29th san francisco international asian american film festival, march 10-20

All right... It's almost here, Bay Area film lovers. This week, I'm gearing up to get my cinema fix at the 29th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, running March 10-20 in venues around the Bay Area. Founed in 1982, SFIAAFF is the largest showcase in North America devoted to Asian and Asian American films. And it's easily one of my favorite events of the year. Here are just a few of the highlights...

The festivities kick of this Thursday, March 10 at the Castro Theatre, with the Opening Night presentation of Andy De Emmony's British coming-of-age comedy West Is West, where both a teenage boy and his 60-year-old father are challenged to reach a new stage of growth under trying circumstances. Following the screening, the celebration continues with an Opening Night Gala Reception at the Asian Art Museum. I'll be there. Party with me, won't you?

For the Closing Night presentation, SFIAAFF presents popular hometown musician Goh Nakamura making his feature film debut in David Boyle's indie romantic comedy Surrogate Valentine. Goh plays Goh, a low-key indie rocker who is hired to let an annoying Hollywood actor tag along with him on the road. Things get a little complicated when Goh reconnects with an old flame, played by the lovely Lynn Chen. San Francisco, you're going to love this film.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of SFIAAFF expanding its screenings to San Jose. South Bay, represent! The San Jose leg of the festival kicks off with the world premiere of Hoku Uchiyama's Upaj, a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of India Jazz Suites, a dance collaboration between Indian Kathak master Pandit Chitresh Das and the tap-dancing phenom Jason Samuels Smith. It's happening Friday, March 18 at the Montgomery Theater.

Other SFIAAFF highlights include the Centerpiece Presentation of Le Thanh Son's action thriller Clash -- Vietnam's biggest box office smash; five world premiere presentations; a retrospective on Southeast Asian horror cinema; a Filmmaker Spotlight on SFIAAFF favorite Gurinder Chadha; and an expanded schedule of panel discussions, workshops and music events.

While I'm at it, I thought I'd throw out a brief plug for the panel I'm moderating next weekend, The "Issues" Issue: Decoding Race and the American Immigrant Experience in Comic Books, with Hellen Jo, Greg Pak, Alex Rivera and Gene Luen Yang, happening Sunday, March 13, 12:30pm in the Superfrog Gallrey at New People. I'll post info on a ticket giveaway shortly.

For more information on the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, including the full schedule of events, film descriptions, venue details and how to purchase tickets, go to the Center for Asian American Media website here. And I'll see you at the festival!

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