Reel World

Happy Together
It would be hard to find a more enthusiastic crowd than the nearly 700 rowdies who recently crammed SFSU's McKenna Theater for the premiere of Rice & Potatoes, Todd Wilson and John Biasatti's locally produced documentary on gay Asian-Caucasian couples. Filmmaker Kian Kuan, whose elegantly designed short film A Seeker preceded the feature, caught the mood of the crowd perfectly in his introduction: "It's wonderful that so many potential boyfriends showed up," he quipped to thunderous whoops. The response was equally lascivious once Rice & Potatoes got under way; the statement "Asian men that I've been with have a smell that I just love" elicited enough laughter and applause to drown out the next couple of lines.

Wilson and Biasatti conducted interviews with 100 men before settling on the 20 who relate their experiences and attitudes on-screen. The film looks at issues including sex, communication, and family as they relate to mixed Caucasian-Asian couples, but the Friday night crowd was in a mood for frivolity rather than heavy discussion. There's plenty of entertainment value (vicarious and otherwise) in a segment on rice queens, but one interviewee's candid views on the "power dynamics" in mixed-race couples hit a little too close to home for some moviegoers; hisses rose from the audience every time he reappeared on-screen. Then, unexpectedly, the post-show discussion evolved into a thoughtful forum on the danger and pervasiveness of stereotypes; clearly, Rice & Potatoes had touched a nerve. KQED would be wise to check out the film for its erratically scheduled "Docs of the Bay" and "Viewpoints" series -- and also to schedule an hour of call-in and debate afterward. For more info about the film, tune into www.RiceAndPotatoes.com.

Postcards from America
The crowd was much better-behaved -- even a tad reverent -- when famed indie producer Christine Vachon (Happiness, Velvet Goldmine) breezed into the posh Dolby Labs screening room to hawk her witty new memoir/manual, Shooting to Kill. Vachon's reading/Q&A/book-signing (sponsored by Frameline and the Film Arts Foundation) was a bland but humorous mix of production pointers, war stories, and zippy one-liners. Here's the thirtysomething Vachon on her rapid career arc: "I often say the reason I rose so quickly in production is because I can't drive." On the state of independent film: "The whole movement's about to be declared dead." And finally, on the downside of producing gay-themed films such as Swoon, Poison, and Go Fish: "I would never make a movie just because its content is queer -- and you'd be surprised how many filmmakers think I should." Nonetheless, her current film-in-production is Take It Like a Man, a dramatization of the life and death of Brandon Teena.

Century
1999 marks the centenary of Alfred Hitchcock's birth, and the Castro's next calendar features a revival of the director's Universal masterpieces. ... As long as we're looking ahead, tune in next time for Reel World's 1999 predictions -- theater closings, Bay Area Oscar winners, and celebrity arrests as foreseen by local experts and resident crackpots.

By Michael Fox
foxonfilm@aol.com

 
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