Top Picks from fifteenth Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival

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By Faith Orcino

Arts and Entertainment Editor

 

Many flocked to the venues hosting this year’s San Diego Asian Film Festival (SDAFF) from Nov. 6 to 15.

For 10 days, people viewed the fruits of the labor of many filmmakers from various locations, including a number of local talents. With over 140 films shown, there was only so much one could see.

“Hungry Monster” series

As part of the Shorts for Shorties program, Director Karen Lin created a three-part series about Taiwanese street food. It educated the audience about boba, a sweet drink with tapioca pearls, savory rice dumplings called batsang and the infamous stink tofu. Host Roger Fan entertained everyone with his many funny expressions and dance moves in his unique costumes representing the three treats. For more on the “Hungry Monster,” visit hungrymonstershow.com

“Higher Sky”

Director Teng “Eric” Cheng gave audience a visually stunning short in his six-minute film, “Higher Sky” in the program Shorts: Animation: The Illusion of Life. Peace is broken when a monkey and swallow fight over their spot over the water. It became a beautiful kung fu dance as the movement accentuates the shapes of the animals. With engaging music, everyone could not help but wait to see who would be the victor of this glorious match. Cheng is currently in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts for his MFA in Animation and Digital Arts. For more on Cheng and his works, visit cargocollective.com/ericheng

“The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness”

SDAFF held a west coast premiere of Director Mami Sunada’s documentary of the famous Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli and one of its highly regarded members, director Hayao Miyazaki. It recorded the process of the team creating “The Wind Rises” and gave people a very unique look on how the film was made. It was interesting seeing the other members of the team and their views on the industry. For fans of any work of Miyazaki and/or Studio Ghibli, this documentary is a must-see.

“To Sit With Her”

So much is brought out within the five minutes in Nicole Miyahara’s documentary following Leon as he and his girlfriend go to Taiwan to visit his grandmother. It was an emotional journey seeing the two enjoy each other’s company though they have much cultural differences. Leon has gone through many things to establish his clothing line to help his fellow transgender peers while his grandmother has lived for over 97 years. It was a touching film that simply warmed the heart. For more on director Nicole Miyahara, visit nicolemiyahara.com and visit sharpesuiting.com for more about Leon Wu’s clothing line.

“NAMI”

Successfully funded via Kickstarter, Masami Kawai created a unique minimalist film using 16mm film. With only having the ambient and surrounding sounds of LA, Kawai brought the tale of a Japanese widow as show goes through her life without her husband. The 13-minute short captured the essence of the emotions with little content. It was surprising to find out that the actress in the film was her mother, Kana Kawai who was a former actress in Japan. It was a beautiful film dedicated to Kana’s husband, Masami’s father who passed away in 2009.

“Meeting Dr. Sun”

Festival attendees enjoyed the North American premiere of director Yee Chih-yen’s latest feature, “Meeting Dr. Sun.” The audience followed the young student named “Lefty” as he and his friends find ways to pay for their school fees. A discovery led them to plan a heist to steal a dusty bronze statue of Republic of China’s historical icon Sun Yat-sen. Lefty was an interesting character who formed some of the most eccentric ideas. The dynamics of Lefty and the supporting characters played very well. It was a wonderful film having the boys use their wild imaginations to attempt tackling reality’s problems.

“Peeper”

With a bit over six minutes in his short, Director Ken Lam sent viewers on a crazy ride. It started out as a quiet dinner between a young couple until they notice something looking at them through their window outside. They tried to keep their cool and continue their meal, but failed and broke down. It was a masterpiece of madness as the two characters destroy the seemingly normal room. The truth erupted as the couple tore down the veil. It was a must-see thriller that deserved to be a part of the program Shorts: Stranger Things Have Happened. “Peepers” is available to watch on YouTube on the writing and acting duo Laura Grey and Jordan Klepper’s channel, KlepperGrey.

“Reptilita in Suburbia”

Even though SDAFF hosted the previously mentioned program Shorts: Stranger Things Have Happened, nothing prepared anyone for Timmy Harn’s film “Reptilia in Suburbia.” It already had the vibes of an overdramatic Filipino soap opera with its cast and crew of veteran members of the industry, but went beyond with its dark twists like the mysterious reptilian humanoid created from a strange experiment using a television. While being so bizarre, it was very entertaining though there were confusing portions. Still, the over-the-top scenarios and characters played well.