By Luis Monteagudo Jr.
Now in its 18th year, the San Diego Asian Film Festival kicks off this week with a well-earned reputation as one of the most important showcases of Asian cinema in the nation.
The Festival now spreads out over a week, this year running November 9-18, which gives fans multiple opportunities to catch films that they may not see elsewhere.
That includes more than 150 films from over 20 countries this year, highlighting the growing variety and popularity of Asian cinema.
It is bookended by popular opening and closing night parties, and sprinkled throughout with celebrity appearances. Most of the films will be shown at the Festival’s home base, the UltraStar Mission Valley theater.
And with 150 films, there’s something for everyone.
“Bad Genius” is a mix of comedy and heist films with a group of rich kids forming a team of cheaters to beat the school system.
Sci-fi is represented with “A Beautiful Star,” about a weatherman who believes he’s not of this world, sending his family, and the audience, on a search to discover whether he really is an alien. Another, more serious alien flick is “Before We Vanish,” as a cheating husband returns to his family to warn of an invasion from outer space.
Anime fans will be happy about a number of animated films being shown, including “Cocolors”, a striking looking film about a young’s boy struggle to survive a post-apocalyptic wasteland where he lives in a dark, industrial underground with his friends.
What happens when high school bullies encounter a real monster? Who is the real monster? That’s the premise behind “Mon Mon Monster,” a Taiwanese import that takes a disturbing look at troubled youth.
“Our Time Will Come” is a sprawling historical drama about the World War II Japanese invasion of Hong Kong that focuses on one young schoolteacher’s efforts to protect those in her besieged town.
The Festival has always excelled at showcasing gritty Hong Kong crime dramas and martial arts films and this year is no exception with “Paradox,” with action star Tony Jaa as a father searching for his missing daughter and running up against the seedy Thailand crime underworld.
There’s also “The Villainess,” one of the most hyped action films of the past year, about a vengeful assassin who tears through the underworld. A scene from the film was shown at this year’s Comic-Con Kung Fu panel to a raucous audience reaction.
There’s more, including LGBT films, documentaries, short films and the “Reel Voices” films from San Diego teens.
For 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 has written for The San Diego Union-Tribune, USA Today and numerous other publications.
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