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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.
One of the best things about working on Giant Robot magazine during its 16-year run was providing a showcase for rad work by talented friends. This weekend I get to do it in a different setting–a film festival. With the encouragement of FAAIM director Tim Hugh, I put together Animal Style. The first part collects indie skate videos by Asian Americans, while the second section cherry picks pieces from Asia itself.
I was introduced to Nigel Ong when the Animal Style program was practically finished, and was only able to squeeze in one of his latest shorts. But he really deserves his own film festival. That’s I.T. (2006) not only documents one of Hong Kong’s much-loved and missed spots, but pretty much maps out the territory’s entire scene–not to mention visiting rippers including Kien Lieu, Koston, Janowsky… Yet Nigel is no scenester; his follow-up work, Skate First (2009), showed Chinese groms how to rip and his latest work, Skateboarding Is Love (2010), is 100 percent local without the locals-only vibe.
Sometime last year, an artful and amazing indie skate short was rejected by the International Skateboard Film Festival. My friends who made it were philosophical, but I was pissed. What was the point of calling for–and charging for–entries to such an event if it was just going to screen industry-backed skate vids (which receive big-budget premieres anyway)?
So I was motivated to hit up my friend Tim, who programs the Asian American Showcase for FAAIM in Chicago. He liked the piece a lot, and suggested that I assemble an entire program of skate videos. I thought about it and realized that I had other friends with works that had not been seen, realized, or shown in the U.S. This was a good opportunity to help get their work out.
After months of correspondence/hounding via email, the lineup has been finalized and the screenings will take place on Saturday, April 14 at the Gene Siskel Center. Tim asked me to summarize the films for festival purposes, and I thought I’d share them with you, too. What do you think? Any chance we’ll meet in Chicago? Got a screen where you’d like to show it? Let me know!