San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival preview

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The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom. courtesy of CAAM

Celebrating 30 years of Asian American film, the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival will kick off on Thursday, March 8 and run through Sunday, March 18. The festival, presented by the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), will screen approximately 120 films in 12 theaters located throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. The following is a sample of films affiliated with Nikkei history and filmmakers.

Venues
San Francisco
Castro Theater
429 Castro St.  (415) 621-6120

Sundance Kabuki Cinemas
in San Francisco’s Japantown
1881 Post St.  (415) 346-3243

San Francisco Film Society
Cinema at New People
in San Francisco’s Japantown
1746 Post St.  (415) 525-8600

Asian Art Museum
200 Larkin St.  (415) 581-3500

Hotel Kabuki
in San Francisco’s Japantown
1625 Post St.  (415) 922-3200

Berkeley
Pacific Film Archive Theater
2575 Bancroft Way
(510) 642-0808

San Jose
Camera 3 Cinemas
288 South Second St.
(408) 998-3300

San Jose Museum of Art
110 South Market St.
(408) 271-6840


Presentations

White Frog

The film festival kicks off with the world premiere of “White Frog.” Following Nick (Booboo Steward), a high school freshman with his seemingly perfect family and life in the suburbs, director Quentin Lee crafts a tale that explores the issues and turmoil that beset the picturesque family. Young Nick, who has Asperger’s syndrome, is misunderstood by his family, and is suddenly pushed out of his comfort zone when tragedy strikes. Kevin Iwashina serves as one of the films executive producers.
“White Frog” plays on Thursday, March 8, at 7 p.m. at the Castro and 9:30 p.m. at the Asian Art Museum’s gala.

Jake Shimabukuro Documentary. photo by Jim Choi/­courtesy of CAAM

Jake Shimabukuro Documentary
Jake Shimabukuro, one of today’s most talented ukulele players, charms his listeners with his masterful skill and versatility. CAAM and Pacific Islanders in Communications produced this 60-minute documentary, which was directed by Tadashi Nakamura. Nakamura’s previous works include documentaries on the Asian American cultural movement with “Yellow Brotherhood,” “Pilgrimage” and “A Song For Ourselves.”
Shimabukuro’s film explores not only his musical career, but goes further into the artist’s childhood, in which he took up the ukulele to deal with the divorce of his parents, and made an unlikely climb to international stardom.
The world premiere of “Jake Shimabukuro Documentary” will take place at the Castro on Wednesday, March, 14 at 7:30 p.m. and will be accompanied by a special performance with Shimabukuro. There will also be a VIP reception prior to the screening. Admission for the screening with performance is $60; with VIP reception: $175.

Knots

“Knots” will be featured this year at the San Jose Museum of Art’s festival gala. Director Michael Kang’s (“The Motel” and “West 32nd”) romantic comedy tells the story of four luckless women in search of love in Hawai’i. Follow Lily (Kimberly-Rose Wolter, who also wrote and produced the film) as she returns to the islands after a failed relationship where her half-sisters (Mia Riverton and Janel Parrish) are doing not much better. The sisters’ mother (Illeana Douglas) is also, desperately, looking for love of her own. Filmed on O‘ahu and featuring a strong multicultural cast, the film casually depicts a humorous love story in paradise.
“Knots” will screen in San Jose on Friday, March 16 at 7 p.m. at Camera 3 and at 9 p.m. at the San Jose Museum of Art’s Gala $35 for Gala and screening; $20 screening only).

A conversation with the Nakamura Family
The festival will host a conversation with Robert Nakamura, Karen Ishizuka and their son Tadashi Nakamura. The Nakamura family has helped redefine Asian American media with four decades of Japanese American film. Robert Nakamura, currently a professor of Asian American studies at UCLA, was a founder of Visual Communications, the oldest Asian American media arts organization in the country. Ishizuka is a leading scholar of home movies, and a writer and producer for several of the family’s films. Tadashi Nakamura is director and editor of the “Jake Shimabukuro Documentary.”
On Saturday, March 10 at 3:30 p.m., at the Sundance Kabuki.


Narratives

The Crumbles
Directed and written by Akira Boch, “The Crumbles” follows the story of a band cobbled together by endearing dreams, bums and “keytars.” While the protagonist Darla and her friends are just short of embodying the sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll lifestyle, they set out to spice up their minimum-wage days with a rock band. Boch takes a departure from last year’s short documentary, “Barbara Kawakami: A Textured Life.”
The film’s world premiere takes place at the Sundance Kabuki on Saturday, March 10 at 3:15 p.m. and Wednesday, March 14 at 6 p.m.

I Am a Ghost
H.P. Mendoza is already known for his Asian American musicals, “Colma” and “Fruit Fly.” In the world premiere of “I Am a Ghost,” he redefines horror with a more sophisticated and intellectually challenging take on the genre. The film stars Anna Ishida as Emily and Jeannie Barooga as Sylvia. Sylvia is hired as a medium to help Emily, a ghost, cross over to the other side (and out of the Victorian home she is haunting). The film forgoes the well-worn horror staples and instead relies on the concept of memories and the eerie terror of the routine.
Shows at the SF Film Society Cinema on Friday, March 9 at 9:10 p.m., at the Pacific Film Archive Theater on Saturday, March 10 at 6:10 and the Sundance Kabuki on Tuesday, March 13 at 4:30 p.m.

Salad Days
With social media becoming intertwined with daily life, it has added, sometimes in tragically comedic ways, to the complexity of romantic relationships. Directed by Hiram Chan, Jeff Mizushima and Emily Yoshida, “Salad Days” is a film about love, the uncertainty of youth, and the intrinsically voyeuristic nature of social media. The film is full of laughs, but also thought-provoking.
Plays at the SF Film Society Cinema on Sunday, March 11 at 5 p.m. and Monday, March 12 at 8:45 p.m.

