Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

35th Asian American International Film Festival Line-up in New York

The 35th Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF), presented by Asian CineVision (ACV), runs July 25 – August 5, 2012 with screenings at Clearview Chelsea Cinemas, Asia Society and Museum, and The Museum of Chinese in America in New York.

“On the event of our 35th year we honor our roots–showcasing the best and most recent achievements by Asian American film and video makers while looking to future by nurturing emerging talents and embracing transformative technologies” says ACV Executive Director John C. Woo. More than half of the Festival selection is made in the US or is a co-production. Many are first time directors, including actress turned director Lily Mariye’s Model Minority, telling the story of an underprivileged teenage girl surviving the treacherous world of peer pressure, drug dealers and dysfunctional families in L.A. There are also a number of returning filmmakers, including H.P. Mendoza’s horror film I am a Ghost, about a girl trapped in a repetitive routine in Victorian times. And Rich Wong’s raunchy new film Yes, We’re Open, a sharp-witted comedy about a modern couple testing their boundaries of love, sex and honesty. “We are extremely happy to see the number of Asian American filmmakers making quality work in a truly independent fashion which AAIFF continues to champion,” adds Martha Tien, AAIFF Program Director.

AAIFF is also proud to bring back LGBTQ Cinema Night, which will take place on Friday, July 27. “LGBTQ Cinema Night was a huge success last year, and we are very happy to collaborate with our community partners again,” says Sophia Giddens, Festival Director. AAIFF will screen narrative feature SEÑORITA (The Philippines) by New York-based director Vincent Sandoval, a story of a transgendered woman who tries to leave her past life as a sex worker but becomes embroiled in the politics of a local election.

AAIFF’12 Line-Up:
Feature Films

A LOT LIKE YOU – Dir. Eliaichi Kimaro | USA/Tanzania
Tender, intellectual, and reflective, director/writer Eliaichi Kimaro explores her intricate identity as a Tanzanian-Korean mixed-race, first-generation American in her award-winning documentary. A LOT LIKE YOU lodges a personal lens to the perception of postcolonial and immigrant histories, confidently and sincerely bringing out the conversation between the individual, family and culture.

I AM A GHOST – Dir. H.P. Mendoza | Starring Anna Ishida, Jeannie Barroga | USA
Emily (Anna Ishida) is stuck in a repetition of events, a cycle that slowly begins to unravel as she comes to discover where and what she truly is. Yet her most horrifying revelation will only come when she questions how she was brought to this state, and what she must do to escape.

INVOKING JUSTICE – Dir. Deepa Dhanraj | India
In Southern India, family disputes are settled by Jamaats, all-male bodies which apply Islamic Shari’ah law to cases without allowing women to be present, even to defend themselves. Recognizing this fundamental inequity, a group of women establish a women’s Jamaat to hold their male counterparts and local police accountable, aiming to reform a profoundly corrupt and discriminatory system.

KNOTS – Dir. Michael Kang | Starring Kimberly-Rose Wolter, Illeana Douglas, Sung Kang | USA
It’s an “UN-romantic comedy” that reveals how the most unbelieving kind can be nudged into believing. After Lily (Kimberly-Rose Wolter) throws up at her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, she returns home to Hawaii for family support. But equally chaotic at home is the family strife of her thrice-married mom and two half-sisters who run a family wedding planning business. An unexpected encounter with her ex-boyfriend Kai (Sung Kang) leaves Lily questioning her own convictions.

MODEL MINORITY – Dir. Lily Mariye | Starring Jessica Tuck, Helen Slater, Laura Innes | USA
L.A. teenagers must survive the treacherous world of peer pressure, drug dealers, juvenile hall and dysfunctional families. Kayla, an underprivileged Japanese American girl with a drug addict mom and an alcoholic dad, endangers her promising future as an artist when she becomes involved with a drug dealer.

MR. CAO GOES TO WASHINGTON – Dir. S. Leo Chiang | Starring Anh “Joseph” Cao | USA
In 2009, Ang “Joseph” Quang Cao was the first Republican elected as representative of his district since 1890, and he became the first Vietnamese American to enter Congress. Dubbed the “Accidental Congressman,” MR. CAO GOES TO WASHINGTON depicts Mr. Cao’s life of strong work ethic, idealism, and political naivety.

PEARLS OF THE FAR EAST – Dir. Cuong Ngo | Starring Phuong Quynh, Huy Hoang | Vietnam
Set in the beautiful backdrop of Vietnam’s landscape, seven vignettes tell the stories of six women and one man of different ages and at different stages of their lives. The seemingly unrelated stories are strung together by the women’s common struggle with love, desire, passion, and sexuality.

SEEKING ASIAN FEMALE – Dir. Debbie Lum | Starring Jianhua ‘Sandy’ Bolstad, Steven Bolstad | USA
Steven is a twice-divorced 60-year-old Caucasian man obsessed with marrying an Asian woman. After a long search he finds Sandy, a young Chinese woman who agrees to marry him. In this quirky documentary, the director’s own prejudices are challenged as the couple turn one another’s assumptions upside down.

