It is a great year for Filipino films and film-makers at the upcoming 37th Asian American International Film Festival in New York which is slated to happen from July 24 to August 2, 2014. With a diverse selection of 18 features and 33 shorts from over 21 countries and regions, this year’s festival is making sure that audiences will have a great time at the movies.
The festival explores a diverse range of themes relevant to the Asian and Asian American experience. From the seedy underground of the Japanese love hotel industry to the sprawling urban backdrop of Southeast Asia, from the incredible story of a young Nepalese girl sold into prostitution to the story of a Taiwanese farming activist who constructs bombs made of rice, from the struggle of displaced Filipino workers in Israel to the revenge romp of a Vietnamese American fashion designer, AAIFF’14 delivers an entire slate of films that speak to universal human experiences: love, violence, sex, resilience and hope.
Asian CineVision and the AAIFF are proud to present a collection of diverse Filipino films focusing on identity, history, and arts in the Philippines and the Filipino diaspora communities. A total of eight films (features and documentaries) comprise the Filipino and Filipino-American selection for this year’s festival features.
The AAIFF’14 Centerpiece feature film this year is Transit, considered by many in the industry as a sweeping success at the 2013 Cinemalaya grabbing awards including Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress and was also the Philippines’ foreign-language submission for the 86th Academy Awards. This timely drama is Hannah Espia’s directorial debut and focuses on the deportation of children born to foreign workers in Israel.
Born in 1987 in Manila, Philippines, Espia started making films when she was 15years old. After graduating from the University of the Philippines Film Institute in 2012, her thesis film Ruweda (Wheel), won the Audience Choice Award at the 8th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival and went on to compete in several international short film festivals.
Making her big-screen debut in the film is Jasmine Curtis-Smith, the younger sister of TV host/commercial model/concert artist/film actress Anne. She won the Best Supporting Actress trophy at Cinemalaya for playing the role of Yael, a troubled teen caught between the clashing cultures of her Filipino and Israeli heritage. Director Paul Soriano wore a different hat in the film as its executive producer.
A review at Variety praised Espia “who makes an impressive debut with this gracefully directed, inventively edited look at the plight of Filipino immigrant workers in Israel.”
The reviewer also commended the cast: Transit is very well performed by high-profile thesps (Medina, Adlawan, Cabral) and talented newcomers (19-year-old Curtis-Smith, 8-year-old Alvarez), many of whom learned Hebrew online just prior to production.
Raya Martin’s How to Disappear Completely is a fascinating experimental horror following a young country girl who dreams to evanesce from her religious mom and alcoholic dad. The critically acclaimed and sensually stimulating film was a 2013 Festival del film Locarno selection.
Like Espia, Martin is also a graduate of the University of the Philippines Film Institute. The 30-year-old director is the first Filipino filmmaker to be selected for a filmmaking residency at the prestigious Cinéfondation Residence du Festival de Cannes in Paris, France.
Pretty Rosebud is a family and political drama written by and stars Filipina-Chinese American actress Chuti Tiu (24, The Internship), charting the story of Cissy who finds her primal desire that is both shocking and revelatory underneath her seemingly perfect life.
In The Cotabato Sessions, composer and percussionist Susie Ibarra and director Joel Quizon team up to document the legacy of artist Danongan Kalanduyan and his family of the Cotabato City in Mindanao, Philippines. As practitioners of the indigenous art form known as kulintang (rhythmic gong ensemble music) and the radiant dance that often accompanies it, the Kalanduyan family is highly regarded in their native land for sustaining the musical tradition.
ITVS grantee Marissa Aroy’s remarkable documentary Delano Manongs sheds light on the background of the Delano Grape Strike in 1965 led by Filipino-American labor organizer, Larry Itliong. The film rediscovers the fearless endeavors of the Filipino immigrants since they landed in the US in the early 20th Century.
Aroy’s film highlights the story of organizer Itliong and the manongs, Filipino farm workers who initiated the famous 1965 Delano Grape Boycott and Strike. The manongs also fought alongside Chicano farmworkers and their leader Cesar Chavez for the formation of the United Farm Workers union.
Hypebeasts is an updated Do The Right Thing in Filipino style made by emerging director Jess dela Merced. The film is about two young Filipino-American siblings’ night taking a turn for the worst the night before the most coveted new sneakers go on sale.
Also screening is the film Awesome Asian Bad Guys, directed by two Filipino-Americans: Stephen Dypiangco and Patrick Epino. Dypiangco and Epino co-founded the National Film Society, a new media studio that produces YouTube videos in partnership with PBS Digital Studios. Their film has been described as “a screwball comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously.”
Paying tribute to kung-fu and henchman-typecast Asian American actors in classic Hollywood films such as Die Hard, Bloodsport and Karate Kid 2, (whom usually had a 2-minute lifespan before they were mortally wounded or namelessly beat to a pulp), directors Dypiangco and Epino (aka National Film Society) bring you this tribute to such actors like Al Leong, Yuji Okumoto and George Cheung, who play themselves in their most iconic roles to seek revenge, and kick butts.
“In this documentary, I follow award-winning Asian American jazz saxophonist and composer Fred Ho on an incredible year as he battles cancer, leads his orchestra, launches books, and mounts his magnum opus: a samurai jazz opera for the New York stage,” director Steven de Castro said, describing his film Fred Ho’s Last Year.
An homage to the award-winning avant-garde jazz composer, Asian American author and political activist, Fred Ho’s Last Year captures the unapologetic Fred Ho in an unbelievable year as he fights cancer. Filmed over the course of 2013, the film provides a glimpse into Fred’s extraordinary life as a musician, a mentor, a pioneer and a dear friend for those who will be continuously inspired by his courage and persistence.
Filmmakers and artists who will attend the Festival include Hannah Espia, director of Transit, Chuti Tiu (writer and star) and Oscar Torre (director) of Pretty Rosebud, Joel Quizon (director), Susie Ibarra (musician, producer and subject artist) and Danongan Kalanduyan (dancer and subject artist) of The Cotabato Sessions, Marissa Aroy, director of Delano Manongs, and Gigi Dement, Academy Award nominee, producer of Hypebeasts.
The 37th Asian American International Film Festival is made possible with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on The Arts, a state agency, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Special support is provided by our many corporate sponsors, donors and the many Friends of ACV.
AAIFF’14 also features the 72-Hour Shootout, Asian American International Screenplay Competition reading, Work-In-Progress workshop, stop-motion animation workshops and music events. Once again the Festival provides audiences a comprehensive picture of the very best Asian and Asian American media creators today.
The film screenings at the festival are taking place at multiple venues across the city: Asia Society (725 Park Ave, New York, NY 10021), City Cinema Village East (189 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003), Made in NY Media Center by IFP (30 John St, New York, NY 11201) and Museum of Chinese in America (215 Centre St, New York, NY 10013).
For more details, visit www.aaiff.org.
(NYNJ July 18, 2014 LifeEASTyle Magazine pg.2)