Visual Communications (VC), the nation’s premier Asian Pacific American media arts center, announced its program of outstanding films for the upcoming 28th edition of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF), to be held May 10 to 20 at the Director’s Guild of America (DGA), CGV Cinemas in Koreatown, and for the first time, the Art Theater in Long Beach.
As Southern California’s largest and most prestigious film festival of its kind, the LAAPFF launches the celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month through this year’s slate of 188 films from both Asian Pacific American and Asian international directors from over 20 countries.
Over the past 28 years, the festival has presented over 3,500 films and shorts by Asian American and Asian international artists. This year, 46 feature films and 142 shorts will be showcased throughout the 10-day fest.
The festival will feature many returning filmmakers and producers who continue to make films and still hold true to their own voices as exemplified by curated programs, special presentations and sneak previews of upcoming commercial releases, and the launch of two new programs for the production of new Asian American content.
The festival kicks off with the Los Angeles premiere of “Shanghai Calling,” directed by Daniel Hsia, a 2003 alumnus of VC’s Armed With A Camera Fellowship. Starring international heartthrob Daniel Henney (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Three Rivers”), “Shanghai Calling” is a romantic comedy about modern-day immigrants living in an unfamiliar land.
When an ambitious New York attorney (Daniel Henney) is sent to Shanghai on assignment, he immediately stumbles into a legal mess that could spell the end of his career. But with help from a beautiful relocation specialist, a well-connected foreign businessman, a clever but unassuming journalist, and a street-smart assistant, he might just save his job, discover romance, and finally learn to appreciate the many wonders of Shanghai.
“We are excited to present Hsia’s film as our opening night, says David Magdael, festival co-producer. “As one of one of our talented alums, we are proud to watch him grow as a filmmaker.”
“Sunset Stories,” directed by Silas Howard and Ernesto M. Foronda, will be the festival’s Centerpiece Presentation. Foronda is also an Armed With A Camera fellow, and the writer/producer of the 2002 hit “Better Luck Tomorrow.” This is his feature-length directorial debut. Starring Sung Kang (“Fast Five,” “Ninja Assassin”) and Monique Curnen (“Contagion,” “The Dark Knight”), “Sunset Stories” tells a uniquely L.A. story of love and control. It had its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in mid-March.
The festival’s International Centerpiece is the award-winning “Valley of Saints,” directed by Musa Syeed and produced by Nicholas Bruckman. The film is an India/USA production bringing to the screen the beautiful landscape of Kashmir. The story follows a young tourist boatman and his best friend as they try to run away from the provincial life in their lake village. A military curfew and political uprising derail their plans, and the two young men must wait it out while deciding on a new plan. “Valley of Saints” won two major awards at Sundance – the World Cinema Grand Prize and the Alfred P. Sloan Award.
The Saturday Night Gala slot, reserved for a crowd-pleasing film every year, will be filled by the sex comedy “Yes, We’re Open” from Bay Area screenwriter H.P. Mendoza and director Richard Wong. A contemporary spin on a classic predicament, it takes an intimate look at liberal San Francisco lifestyles over dinner and drinks with a side of infidelity.
Award-winning director Tsao Jui-Yuan’s “Joyful Reunion” will screen as the festival closing night presentation. A follow-up to Ang Lee’s “Eat Drink Man Woman,” it introduces us to familial bonds that surround a vegetarian restaurant. This “foodie” film about relationships showcases Taiwanese and Chinese regional cuisines that will leave your mouth watering.
“We are honored to present these award-winning and culturally diverse films that represent the broad, global spectrum of Asian American cinema,” says Anderson Le, festival artistic director. “In a banner year for Asian American and Asian cinema, these gala presentations present strong voices, global settings and stories with universal appeal.”
This year, for the first time, the LAAPFF expands to Long Beach during the closing weekend, where festival award-winners and a showcase of Pacific Islander works will be presented at the historic Art Theater of Long Beach.
The films kick off with Venice and Sundance favorite “The Orator” (O le Tulafele), directed by Tusi Tamasese, and close with “Sione’s 2: Unfinished Business” (sequel to “Samoan Wedding”), directed by Simon Bennet.
Other highlights include the Hawaiian documentary “Papa Mau: The Way Finder,” directed by Na’alehu Anthony; the eco-awareness documentary “There Once Was an Island” (Te Henua e Nnoho), directed by Briar March; the Cambodian American feature “Two Shadows,” directed by Greg Cahill; and festival favorite “Golden Slumbers,” Cambodian-French director Davy Chou’s film about the golden era of Cambodian cinema, which was eventually destroyed by the Khmer Rouge regime.
