I’ve attended a lot of film festivals over the years. And through Giant Robot magazine, I’ve had the pleasure of introducing features by friends (Harry Kim and David Choe’s Dirty Hands) as well as conducting Q&As afterward (Stephen Chow for CJ7). But Animal Style for FAAIM’s Asian American Showcase was the first program that I’ve ever curated. Yes, it totally ruled. Thanks to connections with the mighty Uprise skate shop, the sold-out slot drew old-school and new-jack skaters from all over Chicago to see Wing Ko’s documentary about the first generation of Second City skaters, which took two decades to complete. Wing shot much of the early footage while attending film school in his hometown before moving to L.A. and working on key skate videos for Girl, the legendary Rodney vs. Daewon series, and the underrated ON Video magazine and then moving on to academic subjects. The Brotherhood: Chicago is Wing’s return not only to skateboarding but his roots, and the three subjects–Jesse Neuhaus, Stevie Dread, Eric Murphy–were in attendance. To help my good friend’s project premiere in the Windy City was very special to me, and warm feelings were everywhere. After a shit-talking-and-loving Q&A, the lobby was packed with Chicago’s hardest-core rippers who didn’t want the afternoon to end.
And the entire program was made up of efforts by friends. Tadashi Suzuki and Thy Mai’s The Working Man and its sequel Perfect Time looked and sounded amazing thanks to the Siskel Center’s 4K projector and brand new audio system. Editor and SFX handler Pryor Praczukowski actually said that he’d never seen any of his works on film look so good. To see the two projects go from their humble beginnings to this world-class screening (not to mention actually get to roll through the latter piece) was rewarding beyond words. Chicagoans are proud of their city and skaters but had nothing but props for the top-shelf production value, entertainment value, and emphasis on fun, stylish, and intense skating. Animal Style also gave me a reason to show off another one of my best friends, Ben Clark and Langdon Taguiped’s never-seen Traveling Sounds piece on skate icon (and another buddy) Ray Barbee. Wh-what!? The program was rounded out by more-traditional-but-rad-and-never-screened skate videos from Asia: Hollieday and Skateboarding Is Love by Hong Kong’s 8FIVE2 crew and Chaiyo from Bangkok’s preduce team. It was a rush to see skating on the big screen with big sound instead of YouTube (and Lert Saeri seriously tore up the state-of-the-art screen) as well as important to put the Asian American indie pieces in a bigger context. Hell yes.
Afterward, Wing invited his crew and the Working Man team to Frankie’s for an after party. The brotherhood was tangible with old skate buddies and blood relatives sitting shoulder to shoulder and scarfing high-end Italian food at the fifth-floor Michigan Ave. eatery run by a skate homie with pizzeria roots. Perfect. I didn’t skate with Tadashi or fellow Working Man conspirator John Lee when they hit up Wilson Skate Park or skated the Picasso, but tagged along to take pics and make a couple of turns when FAAIM boss Tim Hugh offered to drive John to a late-night session at Logan Square. There couldn’t have been a better way for the trip to end–except for hopefully some screenings in SoCal, where all of the U.S. filmmakers are based. Stay tuned. Better yet, help me set something up!