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Asian CineVision's 24th Annual Asian American International Film
Festival Features Tragedy,
Comedy, and Surprises

written by doris lin



The Writer
doris lin

She is an attorney, but not currently practicing.

She works part-time for New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance and has worked for many progressive causes, including the environment and immigration.

In law school, she was awarded the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association Outstanding Service Award.

Read her other articles such as the Preview of CineVision's festival and the Demise of "Mr. Wong."

FROM JULY 19 THROUGH JULY 28, Asian CineVision's 24th Annual Asian American International Film Festival delighted audiences at New York City's Florence Gould Hall with indie shorts, big-budget features, thought-provoking discussions, a book launch, a couple of celebrity sightings and a few surprises.

THE SURPRISES AND CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS began with opening night, which was hosted by "The Joy Luck Club" star Tamlyn Tomita. In her opening remarks, Tomita tackled a common criticism of "The Joy Luck Club" head-on, and suggested that people read the book on which the film is based for a fairer representation of Asian American men.

THE KOREAN FILM "Joint Security Area" was featured in the opening night program along with "The Joy Luck Club," and was one of the highlights of the festival. "Joint Security Area" is a mystery which unravels after two military border guards are killed in a guardhouse on the border between North and South Korea, and a neutral Swiss investigator is brought in to sort through the conflicting testimony of the survivors. Interwoven with themes of trust and patriotism, the film is, above all, about friendship. After breaking Korean box office records, "Joint Security Area" received a standing ovation at its East Coast premier at the festival.

IN CONTRAST to the heavy themes of "Joint Security Area," producer/director/screenwriter Shazon Jiang set out to create a lighthearted romantic comedy with "X-Roads," a sequel to the 1937 Chinese film "Crossroads." In hindsight, Jiang believes that the film may be "too soft," but the film is a sweet, nostalgic fairy tale that needs no apologies. Set in modern day Shanghai, "X-Roads" is as much about choosing new relationships as it is about choosing new cultural views.

Media Representations
good and bad examples

Media representations often continues incorrect and false stereotypical images from the past. This can be seen with the recent debacle of the false imprisonment of Wen Ho Lee and in the Jet Li character in Romeo Must Die.

What is ironic is that there has been major films from the past that has featured a Asian Pacific American actor in an interracial romance/marriage with a white woman (Crimson Kimono) and where where the Asian Pacific American male "won" the white woman from his white male competitor?!?! (i.e. Bridge to the Sun. .

AMONG THE SHORTS, two of the standouts were "Another Clapping" by Chi-Jang Yin and "Being Native Alien" by Anula Shetty. In "Another Clapping," Yin probes her mother's tragic past, and the audience is simultaneously drawn in and startled by the intimacy as Yin's mother is interviewed while dying her hair at the bathroom sink. "Being Native Alien" uses humor, poetry, and word play to explore some of the issues encountered by Asian American immigrants in the U.S. as well as in their "home" lands.

THE PANEL DISCUSSION on "How Independent Film has Changed Since 1981" was a rare opportunity to pose difficult questions to filmmakers Mira Nair ("Mississippi Masala" and "The Perez Family") and Wayne Wang ("Chan is Missing" and "The Joy Luck Club").

WITH THE TITLE OF THE DISCUSSION being a reference to the debut of "Chan is Missing" in 1981, the audience was reminded that Wang's "Chan" is not only a landmark Asian American film, but also a landmark independent film. After lamenting the problems with working with studios, Wang pointed out that it would be difficult for him at this stage in his career to return to independent film. Citing union regulations, Wang stated that he could not shoot a film today without a crew of at least fifty people, although he is considering attempting "Chan in Missing II" on the original film's budget, adjusted for inflation. Both Wang and Nair expressed their frustration with censors and film ratings, criticizing the nonsensical pervasion of violence in R-rated films while sex and nudity are considered taboo.

WHEN ASKED about the lack of media coverage for South Asian films, Nair philosophically replied, "The media will do its machine thing. You have to focus on your work." Nair further noted that there are South Asian films that bring in as much money as "Jurassic Park," and added, "Just because you don't exist in the New York Times doesn't mean you don't exist." When Nair was asked whether the studio insisted on casting Marisa Tomei as a Cuban refugee in "The Perez Family," Nair replied that the studio did not influence her decision at all, and that it was her own decision to cast Tomei.

Editor's Noe
Sept 11, 2001

Since the festival's conclusion, on September 11, 2001 - horrific tragedies occurred at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

We wanted to take this opportunity to remember the many people that were killed, injured and/or otherwise adversely affected.

We acknowledge that life has forever been changed as the result of this date. Artists, in these traumatic and historic times, have often been the messenger of communicating one's fears, dreams, goals, passion, hopes and other emotions. We await their expressions

For further information on September 11, 2001 - please free to visit our "Timeline Section."

FOR MANY IN THE AUDIENCE, Wang's reply to a question about white actors playing Asian roles was a surprise. Wang stated that if it meant increased funding and wider distribution, he wouldn't mind Jack Nicholson playing Mao Tse Tung if other strong roles were played by Asian actors. "I would do it in a second," he added.

FOLLOWING THE PANEL DISCUSSION, Asian CineVision hosted a reception and book signing to launch "Out of the Shadows," Asian CineVision's new collection of writings about Asians in American cinema. The book will be introduced in Europe at upcoming film festivals, where editor Roger Garcia hopes that "all the people in Europe who speak Italian and French will want to buy a book in English about Asians in American Cinema."

CLOSING NIGHT FESTIVITIES were hosted by Filipino model/actor/singer Giselle Toengi, and spotlighted Rod Pulido's "The Flip Side." A hilarious exploration of identity and race issues, "The Flip Side" stirs up feelings familiar to many Asian Americans. In our attempts to "fit in" with a larger society, are we losing ourselves?

AFTER WATCHING many Filipino-American kids trying to be either white or black because of media pressure, Pulido has created a debut film that is fresh, poignant, and filled with moments that are so hysterical because they ring so true. Asked why the film was shot in black and white, the young filmmaker replied honestly that he could not afford color. Pulido's low-budget black and white indie film and the full-color big-budget opening night films deftly demonstrate the diversity of quality offerings at this year's festival.

THE FESTIVAL now embarks on a ten month national tour that includes Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Houston, Durham, Madison, Boston, Miami and others. Contact Asian CineVision at (212) 989-1422 or info@asiancinevision.org for moreinformation.




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