“As Southern California’s premier Asian Pacific American media arts center, we see the Festival’s expansion to Long Beach as a great opportunity to reach new audiences,” states Shinae Yoon, festival executive producer. “This is part of a bigger picture to expand Visual Communications’ footprint into the South Bay, and eventually, Orange County.”
Through the LAAPFF, VC will also launch two major programs that will expand the organization’s artist services in a major way.
First, the C3 Project Market, a first-of-its-kind program, is a unique opportunity for filmmakers of Asian descent to showcase their narrative feature project to financiers, producers, production companies, agents, managers and industry executives enabling them with the contacts, information and confidence they need to make their film.
On May 12-13, industry participants will have the ability to discover new talent and voices, including winning a cash prize of $5,000 for the best project pitch.
In addition, the VC Film Development Fund, underwritten by Comcast, was created to nurture established filmmakers with their next film project. The fund is a multi-year program, wherein VC will select six filmmakers and will serve as executive producers to develop narrative feature-length projects, as well as financing up to $100,000 of the budget.
The six filmmakers chosen for the fund will be announced at the opening night of the festival.
“The C3 Project Market and the VC Film Development Fund continues Visual Communications’ mission to nurture and incubate filmmakers from our community,” says Yoon. “We’re delighted to launch these new and sustainable initiatives for emerging and established filmmakers and providing opportunities to cultivate and grow Asian American cinema.”
This year’s competition of Asian American feature films reflect a varied group of compelling storytellers from both documentary and narrative genres.
The 2012 documentary competition line-up includes:
“China Heavyweight” – Yung Chang
“Give Up Tomorrow” – Michael Collins
“Mr. Cao Goes to Washington” – S. Leo Chiang
“Restoring the Light” – Carol Liu
“Seeking Asian Female” – Debbie Lum
“Uploaded: The Asian American Movement” – Kane Diep
“Where Heaven Meets Hell” – Sasha Friedlander
The 2012 narrative competition line-up includes:
“The Crumbles” – Akira Boch
“Hang Loose” – Ryan Kawamoto
“I Am a Ghost” – H.P. Mendoza
“Knots” – Michael Kang
“Model Minority” – Lily Mariye
“Paradise Broken” – James Sereno
“Salad Days” – Hiram Chan
“Shanghai Calling” – Daniel Hsia
“Sunset Stories” – Ernesto M. Foronda, Silas Howard
“Surrogate Valentine 2: Daylight Savings” – David Boyle
“Two Shadows” – Greg Cahill
“Valley of Saints” – Musa Syeed
“Viette” – Mye Hoang
“Yes, We’re Open” – Richard Wong
For program information, a complete listing of sponsors and partners, and to purchase tickets, log on to www.vconline.org/festival or contact VC at (213) 680-4462, ext .59.
The festival is honored to partner with the Directors Guild of America as a screening venue during the opening weekend. This state-of-the-art theater is where the festival will screen its opening night film as well as the Centerpiece Presentations.
The festival will also screen at CGV Cinemas, 621 S. Western Ave., situated north of Wilshire Boulevard in Koreatown.
Festival screenings in Los Angeles will run from Friday, May 11, to Thursday, May 17. Programs at the Art Theater, 2025 E. 4th St., Long Beach, will run from Friday, May 18, to Sunday, May 20.
Sponsors of the 2012 LAAPFF include:
Premiere – Directors Guild of America, CGV Theaters
Platinum — Coca-Cola, Comcast/NBC Universal, Wells Fargo
Silver — Sony Pictures Entertainment
Bronze — CBS Diversity, Screen Actors Guild; SAG Indie
Star — Jenner & Block, Boeing, Union Bank, Motion Pictures Editors Guild, Writers Guild of America West, Taipei Economic & Cultural Office of Los Angeles, Pacific Islanders in Communications, Ketel One, Shiftboard, Yes Style
Beer – Stella Artois, Asahi
Media — LA 18 KSCI-TV, AngryAsianMan.com, MNET, Audrey Magazine, KPFK, Glocal, LA Weekly
Government Support — National Endowment for the Arts, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Department of Cultural Affairs/City of Los Angeles
Foundation Support — California Community Foundation, James Irvine Foundation