Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Celebrates 30th Year; TO BE TAKEI Screens as Opening Night Film

Photo Courtesy of George Takei

Photo Courtesy of George Takei

Visual Communications (VC), the nation’s premier Asian Pacific American media arts center, is presenting the 30th edition of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) from May 1- 11, 2014. The Festival kicks off with the Los Angeles premiere of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival hit TO BE TAKEI, directed by Jennifer Kroot, and produced by Gerry Kim and Mayuran Tiruchelvam. TO BE TAKEI chronicles actor, artist, activist and icon George Takei’s life history with wit, grace and whimsy: from his days on the popular television series STAR TREK, to his civil rights and marriage equality advocacy. TO BE TAKEI received its world premiere at the Sundance film festival, where it quickly became an audience favorite.

“It is exciting and appropriate for our festival to open with TO BE TAKEI,” states Anderson Le, Festival Artistic Director. “For us, he’s been an iconic figure and one of the first Asian American actors to achieve mainstream stardom in Hollywood. George is not only a pioneer, but also he is also one of the most outspoken and media savvy celebrities working today. The film tells his whole story from his acting to his activism to his amazing personal life, which is now wide open for everyone to see.  He is a living legend and kicking off our celebration of 30 years of Asian American filmmakers and artists with his life story will be historic.”

The LAAPFF launches the celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month through this year’s slate of over 140 films from both Asian Pacific American and Asian international directors from over 20 countries. For three decades, the Festival has presented more than 3,600 films and shorts by Asian American and Asian international artists. Over the years the LAAPFF has presented many exciting titles, including: the award winning A RIVER CHANGES COURSE, directed by Kalyanee Mam; Gen Cajayon’s THE DEBUT; Justin Lin’s BETTER LUCK TOMORROW; and Lixin Fan’s LAST TRAIN HOME. Asian international artists who have graced past editions of the Film Festival include: Lino Brocka (BAYAN KO); Stanley Kwan (ROUGE); John Woo (BULLET IN THE HEAD); Park Kwang-su (TO THE STARRY ISLAND); Wong Kar-wai (CHUNGKING EXPRESS); Raymond Red (MANILA SKIES); and so many more.  This year, a total of 143 films comprising 40 feature-length films and 103 shorts will be showcased throughout the 11-day fest and screened at the Director’s Guild of America (DGA), CGV Cinemas located in Koreatown, the Tateuchi Democracy Forum at JANM in Little Tokyo, and the historic Art Theatre of Long Beach.

Farah Goes Bang by Meera Menon

Farah Goes Bang by Meera Menon

The Festival Centerpiece presentation, the road-trip comedy FARAH GOES BANG, directed by Meera Menon follows a woman in her 20s who tries to lose her virginity while on the road campaigning for presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004.  Menon’s feature directorial debut, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and she was awarded the Nora Ephron Prize for groundbreaking woman filmmaker. FARAH GOES BANG will screen onSunday, May 4 at the DGA.

How to Fight in Six Inch Heels by Ham Tran

How to Fight in Six Inch Heels by Ham Tran

The LAAPFF continues its legacy of sharing stories from across the seas.  This year’s Saturday Evening Showcase presents the fast-paced trans-Pacific romantic comedy, HOW TO FIGHT IN SIX INCH HEELS.  Directed by longtime LAAPFF alum director Ham Tran (JOURNEY FROM THE FALL, Festival Closing Night 2006), the film centers around Anne (Kathy Uyen), a junior fashion designer who seems to have it all, including a master plan with her fiancé.  But when he moves to Vietnam to set up a new field office for his company, she suspects him of cheating and cooks up a scheme to reveal his deceit by going undercover in Vietnam’s fashion industry.  HOW TO FIGHT IN SIX INCH HEELS, already a box office hit in Vietnam, screens on Saturday May 3 at the DGA.

Family Recipe by Gina Kim

Family Recipe by Gina Kim

Closing out this year’s celebration is the Pan-Asian culinary/romantic drama FINAL RECIPE, a Korea-Thai co-production starring CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON star Michelle Yeoh and directed by award winning filmmaker and current Harvard lecturer Gina Kim.  Mark (Henry Lau, of noted K-pop group Super Junior M) is determined to save his ailing grandfather’s restaurant with a victory on the top-rated Shanghai reality show “Final Recipe”.  Yeoh plays the producer of the hit cooking competition and young Mark reminds her of someone she knew from years ago.  FINAL RECIPE is the latest feature by Kim, whose works have been spotlighted at the Film Festival since the year 2000.

“For our 30th anniversary year, it is exciting for the Festival to present films such as FINAL RECIPE and HOW TO FIGHT IN SIX INCH HEELS, which are perfect example of Asian American cinema expanding to the Asia Pacific Rim, with commercial/mainstream films produced abroad capturing our ever growing global film market,” says LAAPFF Co-Producer David Magdael.  “Our filmmakers are stepping outside of the US and making films across continents to reach audiences worldwide.  These two films represent this cross-global participation that our directors, writers, producers and acting talent are undertaking in successful ways, making their Asian American voices and stories heard and seen around the world.  For our filmmakers, the market is fast becoming even larger.”

