Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Zoom Lens 

To call the S.F. International Asian American Film Festival "diverse" is to understate it

Wednesday, Mar 3 2004
Every year San Francisco is host to roughly 6 gazillion film festivals (and counting). So it's logical to assume that, for survival's sake, each has become more parochial. Indeed, the first annual Festival of Animated Short Films About Washing Machines and Homeland Security Made by Preoperative Transsexual Lesbians of Icelandic Ancestry may not be far off. In the meantime, programmers still try for a balance between nailing the niche and selling something for everyone, and the folks planning the 22nd San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival have a fine sense of those proportions. With 124 movies from 23 countries, the fest isn't exactly isolationist. All the movies are in some way Asian, and to describe the broad swath of their ethnicity as "diverse" is to understate the matter.

The SFIAAFF, which has grown by about 20 percent each year, remains undiluted by the continuing expansion of its borders. This is how, without suffering an identity crisis, a single event can contain such films as Cosmopolitan, a tender, funny feature from the writer of Monsoon Wedding and the director of Chutney Popcorn; Kal Ho Naa Ho, a Bollywood romp set in post-9/11 New York; Masters of the Pillow, about a UC Davis professor's quest to become "the Asian-American Larry Flynt"; and S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine, about the Phnom Penh high school that became a death chamber for 17,000 Cambodians in the mid-'70s.

Given the abundance and variety of material, it is fair to ask for an organizing principle. One clear index is the festival's determination to reveal and challenge received ideas of heroism -- ideas often bestowed by movies in the first place. The run opens with Hero, a sensation of swordplay and cinematography from Chinese master Zhang Yimou, and closes with Imelda, a vital, personal portrait of the Philippines' former first lady. Taken as brackets for the whole event, these two movies in particular have a lot to say about the mysteries of power, authority, and image-making. And those themes are among cinema's essential raw materials -- universally affecting, however international, Asian, or American you happen to be.

About The Author

Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment


  • The Soiled Dove
    Vau de Vire presents The Soiled Dove, a Barbary Coast themed dinner-theater complete with the Emperor himself stumbling around in a drunken stupor. Photographs by Beth LaBerge.
  • 4th Annual Mr. Marina Competition
    Mike Thomas was announced Mr. Marina 2015 on Wednesday, March 18th. Chubbies, spray tans and unitards hit the stage for the 4th Annual Mr. Marina competition raising $195k. Highlights included a great rendition of Sia's Chandelier and a marina inspired "Fancy" performance. Photographs by Calibree Photography.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular