Kai Ma

Officer Tsukamoto at AAIFF


One the perks of the AAIFF was seeing the work of friends and colleagues on the big screen. Ling Liu, director of Officer Tsukamoto, had her New York premiere last week. Ling and I met as students at Cal's Asian Studies Program (I dropped out; she didn’t.) In 2004, we entered the journalism program, where she produced her debut film.

Officer Tsukamoto takes us back to August 20, 1970, when a 28-year-old Berkeley police officer was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop. Ron Tsukamoto was born in the Tule Lake Japanese American internment camp, and became one of the first Asian American police officers in the country. During the early investigation of his death, police named the Black Panther Party as a group that would have supported the murder. But after a string of dead-end leads, the case closed—only to re-open more than 30 years later. It remains the only unsolved murder of a Berkeley policeman.

Ling flew in for the festival from Hong Kong, where she is a reporter for Time Asia. If she looks familiar, it's because she was an anchor reporter for Stir TV on AZN and the CCTV English Channel in Beijing. Here, she talks to Hyphen about her first documentary short.


Drag Queen Wreaks Havoc (King and the Clown at AAIFF)


Years ago, I was sitting in an airplane when I overheard an older gentleman behind me talking about a film. "I just saw a movie that made me jump from my seat in applause!" His exhilaration was palpable—as if his seatbelt was keeping him from jumping up again. "Seabiscuit!" he exclaimed. "Yes, the horse movie."

During the tail end of the Asian American International Film Festival, Lee Jun-ik's King and the Clown seemed to have the same effect. No, I didn’t jump, but I sensed others wanted to. People were laughing so hard that the chairs were rocking, and during moments of hilarious suspense, they were cringing behind their hands.