Visual Communications (VC), the nation's premier Asian Pacific American media arts center, announced its outstanding program of films and events for the upcoming 34th edition of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) running MAY 3 – MAY 12, 2018. The all encompassing annual film celebration is presented across Los Angeles in West Hollywood, Downtown LA, Little Tokyo, Koreatown, and Hollywood.
VC proudly celebrates the Film Festival's 34 years as Southern California's largest and most prestigious film festival of its kind. LAAPFF launches the celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month through this year's slate of over 100 films from both Asian Pacific American and Asian international artists. For over three decades, the Festival has presented nearly 5,000 films by Asian Pacific American and Asian International talent. This year, 39 feature films and 79 shorts from the over 800 submissions will be showcased during the ten-day fest.
“Festival No. 34 maintains our spirit of producing this annual showcase through the process of creating our ideal communities,” states VC Executive Director Francis Cullado on this year's LAAPFF. “Our programmers and staff imagine our ideal communities to be inclusive while striving toward equity and change. And with regards to the ongoing discourse about diversity, we aim to have a space that engages intra-diversity amongst AAPIs and inter-diversity with other communities and groups. We at Visual Communications and this Festival proudly present a slate of artists and creators who continue to shift narratives and challenge perspectives.”
The Festival opens with the Los Angeles premiere of the award winning feature SEARCHING starring John Cho and Debra Messing. The film, which will hit theaters in August via Sony Screen Gems, gives audiences an early chance to see the movie that took the NEXT audience award and the Alfred P. Sloan award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. The film is directed and co-written by first-time feature filmmaker Aneesh Chaganty.
SEARCHING is a suspenseful and hyper-modern thriller about a desperate father searching for his missing teenage daughter. After an unsuccessful local investigation, David (John Cho) decides to search the one place no one has looked yet – the internet. Joseph Lee and Michelle La also star in the film. This Opening Night film will screen on Thursday, May 3rd at 7PM at the Directors Guild of America in West Hollywood, and will be followed by a Q&A with the director and members of the cast and crew.
“We are very excited to open the Festival with the multiple award winning SEARCHING from director Aneesh Chaganty, starring John Cho and Debra Messing,” says Festival Artistic Consultant Anderson Le. “This innovative mystery thriller, which takes place all within a computer screen, is a unique experiment that is very outside-the-box, yet it all takes place within the “box” of a computer screen. Through Chaganty's deft direction and an intense performance by Cho, this film showcases a new voice in Asian American and stretches the parameters of genre filmmaking, similar to how Jordan Peele's GET OUT flipped the script on horror film conventions.”
A first for LAAPFF, our CENTERPIECE FILMS will feature two outstanding world premieres with IN THE LIFE OF MUSIC and FICTION & OTHER REALITIES. Both films are from Los Angeles based filmmakers, who share how music can craft identity and individuality, while serve as a guiding light in one's path.
IN THE LIFE OF MUSIC is the first Cambodian film to be presented as a Festival Centerpiece film. Co-Directed by Caylee So (an LAAPFF alumnus and leader of the vibrant Long Beach Cambodian community) and Sok Visal, their film is a touching family drama on how music can tether a family almost eradicated by the Khmer Rouge regime.
FICTION & OTHER REALITIES is inspired by stalwart Korean American musician Bobby Choy (a.k.a. Big Phony)'s move to Seoul to focus on his music and realign with his roots. The film is a funny and poignant music-infused love story, reminiscent of ONCE. It is co-directed by Steve Lee and Bobby Choy, who also wrote the film and stars as the lead.
Centerpiece Films will be presented on Saturday, May 5th at the Aratani Theatre at the Japanese American Community and Cultural Center (JACCC) in Little Tokyo – Downtown Los Angeles.
Our CLOSING NIGHT FILM is the Los Angeles premiere of the acclaimed 2018 Sundance World Documentary Special Jury Award winner MATANGI/ MAYA/ M.I.A., directed by Stephen Loveridge. Inspired by her roots, M.I.A. created a mashup, cut-and-paste identity that pulled from every corner of her journey; a sonic sketchbook that blended Tamil politics, art school punk, hip-hop beats and the voice of multicultural youth. Never compromising, Maya Arulpragasm kept her camera rolling through her battles with the music industry and mainstream media as her success and fame grew. Loveridge draws from Maya's 22-years cache of personal tapes and captures her remarkable journey from immigrant teenager in London to the international popstar M.I.A.
“This is so exciting that we are sharing this incredible film with Los Angeles,” exclaims Festival Programming Manager, Sheryl Santacruz. “It transcends your standard music doc, and in such a multi-cultural and intersectional city like ours, there is so much in Maya's story that we can all relate to. As the Closing Night film, it is truly a global story. It's not only fun and celebratory, but also intimate and unflinching.”
MATANGI/MAYA/M.I.A. will be presented as the Closing Night Film on Thursday, May 10th at the Aratani Theatre at the JACCC in Little Tokyo, Downtown Los Angeles.
Every year, the LAAPFF INTERNATIONAL SHOWCASE highlights new films and filmmakers from around the world. This year is no different as the Festival boasts acclaimed features from Cambodia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, New Zealand, China, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom.
Santacruz remarks, “It was incredibly difficult to make our selections for the international slate, with such a competitive roster of films to choose from. One of the most exciting things is the multiculturalism within the foreign films. Films such as JIMAMI TOFU, OMOTENASHI, BECOMING WHO I WAS, and SINGING WITH ANGRY BIRD really exemplify the global multiplicity we live in, and we're proud to promote a program that celebrates this.”
LAAPFF will present a Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Asian Pacific International documentary and narrative features. The lineup of these films in competition are:
COMPETITION DOCUMENTARIES – INTERNATIONAL
- ANGKAR – Dir. Neary Adeline Hay
- BECOMING WHO I WAS – Dir. Moon Chang-Yong, Jin Jeon
- CHINA'S FORGOTTEN DAUGHTERS – Dir. Vincent Du, Meng Han
- THE CLEANERS – Dir. Hans Block, Moritz Riesewieck
- LATE LIFE : THE CHIEN-MING WANG STORY – Dir. Frank W. Chen
- PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE – Dir. Hao Wu
- SINGING WITH ANGRY BIRD – Dir. Hyewon Lee
COMPETITION NARRATIVES – INTERNATIONAL
- IN THE LIFE OF MUSIC – Dir. Caylee So
- JIMAMI TOFU – Dir. Jason Chan, Christian Lee
- KISS AND SPELL – Dir. Stephane Gauger
- NEOMANILA – Dir. Mikhail Red
- OMOTENASHI – Dir. Jay Chern
- THE THIRD MURDER – Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda
- WARU – Dir. Chelsea Cohen, Ainsley Gardiner, Casey Kaa, Renae Maihi, Awanui Simich-Pene, Briar Grace-Smith, Paula Whetu, Katie Wolfe
Films from North America are eligible for the Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Asian American documentary and narrative features. These competition films are:
COMPETITION NARRATIVES – NORTH AMERICA
- AUGUST AT AKIKO'S – Dir. Christopher Makoto Yogi
- THE FEVER AND THE FRET – Dir. Cath Gulick
- FICTION & OTHER REALITIES – Dir. Bobby Choy, Steve Lee
- FISH BONES – Dir. Joanne Mony Park
- FOR IZZY – Dir. Alex Chu
- HANH, SOLO – Dir. Jason Taylor
- STAND UP MAN – Dir. Aram Collier
- WHITE RABBIT – Dir. Daryl Wein
COMPETITION DOCUMENTARIES – NORTH AMERICA
- ANOTE'S ARK – Dir. Matthieu Rytz
- CALL HER GANDA – Dir. PJ Raval
- CORRIDOR FOUR – Dir. Stephen Tringali
- ISLAND SOLDIER – Dir. Nathan Fitch
- MINDING THE GAP – Dir. Bing Liu
- ULAM: MAIN DISH – Dir. Alexandra Cuerdo
- SCIENCE FAIR – Dir.: Cristina Costantini, Darren Foster
“Our documentary selection this year continues to be a highlight of our Festival as it features some of the best films and filmmakers from both the U.S. and abroad,” states David Magdael, the Festival Co-Director. “Award-winning films from Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca and other festivals are having their Los Angeles premieres at LAAPFF. These films bring us true life stories and experiences that will stay with the viewer and perhaps even inspire action. The essence of the current Filipino food movement in the US, the search for justice for a murdered trans Filipina woman, people in China living their lives all day streaming on the internet, the story of three longtime skateboarder friends who must face growing up and their own unexpected revelations from their past, celebrating kids who are changing our world by competing in science fairs–there is something for everyone in our doc programs.”
LAAPFF is proud to be an Academy Award®-qualifying festival for the Short Film Awards. Recipients of the Film Festival's qualifying awards will be eligible for consideration in the Animated Short Film/Live Action Short Film category of the Academy Awards® without standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules. With over 60 eligible films, recipient(s) of LAAPFF's Golden Reel Award for Narrative Short Film will be eligible for consideration in the Animated Short Film/Live Action Short Film category of the Academy Awards®. Additionally, the Film Festival grants a Golden Reel Award for Excellence in Documentary Short Films.
“Short films are an excellent way for up-and-coming filmmakers to make their mark on the film world, and we're excited to showcase the variety of Asian Pacific talent,” says Branding & Communications Manager and Shorts Programmer Dorothy Xiao. “We've selected films that will move, educate and inspire. As we are an Academy Award® qualifying festival for the Short Film Awards, one of our short films may very well be the next Academy Award® winner!”
The sharing of experiences through film and media becomes increasingly important during these fast changing times to ensure that our voices, images, and stories are heard and seen. LAAPFF is proud to present the following important special presentations that include discussions, films, performance art, and media installations that will encourage dialogue, reflection, and inspiration.
SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS include features from across the globe highlighting historical moments, food, and filmmakers that are pushing the boundaries to classic family films. There's a secret screening that you won't want to miss! These include:
- PROOF OF LOYALTY: KAZUO YAMANE AND THE NISEI SOLDIERS OF HAWAII – Dir. Lucy Ostrander, Don Sellers
PROOF OF LOYALTY tells the story of Kazuo Yamane, a Japanese American who played a crucial strategic role in World War II. He and his fellow Nisei from Hawaii combatted prejudice and discrimination to loyally serve their country, forming the most awarded and celebrated U.S. army battalion. Their extraordinary service, mostly untold, ultimately changed the course of U.S. history.
- THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT – Dir. Ric Burns, Li-Shin Yu
Burns and Yu tackle a complicated yet under told story about a significant piece of U.S. history — the only legislation barring an entire group of immigrants based on ethnicity and race. As highlighted through first-person interviews and archival materials, this film serves as resistance against racism and the resilience of people that shaped the fabric of the United States.
- PRISON FOOD (World Premiere) – Dir. Johneric Concordia
Two special sneak episodes from the new series produced by Discovery Asia, features Johneric Concordia (Owner of The Park's Finest restaurant) teaching inmates how to cook. Following the screening will be a discussion with the director/chef on the art of cuisine as it builds community.
- IT'S A PARTY – Dir. Weldon Wong Powers
The unsuccessful friends of a popular rapper have gathered for a surprise birthday party at his house, only to realize he may never show up.
- FIND YOUR VOICE – Dir. Chris Herd
After winning the lottery, E, a young Maori rapper, returns home to New Zealand to find his musical and traditional roots. In the quest to find his voice he soon becomes lost as love, culture, and, cash collide on the dark side of the music scene.
- OUT OF STATE – Dir. Ciara Lacy
The award winning documentary OUT OF STATE is the story of outcasts, native Hawaiian prisoners shipped 3,000 miles across the ocean to a for-profit prison in the desert of Arizona. In this unlikely setting, these men discover their fierce indigenous dances, inspiring two native Hawaiians to fight to turn their lives around upon release.
- KULEANA – Dir. Brian Kohne
Kuleana is the Hawaiian word for spiritual responsibility. In 1971, few understood the concept of kuleana, as the Hawaiian Renaissance, a reawakening of island culture, had yet to begin and ancient customs and values teetered on the precipice of extinction. On Maui, childhood friends Nohea and Kim share a common nemesis: Kim's father, Victor Coyle, a real-estate developer who blatantly exploits the land and the people he has managed to usurp and control. Ancestral spirits and modern day warriors also contribute to the fight as Nohea and Kim learn the most important lesson: kuleana is not a burden; it is a privilege.
This year's LAAPFF competition line-up for Grand Jury Awards for North American feature films is rich with stories and insights from important and nuanced perspectives from creative talent across the spectrum.
SPOTLIGHT ON TAIWAN highlights the best in Taiwanese cinema and the country's rich culture and history that have shaped the island nation into one of the most dynamic countries in the Asia-Pacific Rim. This section is generously supported by Taiwan Academy of Los Angeles and the Ministry of Culture, Taiwan.
This year, LAAPFF is honored to present two feature films — Jay Chern's third feature film, OMOTENASHI, and the world premiere of Frank W. Chen's documentary LATE LIFE: THE CHIEN-MING WANG STORY.
OMOTENASHI, from a past LAAPFF Award winner Jay Chern (THIEF, LAAPFF 2014), stars Edison Wang as Jacky, the young heir to a construction company in Taiwan. His father sends him to Kyoto to oversee the renovation of the beautiful yet obsolete Bright Moon Ryokan. Jacky is going in hopes to get back his ex-girlfriend Naoko and to sell the hotel. There, he meets the innkeeper Mitsuko and her daughter Rika. Unaware of his hidden agenda, the innkeeper is excited about the idea of turning the hotel into a wedding venue, and suggests that Jacky learns “omotenashi,” the virtue of traditional Japanese hospitality, together with her daughter and her otaku helper.
LATE LIFE: THE CHIEN-MING WANG STORY could be best described as a baseball version of the documentary LINSANITY. Directed by Frank W. Chen and produced by Brian Yang (LINSANITY), the film chronicles Taiwanese baseball player Chien-Ming Wang's last ditch effort to be recruited back on a professional baseball team after a series of injuries disrupted his trailblazing career in the major leagues. LATE LIFE is an up-close and personal film that delves into Wang's personal drive as a star athlete with a resiliency that impresses everyone in his wake.
In addition, this year's Spotlight on Taiwan highlights the works of emerging Taiwanese filmmakers with three short films — 100th BIRTHDAY WISH by Chien-Hung Lien, MISS WORLD by Georgia Fu, and FUNDAMENTAL by Shih-Chieh Chiu. These short films present universal stories that are also unique in capturing everyday Taiwanese life. As LAAPFF is an Academy Award®-qualifying festival for the Short Film Awards, perhaps these new directors will be the next Ang Lee.