Journey to the East

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

Also today, at the Pacific Film Archive -- 7 p.m.: Nick Deocampo's Private Wars. See 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 7, for details.

Wednesday, March 12
3 p.m.: TBA.
5 p.m.: Sun, Xiang Xin, and Guang Hua Jia's Great Wall of Flesh (China, 1995), a documentary about the Second Sino-Japanese War.

7 p.m.: The "double nationality" and multiple artistry of one of the century's great artists is explored in Hiro Narita's Isamu Noguchi: Stones and Paper (U.S.A., 1997).

7:30 p.m.: The various shorts in "Queer Potion #9" are a heady mix. Watch especially for Margarita Alcantara's riot grrrl self-portrait, Fuckin' Chink.

8 p.m.: Gorgeous, gleaming black-and-white compositions distinguish Ishii Sogo's melancholy Labyrinth of Dreams (Japan, 1996).

9:30 p.m.: Chen Kaige's Temptress Moon (Hong Kong, 1996) stars the enchanting Leslie Cheung and Gong Li in a tragic story set in China in 1911.

Thursday, March 13
(Closing Night)
5 p.m.: Reception in the Kabuki lobby.

7 p.m.: Lesbianism as a powerful tonic to the suppressions of Indian culture is the subject of Deepa Mehta's contemporary melodrama Fire (Canada, 1996). Radha (played by megastar Shabana Azmi) is the traditional "good wife" who never questions her husband, a sect-follower who tests his libido by forcing her to lie naked next to him every night, so that he can resist temptation. Sita (Nandita Das) is her younger, more modern-thinking sister-in-law, whose arrival coincides with Radha's increasing alienation. Sita is horrified by her own marriage to self-absorbed philanderer Jatin (Jaaved Jaaferi): "This devotion thing is overrated," she says flatly. The film, a deft mix of pathos and humor, lovingly details their increasingly indiscreet trysts. A wizened, judgmental granny provides a wordless black-comic Greek chorus (she's mute from a stroke); the high point occurs when the house servant nervously masturbates to a video called The Joy Suck Club while granny watches in horror. Fire was shot in India at the same time Mira Nair's Kama Sutra was causing a scandal, so Fire's upfront treatment of a lesbian amour, normally a taboo subject in the country, went happily unnoticed.

9 p.m.: Party at the Russian Center Ballroom, 2450 Sutter.

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