New York film fans! This one's for you. The 39th Asian American International Film Festival, presented by Asian CineVision, is going down July 21-30 at various venues in Manhattan and Flushing. As the nation's oldest and longest-running Asian-interest film festival, AAIFF 2016 is a ten-day celebration of inspiring Asian and Asian American works in film and video by innovative artists from around the world.
Here's the AAIFF 2016 trailer:
And here are some highlights from this year's festival:
OPENING NIGHT: SPA NIGHT
In his feature debut, director Andrew Ahn shares the Korean-American immigration story with homage to Korean spas, which often serve as a meeting place and bridge between cross-generations of immigrant families. Following the lives of one struggling family, SPA NIGHT explores the complexities and realities when personal desire, disillusionment, and sense of tradition overlap with one another.
SPA NIGHT will screen on Thursday, July 21st at 7:00pm at Asia Society.
CENTERPIECE PRESENTATION: A TALE OF THREE CITIES
Based on the true story of Jackie Chan's parents and brought to the screen by two of Asia's biggest stars, Sean Lau (MY NAME IS FAME, LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE, OVERHEARD 3) and Tang Wei (LUST, CAUTION; FINDING MR. RIGHT; THE GOLDEN ERA; BLACKHAT), director Mabel Cheung tells a story about love that reflects a generation's strength in a time of despair, and a country's hope for a brighter future.
A TALE OF THREE CITIES will screen on Saturday, July 23rd at 3:00pm at Village Cinema East.
CLOSING NIGHT: FRONT COVER
FRONT COVER tells the story of Ryan Fu, a gay Chinese-American who has learnt to suppress his Chinese heritage to climb up the social ladder as a fashion stylist. Ryan gets assigned to Ning, an actor from Beijing and their egos and opinions clash, resulting in a difficult working relationship. Soon enough, however, a mutual attraction begins to develop. As they fall in love, a Chinese tabloid magazine exposes Ning as gay. Ryan must now decide whether to help Ning or stay true to himself. Directed by Ray Yeung (CUT SLEEVE BOYS), FRONT COVER is a "bittersweet dramatic comedy that looks at the Asian American experience with humor, irony, and insight."
FRONT COVER will screen on Saturday, July 30th at 8:00 pm at the Museum of Moving Image.
AAIFF IN FLUSHING
For the second year in a row, AAIFF 2016 is returning to Flushing to celebrate one of New York's fastest-growing and vibrant Asian American communities. This year, AAIFF will be showing PEOPLE ARE THE SKY on Tuesday, July 26th; BRIGHT SUN MANSION on Wednesday, July 27th; and BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA on Thursday, July 28th at Flushing Town Hall.
NEW YORK CITY PREMIERES
AAIFF 2016 is proud to present the following films as New York premieres.
BREATHIN': THE EDDY ZHENG STORY
Arrested at 16 and tried as an adult for kidnapping and robbery, Eddy Zheng served over 20 years in California prisons and jails. Ben Wang's BREATHIN': THE EDDY ZHENG STORY paints an intimate portrait of Eddy—the prisoner, the immigrant, the son, the activist—on his journey to freedom, rehabilitation and redemption.
DAZE OF JUSTICE
Born in Cambodia in 1975 during the bloody regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, filmmaker Mike Siv and his mother barely escaped the infamous "killing fields." Growing up as a refugee in America, Mike has been haunted by the ghosts of memory ever since. "Our parents don't want to talk about the past, and the next generation inherits the scars of their silence." Thirty-five years later, Mike is given the opportunity to film a small group of Cambodian Americans who are civil parties in an historic trial against the Khmer Rouge. Given the opportunity to face the very criminals who forever changed their lives, the survivors are joined by an unexpected guest who happens to be the son of one of their most hated enemies. Mike Siv is undertaking DAZE OF JUSTICE as a culminating project through which he will establish himself as an independent documentary filmmaker.
PAINTED NAILS brings us unprecedented insight into the personal nature of the political movement to regulate one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. The documentary follows Van Nguyen, a Vietnamese nail salon owner and worker in the Mission District of San Francisco, who serves an ethnically diverse group of working class women with acrylic nails and intricate airbrush designs. However, lack of oversight has allowed the cosmetics industry to pour unregulated amounts of toxic chemicals into nail products, some of which are known to cause reproductive harm, cancer, and respiratory illness. After learning that her near-daily exposure to these chemicals has caused her life-threatening health problems, Van becomes a resolute activist in the fight to regulate chemicals in personal care products, advocating for the safety of nail salon workers and their clientele. Providing a unique glimpse into the world of women, their nails, and the people who paint them, PAINTED NAILS takes us from the simple pleasures of manicures to Van and her family's fulfilling transformation.