Surrogate Valentine 2
Returning from last year’s “Surrogate Valentine,” Dave Boyle continues the tale of Goh (played by Goh Nakamura) as he embarks on a sell-out tour across the United States. Goh’s life is turned upside down once again as he finds himself single when his girlfriend breaks up with him over Skype. The draining breakup rocks Goh’s life until he clicks with Yea-Ming, a singer for the aptly named band, “Dreamdate.” Goh, ever the anti-hero, shambles off on a brand new journey in “Surrogate Valentine 2”
Plays at the Sundance Kabuki on Sunday, March 11 at 9:30 p.m. and at Camera 3 on Saturday, March 17 at 5 p.m.


Documentary

Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful
Yuriko Gamo Romer’s biographical film, “Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful,” is set to have its world premiere at the festival. Following 70 years of judo, Keiko Fukuda, at age 98, is currently one of four people in the world to hold 10th dan, judo’s highest degree of black belt, and the only woman to ever do so. Romer’s film tells the tale of a woman who married a martial art instead of a husband, through rare archival footage, intimate interviews and plenty of on-the-mat action.
Premieres at the Castro on Sunday, March 11 at 3 p.m. and Camera 3 on Sunday, March 18, 2 p.m.

The Space in Back of You
Following the avant-garde dancer and choreographer Suzushi Hanayagi, Richard Rutkowski tells a poetic tale about a bold transnational artist through her life and career. Filled with both extensive interviews with former co-workers and footage of past performances, Rutkowski leads up to Hanayagi’s tragic yet poetic end where she is located at a home for the elderly in Osaka and suffering from late-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Screens at the Pacific Film Archive Theater on Sunday, March 11 at 4 p.m. and at the Sundance Kabuki on Monday, March 12 6:45 p.m.


Cinema Asia

Ninja Kids (Nintama Rantaro)
Director Takashi Miike, unsatisfied with “serious” works of Japanese historical fiction, brings “Ninja Kids.” In what is described as a film with small children, LSD-inspired sets, musical numbers, and cross-dressing hairdressers, Miike presents a story that is both Harry Potter and Willy Wonka, as much as it is Japanese historical drama. Based on a popular manga, “Ninja Kids” explodes in color while keeping itself grounded to its samurai roots.
Plays at the Castro on Sunday, March 11 at 12:30 p.m. and at Camera 3 on Saturday, March 17 at 12:30 p.m.

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom. courtesy of CAAM

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom
The March 11 earthquake and tsunami was not only one of the biggest disasters, but also the most visually documented disaster. Lucy Walker incorporated footage from observers, survivors and victims into her Academy Award-nominated film, which depicts the true power of nature and the true resilience of humanity. Walker contrasts the devastation with the aftermath, a section resounding resilience with survivors taking stock in what is left of their lives and what lies ahead of them.
Plays at the SF Film Society Cinema on Saturday, March 10 at noon, the Pacific Film Archive Theater on Friday, March 16 at 7 p.m. and Camera 3 on Sunday, March 18 at 12:15 p.m.


Shorts


Looking for Jiro

Tina Takemoto brings a high-camp musical satire that combines baked goods, Japanese incarceration, Madonna, and deplorable American domestic policy. Screens as part of the XXX Shorts at the SF Film Society Cinema on Sunday, March 11 at 9:50 p.m. and the Sundance Kabuki on Wednesday, March 14 at 8:30 p.m.

Why I Write
Masahiro Sugano delivers a passionate personal narrative by Khmer American spoken word artist Kosal Khiev. Khiev delivers a head-on collision between the political and personal. Screens as part of the XXX Shorts at the San Francisco Film Society Cinema on Sunday, March 11 at 9:50 p.m. and the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas on Wednesday, March 14 at 8:30 p.m.

Instant Slapping
Masahiro Sugano delivers a short silent family drama in which a sister attempts to reconcile with her brother online, but find themselves poking at family wounds instead. Screens as part of This is Not Love Shorts at the Sundance Kabuki on Saturday, March 10 at 8:30 p.m. and the SF Film Society on Tuesday, March 13 at 8:30 p.m.

No Contract
Randall Okita brings a visually mesmerizing experimental documentary of a man setting himself on fire. Screens as part of the This is Not Love Shorts at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas on Saturday, March 10 at 8:30 p.m. or the SF Film Society on Tuesday, March 13 at 8:30 p.m.


New Directions


Present/Future: A summit on Asian American Media

What is the future of Asian American media? With the spotlight of Asian Americans increasing on sites such as YouTube, the most recognized Asian Americans on the screen seem to no longer come from Hollywood. The film festival has invited a diverse set of thinkers representing media, technology, arts, business and community perspectives to speak about their thoughts on the present and future of Asian Americans and the media. Each speaker will be followed by a Q-and-A-format session. The presentation will be live-streamed. At the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco’s Japantown, Sunday, March 11 at 1 p.m.


Festival Forum

The Festival Forum is the film festival’s largest event, bringing a unique showcase of artists, performers and media makers to the community. The event will take place at the Peace Plaza in San Francisco’s Japantown on Saturday, March 10 from noon to 5 p.m. The event will commemorate the March 11 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. The outdoor stage will offer a showcase of music, dance and other live events while the SF Film Society Cinema will have the Bay Area Premiere of “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” at noon at the SFFS.

For a full schedule visit CAAMedia.org. Times and programming subject to change. Tickets available online or in person at the SFIAAFF box office at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.

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