2020 Asian American International Film Festival goes virtual for its 43rd edition

‘Death of Nintendo,’ ‘Aswang’ and ‘A Thousand Cuts’ among Filipino films included

A FILIPINO Filmmaker Roundtable to kick-off Filipino American History Month, along with a few Filipino films led by “Death of Nintendo,” “Aswang” and “A Thousand Cuts” are among the special events to watch out for at this year’s 43rd Asian American International Film Festival.

Aswang and A Thousand Cuts are both being screened at this year’s AAIFF.

Organizers announced the full lineup last week which includes over 15 feature films, 14 short film blocks and over 16 workshops, masterclasses, livestreamed events, panels, and workshops including a conversational series on the issue of anti-racism in storytelling.

The festival, which will happen online from October 1 to 11, will feature over three hours of panels, Q&As, and performances, all accessible as pay-as-you-wish programs every day.

The Filipino Filmmaker roundtable, which will gather Filipino filmmakers at different points in their careers to discuss their work, process, and what it’s like to create now, is scheduled to happen on October 1.

The speakers are Isabel Sandoval, who is fresh from the success of “Lingua Franca;” Eileen Cabiling (her short Basurero is part of this year’s AAIFF slate); Andrea Walter (she wrote and directed her first feature film “Empty By Design” last year) and Dianne Paragas (her film “Yellow Rose” will be distributed by Sony Pictures theatrically on October 9, 2020). The forum will be moderated by Jeremiah Abraham, founder and CEO of Tremendous Communications.

Rappler co-founder and veteran journalist is the center of the documentary “A Thousand Cuts” by Filipina American filmmaker Ramona Diaz. | Photo courtesy of PBS/Frontline

Two documentaries, “A Thousand Cuts” and “Aswang,” will both be screened. There will also be a Masterclass (October 10) with “A Thousand Cuts” director Ramona S. Diaz, an award-winning Filipino-American documentary filmmaker best known for creating character-driven documentaries that capture complex and human situations.

“Death of Nintendo,” a coming-of-age film by director Raya Martin is making its East Coast premiere at the festival. Named one of the 50 most important filmmakers under 50 by Cinema Scope, Martin’s films have screened in Cannes, Toronto, Locarno, and New York.

A Q&A with the filmmakers is set for October 4.

A number of Filipino and Filipino-directed short films have made it to the lineup. (For the full schedule, visit their website at www.aaiff.org)

•”Basurero” (East Coast Premiere; Directed by Eileen Cabiling – Philippines, U.S. – Tagalog) – A Filipino fisherman, desperate for some quick cash, turns to dumping bodies into the sea for the current Philippine “Drug War”.

• “Bidyoke” (World Premiere; Directed by Joseph Mangat – U.S., Philippines – Tagalog, English) – Portrait of a beloved Filipino karaoke-restaurant in National City, California, that has since closed its doors.

• “Dancing On My Own” (Directed by Alexandra Cuerdo – U.S. – English) – A hybrid documentary/narrative love letter to the queer Asian experience, inspired by New York’s radical dance party Bubble_T.

• “Lutaw”  (International Premiere; Directed by Samantha Quick - U.S., Philippines – English) – Step into Geramy’s world, a scrappy, budding inventor, who is trying to find a better way to commute to school. The film has no dialogue in order to maximize international accessibility and raise awareness of this important and far-reaching issue.

• “Sorejya Taka” (Directed by Jason Guerrero – Japan / U.S. – English, Japanese) –  After an unexpected crisis, a woman phones her friends for solace while wandering the streets of Tokyo, only to find that all the solace she needs is within herself.

AAIFF, established in 1978 and presented by Asian CineVision, is the nation’s first and longest-running festival of its kind and the premier showcase for the best Asian independent and Asian American cinema. The festival hopes to continue its tradition to serve as a platform to honor and support the community of Asian American and Pacific Islander filmmakers and their stories.

The nine jury prize award winners will be determined by a lineup of leading industry professionals, including actor/producer Sung Kang, actress Rosalind Chao, director/writer Jeff Chan, producer Karin Chien, filmmaker PJ Raval, producer Cecilia Mejia, director Marie Jamora, among others.

There are a couple of special events celebrating the various forms of storytelling slated this year. Music Night Out interweaves musical performances and the festival’s official music video selection to highlight the collaboration of API musicians and filmmakers, while Comedy Night offers performances by top API stand-up and sketch comedians.

As this year’s festival takes place online for the first time, AAIFF has partnered with Elevent as the ticketing partner and Cinesend as the exhibition platform so that audiences in the US and Canada will be able to watch most of the titles on-demand with a 48-hour viewing window right from their own homes.

Additionally, this year’s festival will present a virtual Pop-Up Market, featuring curated products from local and small businesses by Asian diaspora and BIPOC artisans impacted by COVID-19.

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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