauntingly beautiful was the Japanese entry, "Blue." Nominally about a woman deeply in love with a married man, the film captures the quiet, desperate longing and loneliness of Sakura, who sees her story reflected in a threesome of young schoolkids that visit her fruit stand. She has slow, meaningful conversations with the left-out girl who's asked for cherries: "You can't eat them. It's not yet the season. But if you wait long enough, you can eat them." Laden with double meaning.
The slow shots and ponderous cinematography are the target of what was probably my favorite film, "My Prince, My Angel." I was so disappointed that the filmmakers weren't in attendance, because I wanted to ask them about the strange, made-up language they had their actors intone in melodramatic tones throughout. Though the characters had names like "Shen" and "Ship Ship Roo" -- they spoke what seemed to be a gibberish that sometimes resembled Chinese, sometimes Korean, sometimes almost Vietnamese, all with varyingly strong American accents. The soundtrack used the evocative music from Wong Kar-Wai's "In the Mood for Love," but you could see the filmmaker's poking fun at the arthouse films coming out of China -- the girl in the rickshaw, the fortune pinned to a blue rose on the ceiling, the montage of the two lovebirds frolicking through picnics and parks. The film was innovative and beautifully shot, and it never lost its undercurrent of fun beneath the dramatic emotions of its storyline.
Three other films, "Bunny and Clydo" -- with a $100,000 budget spent on pyrotechnics!; "Not a Fucking Blonde," following an Asian couple's fight in the subway through an ugly subterrain of ethnic insecurity; and "The Light," a weird little film about a guy who can't make a traffic light in his morning routine -- rounded out the program. If this is the direction that Asian American cinema is going to take, I'm really psyched. Meanwhile, starspotting is still a viable pastime as you wait in line at the festival, so keep your eyes peeled and I'll see you at the festival!