By Luis Monteagudo Jr.
When artists become big successes, they put out a greatest hits collection.
This year, the same can be said for the San Diego Asian Film Festival.
As the festival marks its 20th anniversary this year, it reminded San Diegans of its longevity and influence by bringing back a handful of films that achieved mainstream success and critical praise, bringing newfound respect to the Asian film genre.
Among them are “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Better Luck Tomorrow” and “Minding the Gap.” The films were showcased at small theaters starting in late October and running through this past weekend.
It was a clever and timely reminder of just how successful the Asian Film Festival has become in its 20 short years.
This year’s festival kicks off Thursday and runs through Nov. 16, starting with a decidedly San Diego flavor on opening night with “The Paradise We Are Looking For,” a collection of four short films that detail the Asian experience in San Diego.
Those films include a look at a City Heights mortuary where workers help refugee families grieve, a profile of a popular karaoke restaurant in National City, and interviews with former classmates attending a 20th high school reunion in the South Bay.
“Not many festivals make it to 20 years and we’re grateful for the continued support from our audiences, members and filmmakers.” says Brian Hu, the festival’s artistic director. “This year we will honor that support by opening the festival with a film specifically about the San Diego Asian American community, and of course by continuing to offer the most hair-raising, toe-tapping, dream-inducing cinematic works that our film goers have come to love.”
One of the real joys for festival attendees will be discovering little-known films from various Asian countries that normally wouldn’t receive an audience in the United States
This year, there are more than 170 films from 29 countries in more than 40 different languages.
As usual, there is an eclectic, intriguing lineup of films.
They include “Come as You Are,” a road trip, buddy movie about two disabled men and one blind man traveling to a Canadian “special needs” brother to lose their virginity. From Taiwan comes the comedy “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Show” about a TV executive’s desperate ploy to lower a network’s value by hiring the worst performers and writers, who actually turn the network into a surprise hit. Asian pop films get their due with “Just 6.5,” an Iranian film about a detective’s chase of a notorious drug lord, and “No Mercy,” a South Korean revenge flick about a young woman fighting human traffickers.
Most films will be shown at the UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center in Mission Valley, and tickets can be purchased at the box office there. For other showings and festival events, as well as a schedule of films, visit sdaff.org or call (619) 400-5911.
Luis Monteagudo Jr. is a freelance writer and pop culture enthusiast. He has written for The San Diego Union-Tribune, USA Today and numerous other publications.
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