Journey to the East

A complete guide to the 15th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival

8 p.m.: A new wave of Asian-American cinema arrives with the first feature film by and about Korean-Americans, Chris Chan Lee's Yellow (U.S.A., 1996).

9 p.m.: Sixth-generationer Wushan Yunyu's Rainclouds Over Wushan (China, 1995) was banned in China not for its political content but for its subtle validation of the individual.

11 p.m.: The standout in the shorts program "Asians From Uranus" is David Kalal's Love Song for Persis K, a dazzling ode to Indian actress and model Persis Khambatta, familiar from Star Trek -- The Motion Picture.

Also today, at the Pacific Film Archive -- 6:30 p.m.: Hong Sang Soo's The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well. See 7 p.m. Sunday, March 9, for details. 9:15 p.m.: Chang Tso Chi's Ah Chung. See 9 p.m. Monday, March 10, for details.

Sunday, March 9
Noon: The title of Jang Sun Woo's imagistic Hwa Om Kyung (Korea, 1993) refers to an ancient account of the path to Buddhist enlightenment.

1 p.m.: Armchair travelers who want something meatier than the Discovery channel are advised to see the various shorts in "From the Sun to Macau: Asian Travels."

2:30 p.m.: Abusive husbands and illicit love affairs in postindustrial Seoul are featured in Jang Sun Woo's The Lovers of Woomuk-Baemi (Korea, 1991).

3 p.m.: For the army of Hong Kong film fans, Tony Rayns' stolidly titled "Hong Kong Cinema Presentation" is a must. Rayns will offer much-needed context and help explain the current splintering of one of the world's most vital cinemas.

4:45 p.m.: Thrilling native music and photography distinguish Xie Fei's bittersweet A Mongolian Tale (China/Mongolia, 1996).

5 p.m.: Ming-Yuen S. Ma and Cianna Pamintuan Stewart's There Is No Name for This (U.S.A., 1997).

6:30 p.m.: Clashes of culture, age, and race mark the shorts program "Cowgirl and the Man." Filmmakers Michael Arago, Anita Lee, Sunny Lee, Yuri Makino, Jessica Yu, and Patrick T. Yu are among the guests.

7 p.m.: First-time director Hong Sang Soo will appear at the screening of his film The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well (Korea, 1996).

8:30 p.m.: A ghost, a teen-age pyromaniac, and acid trips all appear in Rea Tajiri's first dramatic feature, Strawberry Fields (U.S.A., 1997).

9:30 p.m.: Michael Idemoto and Eric Nakamura's Sunsets (U.S.A., 1997) is a coming-of-age drama featuring the slacker trio "Dave the Chicano, Gary the white boy, and Mark the Japanese American."

Also today, at the Pacific Film Archive -- 5:30 p.m.: A rare chance to see pioneer Asian-American actor Sessue Hayakawa in Cecil B. De Mille's The Cheat (U.S.A., 1915). 7:15 p.m.: Like other artists of color in the early decades of the century, Sessue Hayakawa found a warm haven in Paris. In Roger Lion's deco-drenched I Have Killed! (France, 1924), he shows off the naturalistic acting style that distinguished him from the typical grimacing silent star.

Also today, at the San Francisco Art Institute -- 7:30 p.m.: One element of exile culture rarely treated on-screen is the imported domestic. Nilita Vachani's feature When Mother Comes Home for Christmas (Germany/Greece/India, 1995) shows the effects of this phenomenon on a family. The director will attend the screening.

Monday, March 10
1 p.m.: "Tell It Like It Is" is a program of youthspeak shorts.
3 p.m.: Antonio A. Montanari Jr. mined the archives for this stirring defense of one of America's mythical monsters in USA vs. Tokyo Rose (U.S.A., 1995).

4:30 p.m.: Human rights abuses get the once-over in Islands on Fire, one of three shorts in the "On Fire" program.

6 p.m.: Arnold Iger and Paul Kwan detail the latter's search for a cure for his food allergies in the aptly named Pins and Noodles (U.S.A., 1997); a reception for the filmmakers follows.

7 p.m.: The pitfalls of consumer capitalism are explored in Jang Sun Woo's Age of Success (Korea, 1988).

7:30 p.m.: Peter Rosen's First Person Singular: I.M. Pei (U.S.A., 1997) looks at the life and career of the man who renovated the Louvre.

9 p.m.: More proof (as if it were needed) that "dysfunctional family" is a redundancy in Chang Tso Chi's Ah Chung (Taiwan, 1996).

9:30 p.m.: Director Jang Sun Woo will appear in person at this screening of the sexually explicit To You From Me (Korea, 1995).

Tuesday, March 11
1 p.m.: The daily life of Vietnamese villagers, particularly the women, is showcased through recently released North Vietnamese footage shot at the height of the war in Janet Gardner's A World Beneath the War (U.S.A., 1996).

2:30 p.m.: Two short films show the drawbacks and payoffs of incorporating art into daily life in "Feet and Soil: Documentaries of Art and Expression."

4:15 p.m.: "Missing" is a slate of shorts on the ever-popular topic of death.

6 p.m.: Christine Choy and Spiro Lampros' documentary The Shot Heard 'Round the World (U.S.A., 1997) looks at the murder of Japanese exchange student Yoshi Hattori, "accidentally" killed on the way to a Halloween party in our beloved South.

7:45 p.m.: Taiwan's version of 1950s anti-commie hysteria colors the lives of its victims in Wan Jen's feature Super Citizen Ko (Taiwan, 1995).

9 p.m.: TBA.
10 p.m.: An interview conducted with the camera aimed entirely at the feet speaks volumes about the subject of Wang Feng and Gary Wu's Comrades (China, 1996): the lives of gays and lesbians in mainland China. While some writers and a few average citizens speak freely about this taboo, "counterrevolutionary" subject from their homes, many of the faces at public gay meeting spots like discos and parks are optically scrambled to "protect their identity." The film shows China's homosexual community struggling with the byproducts of repression -- suicides, pleas for tolerance (read: crumbs), debates over rights, and books with tellingly vague titles like Their Lives, as if the word "homosexuality" had an incantatory power that must be suppressed.

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