20th Annual Asian American Showcase

Presented by FAAIM, April 3-16 at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago

Chicago film fans, it is on. The Asian American Showcase, presented by the Foundation for Asian American Independent Media, celebrates its 20th anniversary as a platform for new work by established and emerging Asian American filmmakers. The festival kick runs April 3-16, and kicks off this Friday with the Opening Night screening of the critically acclaimed thriller Man From Reno at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Here's a rundown of their awesome program:

OPENING NIGHT: Friday, April 3, 8:00 pm


2014, David Boyle, USA, 111 min.

With Ayako Fujitani, Pepe Serna, and Kazuki Kitamura

Drenched in San Francisco atmosphere, this neo-noir tantalizes with the iconic imagery of fog-shrouded streets, coastal hills, and the sumptuous vintage interiors of the Hotel Majestic. Burned out Japanese detective-novel writer Aki goes incognito in the city by the bay, but a seductive stranger blows her cover. In a nearby town, a dead body creates a dilemma for the local sheriff. Aki is soon plunged for real into the mysteries she has only imagined. In English and Japanese with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)

Saturday, April 4, 8:00 pm


2015, Ravi Kapoor, USA, 95 min.

With Tiya Sircar, Hannah Simone

The stereotype of the Asian American over-achiever comes in for some good-natured ribbing in this humorous tale of Harvard-bound Lili (Sircar), future brain surgeon, future super-wife, and all-around take-no-prisoners contender, who faces some hard life lessons via the beauty pageant she enters with ulterior motives. Director Kapoor (co-star of TV’s Gideon’s Crossing and Crossing Jordan) has a ball with the premise, while colorfully satirizing cherished community conventions and offering a look inside the upwardly mobile Indian American family. HDCAM video. (BS)

Director Ravi Kapoor and writer Meera Simhan will Skype in for a Q&A!

Sunday, April 5, 5:15 pm


2013, Esy Casey, Philippines/USA, 61 min.


2014, Marrisa Aroy, USA, 28 min.

The iconic "jeepney" of the Philippines, a uniquely homemade mass transit vehicle fashioned from the shell of a military jeep, is ready for its closeup, as director Casey creates an affectionate profile of the hybrid mini-bus in all its folk art extravagance. The creation of these intricately decorated vehicles is the setup for Casey’s inquiry into the disappearing craft, and the social and economic pressures felt by the drivers in an increasingly globalized environment. In English. HDCAM video.

Preceded by Marrisa Aroy’s DELANO MANONGS, a documentary detailing the key role played by Filipino American labor organizer in California’s 1965 Delano Grape Strike. DCP digital. (BS)

Monday, April 6, 8:15 pm


2014, Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, USA/Fiji, 77 min.

An all-embracing regard for fluid gender roles is only one aspect of this profile of native Hawaiian teacher and cultural activist Kumu Hina, a transgender woman embarking on marriage with a younger man. The Emmy Award-winning directors create a full and lively picture of Hina’s charismatic leadership as role model and communicator of Hawaiian language and heritage as she embodies the ancient tribal tradition of the mahu, a revered two-spirit person who combines male and female energies. In English and Hawaiian with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)

Saturday, April 11, 5:45 pm


2015, Grace Lee, USA, 60 min.

Leave it to filmmaker Grace Lee (AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY, THE GRACE LEE PROJECT) to approach the subject of Asian food in America from a new angle and with her trademark sense of humor. Lee gamely samples the warm hospitality of a Wisconsin Sikh temple’s feast, checks out the empire of a self-made Texan “sushi king,” the innovations of a young Manhattan fusion chef, and more, affirming that the way to the heart of any Asian American community is definitely through its stomach. DCP digital. (BS)

A panel discussion featuring local Asian American chefs and restaurant owners follows the screening.

Sunday, April 12, 5:15 pm


2014, Josh Bishop, Japan/USA, 90 min.

The trajectory of one woman’s dream is followed in this story of Tomi Fujiyama, Japan’s first female Country Western singer. Falling in love with CW in the early post-WWII years, young Tomi, known for a huge voice that belies her petite stature and her killer rendition of “The Tennessee Waltz,” finds fame on the USO circuit, records seven albums for Columbia, and shares the Grand Ole Opry stage in 1964 with her idol Johnny Cash. MADE IN JAPAN details her nostalgic return to Nashville. In English and Japanese with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)

CLOSING NIGHT: Thursday, April 16, 8:15 pm


2014, Ursula Liang, USA/China/Canada, 89 min.

This illuminating look at a little known sport has the universal appeal of action, humor, and cultural depth. Director Liang chronicles the past and present of the aggressive, fast-moving ballgame of 9-Man, a demanding team sport that originated in the streets of North America’s Chinatowns in the 1930s. Liang delves into the historical circumstances that birthed 9-Man, and doesn’t shy away from questioning the exclusionary aspects that attend its present-day organized form. In English and Chinese with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)

Director Ursula Liang will be present for audience discussion.

Huge congratulations to FAAIM and the Asian American Showcase on celebrating twenty years. This festival actually holds a really special place in my heart, because it was the first film festival I ever attended, exposing me to the world of independent Asian American cinema. It sort of changed my life.

For further information about the Asian American Showcase, visit the FAAIM website.

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