Lia Chang: AAIFF 09 Photo Call: Karma Calling, You Don’t Know Jack and Children of Invention
Claustrophobia director Ivy Ho and La Frances Hui, Senior Program Officer of Cultural Programs and Performing Arts at the Asia Society. Photo by Lia Chang
So many movies, so little time.
Day 3 of the 32nd Asian American International Film Festival at Clearview Chelsea Cinemas and the School of Visual Arts Theater was a marathon day for me.
Several series of Short Films, as well as a One-on-One with Claustrophobia director Ivy Ho, conducted by La Frances Hui, Senior Program Officer of Cultural Programs and Performing Arts at the Asia Society, were taking place at the new Museum of Chinese in America building downtown.
My first film of the day was Sarba Das’ Karma Calling, starring Darshan Jariwala, Sulekha Das, Gargi Mukherjee, Samrat Chakrabarti and Kavi Ladnier.
I met up with my friend actor Manu Narayan, who was the moderator for the Karma Calling Q & A after the screening.
In Karma Calling, the Raj family is not a household comprised of stereotypical Asian model minorities living the American Dream.
Karma Calling Q & A. Photo by Lia Chang
It is a comedic riff on call centers in India, growing up in New Jersey, struggling with finances, and embracing the African American and Jewish cultures. Karma Calling
was a Das Family affair with Sarba at the helm, her brother Sarthak Das serving as co-writer/producer, and their mother Sulekha Das, appearing in the film as a recently widowed relative, Mausi, the catalyst for a fount of comic disasters.
It was a family affair for the cast and crew of Karma Calling. (Photo by Lia Chang)
Novelist Ed Lin and his wife Cindy Cheung, Children of Invention director Tze Chun with his stars Crystal Liu and Cindy Cheung. Photos by Lia Chang
Outside the theater, I caught up with actress Cindy Cheung and her husband This is a Bust
novelist Ed Lin.
Last night, Cheung was featured in the Festival’s Centerpiece presentation of Tze Chun’s Children of Invention as Elaine Cheng, a single immigrant mother of two. When the Cheng family’s home is foreclosed on, Elaine moves into a unit in an unfinished apartment building with her two young children. Looking for ways to make extra money, Elaine becomes involved in a pyramid scheme with dire consequences. The children are left to fend for themselves, and in her absence, they do the best they can. The movie has resonated at film festivals across the country.
You Don't Know Jack filmmaker Jeff Adachi and members of Jack Soo's family. Photo by Lia Chang
Lia Chang and filmmaker Jeff Adachi
I reconnected with Slanted Screen
filmmaker Jeff Adachi, whose sophomore effort, a documentary about Jack Soo called You Don’t Know Jack
, was truly inspiring.
I remember Jack Soo from his role as Detective Nick Yemana in the seminal television series Barney Miller, and as nightclub owner Sammy Fong from Flower Drum Song.
Adachi’s You Don’t Know Jack takes an intimate look at this Asian American pioneer’s path to success as a comedian, an actor, and as a singer whose recording of ‘For Once in My Life’ for the Motown Label preceded Stevie Wonder’s.
Filmmaker Jeff Adachi and actress/singer Pat Suzuki, who appeared with Jack Soo as Linda Low in Flower Drum Song on Broadway. Photo by Lia Chang
Jack Soo was born as Goro Suzuki on October 28, 1917, and raised in Oakland, CA. He was six-feet-tall, dapper and the ultimate hipster. Because of his height, he was turned down for hundreds of parts, but he followed his dreams to be an actor and refused to play stereotypical roles. You Don’t Know Jack
features rare photographs of Soo’s life and career and fond recollections by his daughter, fellow cast members, high-school friends, and fans. It is a revealing portrait of how comedy, community and ethnic identity shaped this one-of-a-kind artist.
I chatted with Jeff after the screening and will feature his interview at a later date.
Samrat Chakrabarti, Kavi Ladnier, Cindy Cheung and Manu Narayan. Eileen Rivera, Robert Lee, Manu Narayan and Orville Mendoza. (Photos by Lia Chang)
We headed over to the School of Visual Arts Theater for the screening of Tze Chun’s Children of Invention
, starring Cindy Cheung, Michael Chen, Crystal Chiu, Katie Kreisler and Stephen Gevedon. The film played to a packed house and the New York Asian American film and theatrical community came out to support Cindy and Crystal, who were the belles of the ball, and director Tze Chun.
(l-r) NY 1 Correspondent Vivian Lee, director Tze Chun, Crystal Chiu, Katie Kreisler, Cindy Cheung and Kieran Campion. Photo by Lia Chang
After a bowl of Pho in Koreatown, I headed down to the afterparty at 310 Lounge in the East Village where the party was in full swing, and danced the night away.
AAIFF 09 Closing Night Awards and H.P. Mendoza’s Fruit Fly
AAIFF Karma Calling, You Don’t Know Jack and Children of Invention
Jeff Adachi’s You Don’t Know Jack and Tzi Chun’s Children of Invention Screen at AAIFF 09
Multimedia: AAIFF 09 Opening Night Screening of Claustrophobia
Schedule at a Glance: Asian American International Film Festival AAIFF 2009
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Lia Chang is an actor, performance and fine art botanical photographer and an award-winning multimedia journalist. Lia’s portraits and performance photos have appeared in Vanity Fair, Gourmet, German Elle, Women’s Wear Daily, The Paris Review, VIBE, TV Guide, Daily Variety, Interior Design, American Theatre, Life & Style, OUT, New York Magazine, InStyle, Timeout.com, Villagevoice.com, Playbill.com, Theatermania.com, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, New York Times and Washington Post. A former syndicated arts and entertainment columnist for KYODO News, Lia is the New York Bureau Chief for AsianConnections.com. She writes about culture, style and Asian American issues for a variety of publications and this Backstage Pass with Lia Chang blog. As a photographer and videographer, Lia is frequently tapped to collaborate with artists, organizations and companies in establishing their documentary photo archive. She has been documenting her colleagues and contemporaries in the arts, fashion and journalism since making her stage debut as Liat in the National Tour of South Pacific, with Robert Goulet and Barbara Eden.
Lia Chang © Tami Chang