By Luis Monteagudo Jr.
In nearly two decades, the San Diego Asian Film Festival has matured from a little, hidden gem on San Diego’s cultural calendar to a popular multi-day showcase of Asian films, complete with Hollywood glitz and glamour.
The festival reaches its sweet 16 anniversary this year and will run Nov. 5-14. It is further evidence of the maturation of the festival, presented by Pacific Arts Movement, a local media arts organization.
Now referred to as the largest showcase of Asian cinema on the West Coast, this year’s festival will unspool more than 130 films and programs from 20 countries. It welcomes actor Ken Jeong, of TV’s “Dr. Ken” and the popular “Hangover” movies. Jeon will have a conversation with festival attendees at a panel on Nov. 7.
What the festival does best is introducing Asian film and culture to mainstream audiences. On the festival’s first week schedule will be “TYRUS,” a documentary about Tyrus Wong, 105-year-old Chinese American illustrator whose work has been featured in classic films like Disney’s “Bambi.”
But the meat of the Festival remains the movies themselves and the year’s jam-packed schedule of films gives viewers a lot to choose from, with several of the films making their U.S. and West Coast premieres.
The opening night film is “Miss India America,” a comedy about a college valedictorian who enters a beauty pageant and discovers a lot more about herself.
Other festival showcases include “Seoul Searching,” about a Seoul summer camp where overseas Korean youth discover their roots and the closing night entry “Made in Japan,” about Tomi Fujiyama, country music’s first Japanese star.
Films will be shown at six venues across San Diego County including the film festival’s home base of the UltraStar Mission Valley at Hazard Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla, UCSD’s Calit2, the Museum of Photographic Arts and the historic La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
For more information and tickets, go to the Festival’s web site at festival.sdaff.org.
Luis Monteagudo Jr. is a freelance writer and pop culture enthusiast who has attended Comic-Con for more than 20 years. He was written for the San Diego Union-Tribune, USA Today and numerous other publications.
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