THE SAN DIEGO ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL DOMINATES

Here’s a suggestion for you today. Go on over to your local multiplex and burn it down. Too severe? Okay, at least go on over and give it a good kicking. Give it a few while you’re at it. Because what’s it there for anyway? Two screens for Duplex and Cold Creek Manor? Matinee screenings for “Dickie Roberts”? Gedouddahere! I just spent the past weekend at the San Diego Asian Film Festival where, in the comfort of the Madstone Theaters, I saw more excellent films in three days than most people will see in a year at their friendly neighborhood disasterplex.
Running October 2–5, I checked into the San Diego Asian Film Festival guest lounge at the Doubletree Hotel on the 3rd after a fairly quick drive down from Los Angeles, ready for some hardcore movie watchin’. There were quite a few films on the schedule I was eager to check out, so all I needed to do was pick up my festival pass and I’d be set. But as I entered the guest lounge I was greeted by the friendliest film festival staff I’d ever encountered, namely Grace Lee and Catherine Catibog who happily checked in every guest. Good schedule of films or no, feeling at home when you’re at a festival goes a long way in setting up an amazing experience. And at home I definitely felt from moment one. There were no attitudes and no disgruntled staff members who looked like they’d rather be doing anything but helping my ass. Every guest festival pass came with a goodie bag…a goodie bag that was the focus of quite a bit of scrutiny throughout the festival. Apparently everyone was as surprised as I was upon finding all that was inside. Contents included – Pepro (those little chocolate dipped cookie deals), a full tin of Altoids, a couple of energy bars, a backpack, a tiny bottle of Bacardi (“Thank you, God”), a CD sampler, a bottle opener, lotions, condoms…all it needed was a whistle and a goat mask and it would’ve been an instant party in a bag. There was actually plenty more in the bag; the contents seemed endless. Add that to the buffet line of food and drink at the lounge and I didn’t want to go anywhere. I wanted to sit, play with my toys and lotions chow down. So I did. I don’t know if beef and broccoli, chow mein and pizza is ever a good idea for a combination, but I done it anyway. It proved not to be so deadly in the end.
But eventually I had to pull myself away from that comfy lounge. There were films to see and, time permitting, some drinks to be had. As it turned out, time permitted like a sonofabitch. So, four pints of Sam Adams later and I was finally settling down into my seat at the Madstone Theaters, which was also manned by a friendly staff, internet access and plenty of opportunities to pick up festival newsletters, t-shirts, or even a used copy of “Top Gun” on DVD. For my first flick of the fest – “Love at 7-Eleven.”
Love at 7-Eleven ^ *** ½ ^ Directed by Yung-Shing Teng ^ There’s very little that I like more than a nice, quiet, detached love story set in a bustling city, a la Wong Kar-Wai. For me it’s soothing watching a group of characters go through their daily grind, often with a bit of an eccentric flair, as they let potential love affairs tragically pass right underneath their noses.
“Love at 7-Eleven” fits this bill perfectly, except that it’s a little light in the eccentricities department. We follow the daily activities of filmmaker Mr. Tsai and 7-Eleven clerk Hsiao Feng. Mr. Tsai spends his days editing together a documentary on geishas and Hsiao Feng spends hers stocking shelves and manning the register at 7-Eleven. Their lives intersect at said 7-Eleven where Mr. Tsai comes in everyday for his carton of milk, which he ceremoniously drinks in front of the store before running back to his home across the street. With every visit he pays to the store, the two characters take notice of one another more, even becoming expectant on seeing each other very day. Yet, their dialogue never moves past their minimal clerk and customer exchange.
The shame here is that I have no idea whether these characters finally hook it up or not. You see, little sleep, mixed with a two-hour drive and four pints of beer don’t go well with a calm, quiet movie. I’d say I made it through over an hour of the film and then next thing I knew I was waking up for the beginning of the next feature. Talk about a confused awakening. I’m no stranger to passing out in the movie theater – it happens on occasion, but I always wake up during the end credits while everyone’s filing out. Not this time. That means they just left me there to sleep as the lights came up and everyone filed out and then back in for the next film. See how pleasant they are here? They didn’t even disturb my nap. So through bleary eyes and a fog clouded head I sat up straight as “Sumo East and West” was just beginning.
Sumo East and West ^ **** ^ Directed by Ferne Pearlstein ^ This is one I’ve been wanting to see since I missed it just a few months ago at the Los Angeles Film Festival. I’m not really into sports unless there’s a major spectacle to behold. So documentaries on sports are usually a no go for me. A bunch of guys running around a diamond? No thanks. Big, beefy dudes slamming into each other in order to get the ball at one end of the field or the other? No please. Fat guys wrestling in diapers? Now you have my attention. Admittedly, that was the extent of my knowledge on sumo until I saw this film. “Sumo East and West” presents us with a brief, but informative history on the sport, while mainly focusing on how sumo has changed over the years, now finding participants from all over the world competing in the sport…but in an amateur capacity only. The sumo powers that be still insist that pro-sumo remain for Japanese wrestlers. Very fun and enlightening film.
Where’s the Party, Yaar? ^ *** ½ ^ Directed by Benny Mathews ^ We’ve all seen this story before – a fish out of water tale (in this case, a fresh off the boat tale) about a clueless character trying to fit into modern American life, but through his own unique customs and outlook on things, manages to bring a little happiness to the hearts of everyone. There are “Crocodile Dundee,” “Big Man on Campus” and “Mac and Me” just to name a few. Now we have Benny Mathews’ “Where’s the Party, Yaar?” which consistently pokes fun at American Indian racial stereotypes while telling the story of a young college student, Hari Patel, who is sent to America by his family in India to live with his rich uncle’s family. Hari has problems fitting in with his new American born Indian peers and the comedy begins. You can pretty much figure out where the movie goes from here, but it’s still a funny ride.
The story continues in part two of THE SAN DIEGO ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL DOMINATES>>>




Posted on October 8, 2003 in Festivals by
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