This year marks the 33rd annual showcase of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF). It’s one of the highlights of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) that takes place in May every year. Since 1983, the Film Festival produced by Visual Communications has presented thousands of narratives in film and other digital media by Asian international and Asian Pacific American artists. In addition to feature films shown in various theatres all over Greater Los Angeles, there are shorts programs, seminars and panels, and filmmaker awards, making LAAPFF the largest of its kind in Southern California.
At KCM Agency, many of us are proud of our Asian Pacific American roots and love celebrating the vibrant and active community. Not only is it an opportunity to catch rare and often unavailable showings of Asian films and documentaries, the festival has also become a week-long gathering of the community and a way to rediscover our diverse cultures. There are 184 films and 19 shorts programs this year, and it was hard to choose favorites. So, we asked some of our team members about which films they are excited to see at this year’s LAAPFF:
Gook is arguably one of the most buzz-worthy films on the LAAPFF roster. Justin Chon’s feature film based on the Los Angeles Riots of 1992 won the NEXT Audience Award at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, which earned them distribution from Samuel Goldwyn Films. LAAPFF features Gook as a Festival Centerpiece with a special Gala Presentation to be shown on Saturday, April 29th, the day commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the L.A. Uprising/Rodney King verdict. LAAPFF’s Festival Co-Director, David Magdael, says, “(Gook) has come at a time when we truly need our voices and our stories out there, addressing hot button issues such as race and community in an America that is quickly changing and becoming extremely polarized. And screening this film on the 25th anniversary of this major Los Angeles event is only fitting. This film is a catalyst for discussion, and Chon is an artist on the rise representing the next generation of our artists telling our stories.” We cannot agree more.
Every year, our sister non-profit, Kollaboration, co-presents select films at LAAPFF, as matched by the Festival to the organization’s mission and purpose. This year, Kollaboration is co-presenting two: Save My Seoul and Mele Murals. Dubbed as the prince of Japanese American documentary film, Mele Murals’ award-winning director, Tadashi Nakamura, explores the inspiring journey of two Native Hawaiian street artists, Estria Miyashiro and John ‘Prime’ Hina, as they create a three-walled mural in a rural Waimea school. The artists’ personal stories are about rediscovering their identity and culture through street art, which, set within a backdrop of beautiful Hawaiian graffiti art depicting three Hawaiian mele (song or chant), makes the message of “cultural reclamation, transformation, and decolonial reimagining” even more compelling. Just from watching the trailer, the themes of art, culture, and community shine through, which we believe makes the film a perfect fit for Kollaboration as well.
Save My Seoul
Save My Seoul is the highly anticipated documentary feature from director Jason Y. Lee, one of the founders of the social-justice fueled media company, Jubilee Project. Save My Seoul follows Jason and his brother Eddie as they enter the dangerous depths of the red-light district in Seoul, South Korea in an effort to shine light upon the rampant sex-trafficking trade. It is through hidden cameras and the poignant interviews with two working girls the brothers befriend, that we see the severity of abuse these young women and girls are subject to. The Korean Feminist Association estimates 500,000 to 1.2 million girls work in the sex trade in South Korea. Save My Seoul makes the list of Programmer’s Picks and is on ours too because it brings awareness of this horrible injustice to women and humanity as a whole.
A passion project by director Avid Liongoren, screenwriter Charlene Sawit-Esguerra, and their artistic team at Rocket Sheep Studios, Saving Sally is about the imaginative adventures of an aspiring comic book artist and a gadget inventor, both still in high school in sprawling Metro Manila. When our Senior Designer, Klarisse, first heard of Saving Sally, it was from friends back home in the Philippines who were excitedly talking about the uniquely cool offering at last year’s Metro Manila Film Festival. Some friends worked on the movie, but majority were just raving about it. It’s a “2D live-action hybrid” and looks part Scott Pilgrim, part Japanese anime! It took a decade to make! Everyone felt so proud! For the Philippine cinema community, it was as refreshing as it was necessary. There was simply nothing else like it before. The movie was a hit on social media, and with a younger audience who usually look outside of the country for creative live-action animation. When it first debuted last year though, the tables were turned and it’s now fans outside the country looking for ways to see the film. Thankfully, it’s showing at LAAPFF, and Klarisse already has her tickets.
In this autobiographical documentary, Taiwanese filmmaker Hui-Chen Huang sits her mother, Anu, down and patiently interviews her in an effort to get to know her. Any resemblance of a relationship has been absent for the last 20 years. and all Hui-Chen Huang knows is that Anu is a lesbian. Anu has lived with this secret all her life in a traditional and conservative Taiwanese society. To build a more complete picture of who Anu is, Huang visits her mother’s hometown to discover Anu’s past, which includes her occupation as a Taoist priestess, and interviews with former lovers. Small Talk was awarded the Teddy Award for Best Documentary at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year. With their decision, the jurors judges stated, “Small Talk is the director's courageous portrayal of her family story, which gives an audience an inside look at a culture that we might not be familiar with. This powerful documentary manages to be of universal significance and extremely intimate at the same time.” We most certainly agree with the sentiment, and want to note that this documentary comes out at an important time for Taiwan. Legalization of same-sex marriage has been a topic present in legislation since 2003. If the bills currently pending in Taiwan’s parliament pass, Taiwan will be the first country in Asia to allow same-sex marriage.
The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival will run from April 27th to May 4th, 2017. Check out http://festival.vconline.org/ for more information on all the films showing this year as well as how to get your tickets! Make sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram for live updates!