The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF), presented annually by Visual Communications (VC), has announced the first set of films that will screen as part of the 37th edition of the festival, which will be a hybrid event taking place virtually and in person at select cinemas in the Los Angeles area from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2.

The festival will open on Thursday, Sept. 23, at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center’s Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo with the Los Angeles premiere of Ann Kaneko’s “Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust,” a poetic look at the unexpected alliance formed by Native Americans, Japanese American WWII incarcerees, and environmentalists to defend their land and water from Los Angeles.

“Visual Communications looks forward to sharing the stories that intersect and converge movements such as ‘Manzanar, Diverted,’” says Francis Cullado, executive director of Visual Communications. “From emerging to established filmmakers, the festival continues to celebrate artists who are making an impact in our communities.”

Following Opening Night, LAAPFF will showcase new works as part of Centerpiece Weekend at the Aratani Theatre and Regal L.A. Live. Highlights include:

The Los Angeles premieres of: Iman Zawahry’s “Americanish,” the first American Muslim rom-com directed by an American Muslim female filmmaker;

Sujata Day’s comedy-drama “Definition Please,” which she also stars in;

Christopher Makoto Yogi’s Sundance hit “I Was a  Simple Man,” starring Constance Wu;

Dante Basco’s directorial debut, “The Fabulous Filipino Brothers”;

Suzanne Kai’s long awaited crowd-pleaser from Tribeca, “Like a Rolling Stone: The Life & Times of Ben Fong Torres,” about the legendary Rolling Stone editor and writer Ben Fong-Torres.

LAAPFF is a proud Academy Award-qualifying film festival for the Short Film Awards. Recipient(s) of the festival’s Golden Reel Award for Narrative Short Film will be eligible for consideration in the Animated Short Film/Live-Action Short Film category of the Academy Awards. This festival is the only one of its kind in the world to have earned this qualification.

Some highlights from the shorts lineup include the world premiere presentations of:

Candace Ho’s “Chasing Clouds,” a narrative short about a Taiwanese American woman forced to confront the harsh reality of her mother’s dementia;

Paolo Bitanga’s “Night & Day,” a documentary short from the Philippines about a mother’s home that comes alive once a year when her many children return for the holidays;

Dakota Camacho’s “Fana’Guyan,” a short dance film that explores ending violence and generating healing through embodiment, intimacy, and ancestral creativity.

“Fana’Guyan” will screen as part of Pacific Cinewaves, programming that represents LAAPFF’s commitment to amplify Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities from Hawai’i, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Guåhan (Guam), Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Samoa, and throughout the Pacific region.

“It is an honor to work in this landscape and witness the rise of storytellers from Asian and Pacific Islander communities,” said Eseel Borlasa, programmer and festival operations director of Visual Communications. “Each year, the festival is proud to share these diverse perspectives, and we hope to continuously bridge understanding and build empathy and solidarity amongst our audiences. That collective work of storytelling to audience impact helps put values into action. LAAPFF believes in that work, and we are proud to be part of the process.”

Visual Communications is proud to continue their partnership with HBO for the fifth annual HBO Asian Pacific American Visionaries, a short film competition that showcases cinematic storytellers of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. The finalists were selected from hundreds of submissions and were judged by a distinguished panel of HBO executives, industry leaders and fellow APA filmmakers.

The three winning films exemplified this year’s competition theme: “Taking the Lead.” Jess X. Snow’s “Little Sky,” Jesse Gi’s “Neh,” and Urvashi Pathania’s “Unmothered” will premiere at LAAPFF on Sept. 25, and debut on HBO Max on Sept. 27.

This year, the festival will also continue to host C3, a space for creators to converge and celebrate creative communities. These consist of both virtual and in-person panels and conversations.

Established in 1983, LAAPFF is the largest festival of its kind in Southern California, and the premier showcase for the best and brightest of Asian Pacific cinema. It was recently named one of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” by MovieMaker Magazine. For over three decades, LAAPFF has presented over 5,000 films by Asian and Pacific Islander talent, and continues to expand its commitment to nurturing new talent and promoting the development of Asian and Pacific Islanders both behind and in front of the camera.

Ticketing for the general public will be available starting Monday, Sept. 13, at 12 p.m. PT. For program information, visit

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