2011 Asian American International Film Festival preview

August 10, 2011


August feels like an eternal Sunday afternoon -- the end is right around the corner for the best time of year. Thankfully, AAIFF 2011 is here to liven things up a bit in the late hours of another sweltering Manhattan summer. 

The country’s longest-running Asian American film festival returns for its 34th year, and brings parched New York audiences a wealth of cinematic gems from Asia and Asian America. Established helmers and up-and-comers are contributing over 30 films, featuring studies in the urban suave, forgotten historical struggles, immigrant journeys, modernization tragicomedies and plenty of matrimonial headaches. For Hyphen readers lucky enough to be in town from today through Sunday, ignore the sound of crashes creeping out of Wall Street and head over to Chelsea!

As Hyphen’s film editor, below are my picks for what to watch at the fest: 


John Sayles, possibly the greatest independent film director in America today, likes to base his films on overlooked but significant historical events (as in Matewan, Lone Star). His latest feature, Amigo, is set in the Philippine-American war of 1900, and takes the audience through friendship and betrayal, romance and violence from the eyes of one village mayor caught in the ruthless crossfire of opposing sides. Sayles will be in attendance for this AAIFF screening.   

Quattro Hong Kong 2 

Certainly one of the more interesting director-ensemble films around, this collection of stories about the beloved Pearl of Asia features works by renowned directors Brillante Mendoza, Yuhang Ho, Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Cannes winner in 2010) and Stanley Kwan. A chance to see four unique cinematic visions on one of the world’s most exciting metropolises. Not to be missed. 

Enforcing the Silence

Thirty years after the unsolved murder of Lam Duong, Vietnamese American journalists remain the largest group of immigrant reporters killed on US soil. Friends of Lam, federal investigators, and journalists speak out about the risks that Vietnamese Americans face for exercising their First Amendment rights.

The Learning

There are over 600 Filipino teachers working in Baltimore public schools.  Why are they there and how are they surviving the ordeal?  This documentary, made by award-winning director Ramona Diaz, explores the lives of overseas Filipino workers by focusing on 4 women teachers and their challenging and emotional journey. Read the Hyphen review 

Wedding Palace

Jason Kim (Brian Tee, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) is a 29-year-old who faces a family curse of death unless he gets married by his next birthday. While on a business trip in Seoul, he falls helplessly in love with Na-Young (Hye-jung Kang, Oldboy). Everything seems on track for Jason to avoid his curse -- that is, until Na-Young arrives in LA and turns out not to be what Jason’s family or Jason himself expected. Can Jason find the courage to overcome Na-Young’s “shortcomings” and pursue true love? Read the Hyphen review

The Piano in a Factory

Called “Exquisitely honed” and an “audience-pleaser that confirms [the director] as a considerable talent” by critic Derek Elley, this tragicomic musical from China tracks a ramshackle group of unemployed craftsmen as they attempt to build a grand piano from scratch, in order to help one of their friends keep custody of his piano-playing daughter. 

My Wedding and other Secrets

Interracial marriage ... always a tough one when the bride has stubborn and traditional parents hailing from Hong Kong. But this charming romantic comedy from New Zealand may just have the recipe for a happy ending. Director Roseanne Liang will be in attendance.  

72-Hour Shoot Out

The entrants to this year’s 72-Hour Shoot Out have their final standoff at AAIFF, with top-ten participants presenting their 5-minute shorts that were conceived, shot and edited within a 72-hour deadline. The theme this year is “Now You See Me...” and indeed, we will. 

Other activities at this year's fest include panel discussions with filmmaker Kimi Kakesue and author Ed Lin. And for those of you want to learn about how to raise money for your own productions, definitely don’t miss out Jennifer Fox’s talk on how she came away with the highest-funded project ever on Kickstarter.   

For a complete list of films, talks, as well as tickets, please check AAIFF’s website.