In continuing the celebration of Hollywood legends, the Festival is honored to celebrate the work of pioneering actor Sessue Hayakawa and legendary concept artist Tyrus Wong.  Hayakawa, considered a Hollywood pioneer, began his career in the early days of the American Film Industry and as the owner of Hayworth Studios, is considered to be the very first Asian American movie mogul.  And Wong, a son of Chinese immigrants, is revered for his game-changing design concepts on the Disney film, BAMBI. He also painted thousands of storyboards and set illustrations for many live action films.

With support from a grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Film Festival will pay tribute to Tyrus Wong with a special presentation of Nicholas Ray’s REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE on Saturday, May 3 at the DGA; and a special artist talk with Pamela Tom, director of the forthcoming documentary BRUSHSTROKES IN HOLLYWOOD: A PORTRAIT OF TYRUS WONG on Wednesday, May 7 at JANM’s Tateuchi Democracy Forum.  Hayakawa’s centennial tribute will comprise a twin-bill presentation of two of his starring vehicles, THE WRATH OF THE GODS (1914) and THE DRAGON PAINTER (1919), to screen on Sunday, May 4 at the DGA.  Past Visual Communications board member and esteemed film preservation specialist Stephen Gong is slated to host the program, which will feature exclusive musical scores composed and performed by Bay Area jazz musician Mark Izu, with ensemble.

“Too often, we take for granted the enormous legacy of our past pioneers in the mainstream entertainment industry.  Our commemoration of both Tyrus Wong and Sessue Hayakawa goes a long way to rectifying that omission,” said Abraham Ferrer, LAAPFF Senior Programmer.  “We are proud to pay tribute to Hayakawa and Wong, and invite our audiences to experience their works on the silver screen. These artists have made important contributions to American cinema.”

The LAAPFF will again host the film and TV development initiative, PROJECT CATALYST.  Evolving with the dynamic growth of the entertainment industry, Visual Communications designed this initiative to help usher in new stories and ideas into production and/or distribution.  PROJECT CATALYST serves as a launching pad for filmmakers of Asian descent to showcase their narrative feature and TV spec projects to Financiers, Producers, Production Companies, Artists, Agents, Managers and Industry Executives.  Select filmmaker fellows, will have participate in select networking engagements, enabling them with the contacts, information and confidence they need to make their film.

This year, nine narrative projects have been chosen to participate in this unique opportunity.  In addition to participating in the panels, a pitch session with the Jury and one-on-one industry meetings, a cash prize will be awarded.  This award will be determined by an esteemed panel of jurors and will be announced at the closing ceremonies of the Festival.

Filmmakers Soham Mehta and Rajiv Shah, and their project RUN THE TIDE, were the recipients of last year’s PROJECT CATALYST prize and are currently in pre-production.

“We are excited to be part of birthing and incubating RUN THE TIDE, “ states Executive Director and Festival Executive Producer Shinae Yoon.  “Filmmakers like Soham and Rajiv ensure that our stories are being told by our artists. I look forward to seeing this year’s group of fellows, and hope PROJECT CATALYST will continue to be an opportunity for our Asian American talent.”

Blue Bustamante by Miko Livelo

Blue Bustamante by Miko Livelo

Every year, the LAAPFF International Showcase of new works from Asian highlights films and filmmakers from burgeoning filmmaker collectives throughout the continent.  The Film Festival is especially pleased to celebrate the rise of a new generation of auteurs from the Philippines through its National Spotlight sidebar, “The New Face of Philippine Cinema.”  Showcasing new works nurtured through such initiatives as the Cinemalaya Film Festival and Cinema One Originals Festival, the Festival is please to include in this spotlight: the U.S. Premiere screenings of REKORDER, by Mikhail Red and the award-winning KABISERA by Alfonso “Borgy” Torre III.  Additionally, Siege Ledesma’s SHIFT, MIko Levelo’s BLUE BUSTAMANTE, and Alvin Yapan’s DEVOTION make their Los Angeles Premieres.  Director Mikhail Red, son of pioneering Philippine independent director Raymond Red, is slated to introduce REKORDER, and will be joined by producer Pamela Reyes and actor Ronnie Quizon.

Expanding outside of Los Angeles and Hollywood, Visual Communications will continue reaching out to audiences in the South Bay with the annual LAAPFF presence in Long Beach.  A program of feature films and shorts has been selected to screen during the Closing Weekend of the Festival on May 10 at the historic Art Theatre of Long Beach. It will be a chance to see Film Festival award-winners and curated films from Pacific Islander, Filipino and Cambodian communities.  This year’s Festival in Long Beach will include: a twin-bill screening of new features from Pacific Islanders in Communications, FAMILY INGREDIENTS by Ty Sanga and HULA: MERRIE MONARCH’S GOLDEN CELEBRTION by Roland Yamamoto; Angela Sun’s PLASTIC PARADE: THE GREAT PACIFIC GARBAGE PATCH; Masashiro Sugano’s CAMBODIAN SON; and Joel Quizon’s THE COTABATO SESSIONS.  And, the Festival’s Encore Weekend in Little Tokyo will be anchored by the Los Angeles Premiere screening of Marissa Aroy’s DELANO MANONGS: FORGOTTEN HEROES OF THE UNITED FARM WORKERS MOVEMENT, and a special “return-engagement” of AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY: THE EVOLUTION OF GRACE LEE BOGGS, directed by long-time Festival fave Grace Lee.