TYRUS is about the unlikely and untold story of 105-year old Chinese-American artist Tyrus Wong, who overcame poverty and racism to become a celebrated modernist painter, Hollywood sketch artist, and ‘Disney Legend' for his groundbreaking work on the classic animated film, Bambi. Tyrus's incredible rise to acclaim shines against a common backdrop in the story of Chinese-Americans in the 20th century.
Director Lam Can-zhao leads a small film crew as they shoot a film about a stray dog in the streets of Guangzhou, leading the viewer into an unpredictable, peculiar and incredible journey. Shot documentary-style while employing characteristics of hybrid cinema, THE DOG's low-tech, casual style reveals a wealth of stories that reflects both the authenticity and occasional absurdity of the living situations of migrant workers and of those who otherwise live "below the line." As the debut feature film directed by Lam, THE DOG reads more like a lonely rebel's exploration and revelation to the world.
CRUSH THE SKULL
On the surface, Ollie and Blair are a typical fun, young couple – comfortable enough to be constantly picking at each other's flaws, secure enough to start making long-term plans together. They just happen to earn a dishonest living by breaking and entering into poorly secured, upper-class homes. Directed by Viet Nguyen and starring Christopher Dinh (EVERYTHING BEFORE US) and Katie Savoy (FIRELIGHT, THE RESTORATION, EVERYTHING BEFORE US), CRUSH THE SKULL is a "mix of throwback genre tropes (including some great scene of gore taken to extreme and humorous heights) and straight-up comedy," as IndieWire puts it.
UNDER CONSTRUCTION is about Roya, a modern middle-class Muslim woman struggles to find herself in the sprawl of urban Bangladesh. After being replaced by a younger actor for the character of ‘Nandini'—the epitome of Bengali womanhood, the central character of Rabindranath Tagore's political play ‘Red Oleanders;' she delves into a psychological journey and battles to reconstruct ‘Nandini,' reclaiming her identity and sexuality in the process. As she sets the play in a modern day ready-made garment factories in Dhaka; her journey to establish her individuality as a middle class woman is juxtaposed with the journey of her teenage housemaid Moyna, who later joins the industrial workforce.
In HOLLOW, A 6-year-old girl falls into a river and drowns. One week later, her uncle, a police captain, travels to a remote village to claim her corpse, only to find that the girl is very much alive. He brings her home, but does not tell her parents that she was found dead. Strange things begin to happen as her family discovers that she is possessed.
Dongguan is simultaneously the manufacturing hub and inadvertent sex capital of China; it is home to 1.7 million female factory workers, 300,000 of which comprised of former factory girls turned sex workers. It is here that 22-year- old country girl, Jolin, has worked for the past five years, and where her story begins. JOLIN is a documentary that focuses on a former factory girl, 22-year-old Jolin, who is the only child of her family and has found work as a stripper in Dongguan. She undergoes risky plastic surgery to look more 'sexy' and tries to find her estranged father for reasons that go beyond healing her fractured family. She hopes to leave Dongguan behind and become a famous actress in Shanghai. Jolin's story depicts a young girl's "Chinese Dream" and the sadness of China's loneliest generation.
Huang Dawang is a eccentric musician, noise performer, music aficionado, and a pillar of Taiwan's underground music scene but also denies himself as an artists and refuses to define what art is. TPE-TICS is an intimate look into his way of life – incredibly different from the norm, largely incompatible with society. As links between Huang's past trauma and present creations are revealed, his psychological anxiety is at once enlightening and heartbreaking. Despite his bouts of depression, Huang's humour and witty introspection relieves the melancholy. More than merely music, the film examines human experiences and nuanced values that are precious yet rarely accessible.
That's just a small sampling of AAIFF's packed schedule of screenings, talk-backs, panel discussions, parties and more. For further information about the festival, including ticket sales, venues and programming, head over to the AAIFF 2016 website. This website is a proud media sponsor of AAIFF 2016.
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