A scene from “7 Day.” Courtesy San Diego Asian Film Festival

After a COVID-19 induced absence, the popular San Diego Asian Film Festival is back in theaters, with dozens of films, including some that have gone unseen because of the pandemic.

Safety measures will be enforced at the screenings of the 22nd annual version of the Festival, although fans and organizers will be relieved that they can enjoy the films in theaters again.

Pacific Arts Movement‘s return to theaters comes at a critical time for Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander stories,” says Kent Lee, executive director of Pac Arts, which puts on the Festival. “We remain steadfastly committed to the empowerment of these voices — especially following two years of ongoing pandemic challenges that have tested our resilience as communities.”

The festival will run Thursday through Nov. 6 at its long-time home, the UltraStar Mission Valley theater, along with screenings at the San Diego Natural History Museum and the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park and the Angelika Film Center in Carmel Mountain.

More than 130 films are scheduled to be showcased, with entries from more than 20 counties and in 30 different languages. The festival will include 22 premieres, including one U.S. and one international premiere.

“Many of our films were made before the pandemic and are only available now because theaters are open again,” said Brian Hu, the festival’s artistic director. “Others were made in the past 18 months and reflect what an awkward and historic moment it’s been. All of them though have been craving an in-person audience and the theatrical experience to say that our stories are bigger than our circumstances and our communities are stronger than any of us individually.”

Among this year’s anticipated highlights are the festival opener, “7 Days”, a romantic comedy about dating during the pandemic. The thriller “Catch The Fair One” is about a Native American woman who embarks on a search of her missing sister. The film focuses on human trafficking, especially its impact on Indigenous women.

The documentary “Inside The Red Brick Wall” takes a look at the pro-Democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong in 2019. The festival closes with “Drive My Car,” which won Best Screenplay at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.

As usual, the Festival will also highlight student filmmakers through its Reel Voices shorts.

All staff and volunteers present at screenings and events will be fully vaccinated and masked and filmgoers will be asked to provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the event. Proof of vaccination or negative test will be required before entering any festival venue. Additionally, the festival is requiring masks for all festival patrons and ensuring social distancing in all festival lines.

For tickets and information, visit the Festival online at sdaff.org.

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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