Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival – Opening Night

Tonight’s kickoff of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival featured a screening of Daniel Hsia’s Shanghai Calling. I thought the smart, stylish comedy produced by Janet Yang and starring Daniel Henney was a bold choice of an opener. Instead of dwelling on typical themes of Asian American cinema such as the diaspora or having to live up to the image of Bruce Lee, it presented Asians as being in a position of power in terms of commerce and culture. That one’s Asian connection is seen as empowering and beneficial in the modern world, rather than as one’s burdensome past, is exciting. It reflects the fest’s new international, extroverted direction, which is immediately likable and exciting.

Although I haven’t been active in the film festival circuit lately, I was happy to run into a lot of old friends right away. In the mens room, I intercepted the fest’s newly appointed artistic director Anderson Le. The veteran of the mighty Hawaiian International Film Festival loves movies to death, and has assembled an impressive balance of arty and commercial, serious and fun, Asian and American pieces. He has also expanded programming to Long Beach, and promises that next year will be even stronger.

In the theater I snagged a seat next to Greg Pak (above), who I hadn’t seen since I moderated a comic book-related panel at the San Diego Asian Film Festival years ago. The closet softball stud directed Robot Stories before going on a tear writing for Marvel Comics, but is about to enter a filmmaking program along with Ham Tran (below). Ham made the excellent The Rebel and Journey from the Fall. The newlywed director’s next flick is going to be about Orange County’s Little Saigon in the Eighties! Can’t wait.

Seeing Eugenia Yuan and Michael Aki (another softball god) is always a treat. I miss seeing them around Sawtelle since I don’t make it out to the Giant Robot offices much anymore, and look forward to their next feature which has been shot but is in editing mode. My inside source says the story is super compelling and that the footage looks great.

Mike also co-stars in Daylight Savings, director Dave Boyle’s indie flick about an indie musician/sequel to Surrogate Valentine featuring real-life rocker Goh Nakamura (below, left). Both films screen on Saturday along with music sets by Goh. He has released a few amazing albums that won’t disappoint fans of Elvis Costello, Elliott Smith, and The Beatles, so this is a big deal! (He’ll also play covers, so think of some interesting requests beforehand…)

Of course, Wing Ko (above, right) was in attendance with Tadashi Suzuki and the entire Working Man crew. I’m stoked to get to see the beautiful and ripping skate short made by so many of my friends on the big screen once more on Monday night. I’m trying to get that piece along with Wing’s The Brotherhood: Chicago and other parts of the Animal Style program of skate videos that I curated for Chicago’s Asian American Showcase to be included in other fests, so keep an eye out for news on that.

My friend Cate who got me into the festival’s gala opening reintroduced me to her pal Daniel Dae Kim once again. The Lost star just wrapped another season of Hawaii 5-0, and always seems to remember me. What a cool guy.

Get out of the house and go to the festival. There is a ton of great movies that I didn’t even mention (Peter Chan’s Wu Xia will look amazing on the big screen) and people who I didn’t see, know, or cram into this late-night blog (if Shinae Yoon and Karin Anna Cheung weren’t in such a rush this post wouldn’t have been such a sausage party). Hope to see you at the screenings!