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.