This year’s competition of Asian Pacific American feature-length films reflects a varied group of compelling storytellers.
The 2014 documentary competition line-up includes:

• 9-MAN by Ursula Liang
• CAMBODIAN SON by Masahiro Sugano
• FRED HO’S LAST YEAR by Steven De Castro
• JEEPNEY by Esy Casey
• LORDVILLE by Rea Tajiri
• STORIES FROM TOHOKU by Dianne Fukami and Eli Olson
The 2014 narrative competition line-up includes:
• BRAHMIN BULLS by Mahesh Pailoor
• CHU AND BLOSSOM by Charles Chu and Gavin Kelly
• CICADA by Dean Yamada
• FARAH GOES BANG by Meera Menon
• A LEADING MAN by Steven Kung

The 2014 international showcase line-up includes:
• 100 DAYS (Taiwan) by Henry Chan
• CONCRETE CLOUDS (Thailand) by Lee Chatametikool
• FIRESTORM (Hong Kong) by Alan Yuen
• HIDE & SEEK (South Korea) by Huh Jung
• ICE POISON (Taiwan/Myanmar) by Midi Z
• OBJECTS IN MIRROR (Iran) by Narges Abyar
• ONCE UPON A TIME IN VIETNAM (Vietnam) by Dustin Tri Nguyen
• THE PINKIE (Japan) by Lisa Takeba
• SAGARMATHA (Indonesia/India/Nepal) by Emil Heradi
• THUY (South Korea) by Kim Jae-han
• A VENGEFUL HEART (Vietnam) by Victor Vu

The 2014 Festival’s national spotlight, “The New Face of Philippine Cinema” includes:
• BLUE BUSAMANTE by Miko Livelo
• DEVOTION by Alvin Yapan
• KABISERA by Alfonso “Borgy” Torre III
• REKORDER by Mikhail Red
• SHIFT by Siege Ledesma

The 2014 lineup of special presentations includes:
• AWESOME ASIAN BAD GUYS BY Stephen Dypiangco and Patrick Epino

For program information, a complete listing of sponsors and partners, and to purchase tickets, log on to or contact Visual Communications at (213) 680-4462 x59.

The Festival is honored to partner once again with the Directors Guild of America as its main screening venue during the Festival’s Opening Weekend.  This state-of-the-art theater is where the Festival will screen its Opening Night Film as well as its Centerpiece Presentations and hold seminars.

The Festival will also screen at CGV Cinemas, situated in the heart of Los Angeles Koreatown.  Festival screenings will begin on Friday May 2, through the Closing Night Gala on May 8.

The Festival returns to Los Angeles Little Tokyo with screenings at the Japanese American National Museum’s Tateuchi Democracy Forum, May 5 through May 11.

The screenings in Long Beach will be held at the historic Art Theatre on Saturday, May 10.

Click here for other film articles.

Other articles by Lia Chang:
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Photos: Bryan Cranston, Peter Jay Fernandez, Roslyn Ruff, Tamara Tunie, Leslie Uggams, Ruben Santiago-Hudson Celebrate All The Way Opening Night
Apr. 22 – May 18: Working Theater Presents The off-Broadway Premiere of James McManus’ CHERRY SMOKE at Urban Stages
André De Shields, Mary Zimmerman, Among 4 Elliot Norton Award Nominations for Huntington’s World Premiere of The Jungle Book, a co-production with The Goodman
Photos: AALDEF Honors Mari Matsuda, Aasif Mandvi, and John Chou in 2014 at 40th Anniversary Celebration
Apr. 23-27: Joel de la Fuente Stars in Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths at PlayMaker’s Repertory Company
Jun. 22 – July 27: Richard Thomas and Kristen Connolly Set for Old Globe Debut in OTHELLO
Mar. 21-May 4: Richard Thomas, Ron Rifkin, Hallie Foote and Khaled Nabaway Set for Arena Stage’s World Premiere of Lawrence Wright’s Camp David
Photos: Backstage and Opening Night of Signature’s World Premiere of David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu
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Photos: David Henry Hwang, Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph honored at Sixth Annual Steinberg Playwright “Mimi” Awards
Q & A with Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play’s Garth Kravits
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Photos: André De Shields, Michael Shannon, Rajiv Joseph, Christine Sherrill, Doug Peck, Alexis J. Rogers, Karen Ziemba and More Celebrate 2013 Jeff Equity Awards
Photos: Denise Burse, Michael Genet, Doug Eskew, Tracie Thoms, Sakina Ansari-Wilson and More Celebrate Marcus Gardley’s dance of the holy ghosts Opening Night at Center Stage
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Photos: The 58th Annual Drama Desk Awards and After Party
Celebrating my mom – AN ACTIVE VISION: BEVERLY UMEHARA…LABOR ACTIVIST…1945-1999 Crafting a Career
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

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