THE SAN DIEGO ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL DOMINATES

The next morning I woke up nice and early for what was supposed to be a “serious, sober discussion” about Asian porn. Serious and sober, eh? I say what’s a discussion about porn without a little cheekiness and whisky. Despite my preferences, everyone showed up as serious and sober as one could be at 10am and the panel began.
The panel was called “Orgasms for Social Change” and it focused on college professor Darrell Hamamoto’s efforts to “eroticize Asian American sexuality.” How is he doing this? He’s started making his own line of porn featuring not only Asian American females, but males as well. Asian American males have been largely absent from American produced porn, mostly appearing in gay films whenever they do grace our video screens. In Hamamoto’s eyes, this would be a step in the right direction for better Asian representation in pop culture. These skin flicks would also fund other non-porn related projects. Projects with strong political messages and not just something for the “wankers,” as he refers to them.
Also on the panel that morning were James Hou, who showed the first twenty minutes of his film “Masters of the Pillow,” a documentary on Hamamoto’s adventures in porn. Filmmaker Wes Kim (“Vision Test,” Profiles in Science) was also on hand for commentary with filmmaker Greg Pak (Robot Stories, Asian Pride Porn) moderating.
The panel started off with a screening of Pak’s hilarious short Asian Pride Porn, a move I suspect that was geared towards defusing any ill will some people may have brought into the room with them. We then sat through 20 minutes of Hou’s “Masters of the Pillow,” which asked the question “Why haven’t there been any Asian American male porn stars?” while following Hamamoto about town as he prepares to make his pornographic directorial
debut. “Masters of the Pillow” premieres at the Hawaii International Film Festival.
Then there’s Hamamoto’s skin flicks of which we were shown a ten minute clip. Yep, he’s making porn alright. The evidence was right there before us in all of its XXX glory. But this select clip was a little different than what’s to be expected from the real version he plans on putting out. This was the experimental version. The video portion of the fuck scene pretty much remained the same, but with one difference – there was a constant line of text running along the bottom third of the screen describing the notorious mistreatment Asian people have received in America. Of course, it was difficult paying attention to the text entirely while there was a guy getting a blowjob behind it. The audio consisted of warbled screams, which rose in volume as the clip proceeded.
Then the discussion began and the first comment came from a woman behind me who described the male actor’s performance in the clip as passive. She further commented that, for what Hamamoto was trying to do, a stronger male presence would’ve been preferred. Hamamoto quickly dismissed her by asking how you could be passive and have an orgasm at the same time. He then made a quick comment about how this woman must like rough sex, a comment he retracted when someone else from the audience called him on his rudeness.
I like Hamamoto. He’s got some fucking balls and he wasn’t shy about letting everyone know that he planned on making a bunch of cash from his new role as pornographer. I just think he was a little too defensive for his own good. Any comment or question that swayed a bit from Hamamoto’s own ideas were shot down immediately by the college professor, sending gasps here and there throughout the audience due to his curtness. Yet, when someone offered an interesting idea, Hamamoto seemed genuinely intrigued. Perhaps he had just psyched himself out to receive a bunch of shit from the audience, when in fact, everyone seemed quite receptive. The issue of the male actor being a little passive came up a couple more times, always ruffling Hamamoto’s feathers, and of course the question of why porn and why not another outlet came up as well. But all in all, everyone got the message here.
And the bottom line was that Asian people need better representation everywhere, even in every area of pop culture – porn being one of them. Wes Kim commented that “Better Luck Tomorrow” isn’t gonna do it on its own. That was one film; there needs to be more. There need to be more films directed by Asian Americans that aren’t considered foreign. There need to be Asian American pop stars on our top 20 music charts. And yes, there need to be Asian American males handing out the good dickings to women of all races for us wackers to enjoy.
It was time for a drink.

In My Life ^ **** ½ ^ Directed by Gary Chan ^ This one wound up being my favorite of the festival. It’s a basic story, amazingly handled by debut feature filmmaker Gary Chan and complimented by a cast who were anything but amateurish.
“In My Life” opens with Wes checking himself out of the hospital. Wes has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and he doesn’t have very long to live. Not wanting to spend the rest of his days in a hospital bed, he decides to take a road trip to San Francisco to tell his best friend, Allison, that he loves her. It’s something he’s been longing to do for the past few years, but has never gathered the balls to do so. He also plans on tying up any loose ends with friends and family while saying his final goodbyes, not telling anyone that he is sick or that this will be the last time any of them will see him again.
The message is delivered strong here, yet avoids being too heavy-handed. That message is – go ahead and take some risks while you’re alive and well, because you don’t want to regret anything when you’re dying. “In My Life” features a great sense of humor as well with likable, well-acted characters to move along Gary Chan’s touching script.

The Gala Awards Dinner went on later that evening with plenty of free beer and free food to consume and plenty of filmmakers to chat up while everyone waited for the awards to be presented by the likes of Sandra Oh and Tamlyn Tomita. The winners of the year’s festival were:
Experimental Award ^ “Nothing But Love” ^ Directed by Wen-Yao Chuang

Documentary Short Award ^ “How to Make Kimchi According to My Jun-Umma” ^ Directed by Samuel Kiehoon Lee

Best Animation ^ “Henry’s Garden” ^ Directed by Moon Seun

Narrative Short Award ^ The Anniversary ^ Directed by Ham Tran

Documentary Feature Award ^ “Sleeping Tigers: The Asahi Baseball Story” ^ Directed by Jari Osborne

Narrative Feature Award ^ “Book of Rules” ^ Directed by Sung Kim

Grand Jury Prize ^ “Refugee” ^ Directed by Spencer Nakasako
And the whole thing even wrapped up in time for me to catch a 9:15 screening of “Ping Pong.” But as it turns out, I was far too smashed to even pay attention to the film, so I left the theater. Looks like I’ll have to “Ping Pong” at a later date.
Get the rest of the story in part three of THE SAN DIEGO ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL DOMINATES>>>




Posted on October 8, 2003 in Festivals by
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