SEÑORITA – Dir. Vincent Sandoval | Starring Vincent Sandoval, Publio Briones III | Philippines
Wanting to quit sex work in Manila and start a new life, Sofia (Vincent Sandoval), a transgender woman, reinvents herself as Donna in the small town of Talisay to look after her friend’s son. But her past soon catches up with her when she gets involved in the complex politics of a local election, and her two lives cannot be kept apart.

SHANGHAI CALLING – Dir. Daniel Hsia | Starring Daniel Henney, Eliza Coupe | USA/China
SHANGHAI CALLING is a romantic comedy about modern-day American immigrants in an unfamiliar land. When an ambitious New York attorney, Sam (Daniel Henney), is sent to Shanghai on assignment, he immediately stumbles into a legal mess that could spell the end of his career. But with help from a beautiful relocation specialist, a well-connected foreign businessman, a clever but unassuming journalist, and a street-smart assistant, Sam might just save his job, discover romance, and learn to appreciate the many wonders Shanghai has to offer.

$UPERCAPITALIST – Dir. Simon Yin | Starring Derek Ting, Kenneth Tseng | USA/Hong Kong
A maverick New York hedge fund trader, Conner (Derek Ting), moves to Hong Kong and manages a mega-deal that swiftly escalates beyond his control. Caught between competing forces in a ruthless culture of profits. $UPERCAPITALIST inherits the legacy of financial classics such as WALL STREET, captivatingly intertwines contemporary and translocal issues in the financial drama, and reiterates the perpetual conflict between ambition, greed and humanity.

TOUCH – Dir. Minh Duc Nguyen | Starring Melinda Bennett, John Ruby | USA
A mechanic looking to save his faltering marriage strikes up an unlikely friendship with a Vietnamese-American manicurist, who not only cleans his greasy hands but also counsels him advice on his love life. But soon, the two find themselves drawn to each other, an attraction which becomes harder and harder to resist.

VIETTE – Dir. Mye Hoang | Starring Mye Hoang, Sean McBride | USA
An emotional and dramatic coming-of-age story of Viette (Mye Hoang), a Vietnamese-American teenager who dreams of breaking free from her oppressive household to pursue her personal desires and forbidden love. Balancing life on the edge of two opposite worlds, will Viette ever follow her heart, or will the consequences be too overwhelming?

YES, WE’RE OPEN – Dir. Rich Wong | Starring Lynn Chen, Parry Shen | USA
Uncommonly sharp-witted and brilliantly acted, YES, WE’RE OPEN presents Luke and Sylvia, a couple who think of themselves as open and modern—until they meet Elena and Ronald. The polyamorous nonconformists take the couple into the unconventional world of San Francisco relationships that test their boundaries of love, sex and honesty.

Can love really conquer all when all becomes more than you ever bargained for? Five stories, each expressing an LGBTQ perspective, show that love never completely surrenders, no matter the circumstances.

A HEART FELT – Dir. Jingyang Cheng | USA
DOL – Dir. Andrew Ahn | USA
MY SPIRITUAL MEDICINE – Dir. Liang Cheng | China
ONCE – Dir. Jie Chen | USA

Shorts Program: FOR YOUTH BY YOUTH
Written and directed by talented youths between the ages of 15 and 20, this program is filled with refreshing animation, documentaries and experimental shorts reflecting youth culture today. Fun and diverse, this compilation of shorts will win the heart of anyone who watches.

ADIOS – Dir. Akshay Akkineni | India
BIG CITY, SMALL TOWN – Dir. Stefanos Tai | USA
FIRE IN OUR HEARTS – Dir. Jayshree Janu Kharpade | India
GIFT – Dir. Pang Jia Wei | Malaysia
I AM AN ASIACAN – Dir. Jesus Olvera | USA
LOVE EARTH – Dir. Chien-chun Tseng, Yu-hsuan Tseng | Taiwan
LOVE LIFE, LIVE YOUR DREAM – Dir. Anthony Anglin Jr. | USA
SAY HI TO PENCIL! – Dir. Thanh Huynh, Phuong Ahn Pham | Vietnam
THE ASCENSION – Dir. Gershon Sng | China

What does it mean to be Asian American and living in America? This program of short films narrates five distinctive stories, including the life of a Japanese American youth in an internment camp, a group of Pakistani American Muslims living in California, and undocumented North Korean refugees.

A FLICKER IN ETERNITY – Dir. Ann Kaneko, Sharon Yamato | USA
AN AMERICAN MOSQUE – Dir. David Washburn | USA
OUT OF THE SHADOWS – Dir. James Tarlton | USA
OUTSIDER AT HOME – Dir. Hyunmin Danny Lee | USA

TWO SECONDS AFTER LAUGHTER – Dir. David Rousseve | USA/Indonesia
Shorts Program: HOW TO…
There is no living without losing. As these eight films show, all types of change are inevitable in life; but when we are confronted with such severity, we must not only survive, but also take a lesson on how to live.

COMRADES – Dir. Paolo Bitanga | USA
JIN – Dir. Il Cho | USA
MOTHER’S MILK – Dir. Andy DeJohn | USA/Vietnam
THE LAST MARBLE – Dir. Manjari Makijany | India
THE TELEGRAM MAN – Dir. James Khehtie | Australia
WAKING UP – Dir. Yuta Okamura | USA

Shorts Program: IN THE NAME OF LOVE
The magic word of love elicits both the most noble and most obscene of behavior for conspirators or strangers, couples or families. These six stories depict all kinds of love, be it ardent and destructive, dorky and reticent, or thawing and unreconciling.

BLEACHED – Dir. Jess dela Merced | USA
JOHNNY LOVES DOLORES – Dir. Clarissa de los Reyes | USA/Philippines
LOVE, NY – Dir. Vincent Lin | USA
MODERN FAMILY – Dir. Kwang Bin Kim | South Korea
ODIUM – Dir. Neale Hemrajani | USA
SHANGHAI LOVE MARKET – Dir. Craig Rosenthal | China/Singapore

About Asian CineVision & AAIFF
The Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) is produced by Asian CineVision (ACV), a nonprofit media arts organization devoted to the development, promotion and preservation of Asian and Asian American film and video. AAIFF is the nation’s longest-running festival of its kind and a leading showcase for the best in independent Asian and Asian American film and video.

For more information on the 35th Annual Asian American International Film Festival, please visit

Other Articles by Lia Chang
Daniel Hsia’s Shanghai Calling, Simon Yin’s Supercapitalist & Michael Kang’s Knots to Screen at 35th annual Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) in New York, which runs July 25 – August 5, 2012
Click here for more articles on Film.
NYMF: Prison Dancer starring Jose Llana, Jeigh Madjus, Marc delaCruz, Catherine Ricafort, Moses Villarama, Cosmo Clemens, Enrico Rodriguez, Albert Guerzon, Andrew Eisenman and Nathan Ramos at Theatre at St. Clement’s, July 20-28, 2012
Three Year Swim Club, Encounter, TEA, Christmas in Hanoi and Chess set for East West Players 47th Anniversary Season
Photos: All-Access Pass to Disney’s Aladdin at The Muny with Thom Sesma, Francis Jue, Robin De Jesus, John Tartaglia, Jason Graae, Curtis Holbrook, Eddie Korbich, Samantha Massell and Ken Page
Rick Shiomi helms Mu Performing Arts’ Asian American Cast of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, July 17-August 5, 2012
Dian Kobayashi, Emily Kuroda and Jeanne Sakata set for Daniel Akiyama’s A Cage of Fireflies at 2012 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab
Epic Theatre Presents Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths, starring Joel de la Fuente, May 20-21, 2012
Performing Arts Images from the Asian American Pacific Islander Collection on Display at the Library of Congress to Celebrate APA Heritage Month
Photos: Yellow Fever Playwright Rick Shiomi Explores New Territory with An All-Female Cast
Tony Award – winning Playwright Terrence McNally to be Honored at Westport Country Playhouse Annual Gala, September 24, 2012
Richard Thomas and Boyd Gaines to star in An Enemy of the People at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre during Manhattan Theatre Club’s 2012-2013 Season
Multimedia: Exclusive photos and video of Disney’s The Lion King Las Vegas -In the Makeup Chair with Thom Sesma
Photos: BD Wong, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Brandon Victor Dixon, Tom Viola at “Passing It On: An Evening of Mentorship to Benefit Rosie’s Theater Kids”
Photos: Highlights of Shinsai: Theaters for Japan (3pm) with Andre Bishop, Mary Beth Hurt, Jennifer Lim, Angela Lin, Philip Kan Gotanda, Thom Sesma, Sab Shimono, Richard Thomas, Jay O. Sanders, and more
Photos: Highlights of Shinsai: Theaters for Japan (8pm) with Oskar Eustis, Patti LuPone, Lisa Emery, Ann Harada, Paolo Montalban, Thom Sesma, Sab Shimono, Henry Stram, Richard Thomas, John Weidman and more
Photos: In Rehearsal with Director Bartlett Sher and the cast of Shinsai: Theaters for Japan
David Henry Hwang Set as Signature Theatre’s Residency One Playwright for the 2012-2013 Season
Photos: In Rehearsal with BD Wong at Dixon Place for Live Concert Recording of Herringbone
Photos: David Henry Hwang, Oskar Eustis, BD Wong, Brian d’Arcy James, Francis Jue, Jennifer Lim and Leigh Silverman at WNYC’s The Greene Space
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang. Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

Lia Chang. Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist.
All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2012 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at

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