By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor
The San Diego Asian Film Festival, produced by the San Diego-Pacific Arts Movement (Pac-Arts) and one of the largest film festivals on the West Coast, returns Nov. 6 – 15 for its 15th year, taking over venues throughout San Diego County.
In addition to the festival’s home base at Hazard Center’s UltraStar Cinemas in Mission Valley, films will also be screened at eight other venues, including Reading Cinemas Gaslamp, UC San Diego’s new Structural Mechanic and Engineering (SME) building, UCSD’s CalLit2 Atkinson Hall Auditorium, La Jolla’s Sherwood Auditorium at the Museum of Contemporary Arts, La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas, ArcLight Cinemas in La Jolla, USD’s Shiley Theater, and the San Diego School for the Performing Arts. The festival’s awards gala will be held at the Town and Country Hotel in Mission Valley on Nov. 8.
Among this year’s field of 140 films from 21 different countries, the festival has a sizable LGBT-themed offering, including a five-film retrospective called “Remembering Queer Korea,” covering five decades of queer images in Korean film with historical LGBT themes dating back to the 1950s. According to organizers, it has only been recently that sexual minorities have become much more visible in South Korea, but there continues to be a great deal of hostility toward queer politics within the fundamentalist Christian segment of the country. The retrospective is part of an international symposium held in conjunction with UCSD’s Transnational Korean Studies program, which runs from Nov. 13 – 15 and also includes an art exhibit and an academic conference.
Another new offering this year has LGBT film buffs in mind. Presented in partnership with the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation, the “LGBT Dignity Pass” will provide access to all LGBT film screenings throughout the festival for just $75. Ticket prices without the pass are $9 per film for Pac-Arts members or $12 for non-members, or in four-packs for $44. The festival is also giving out $2 discounts on general admission tickets for San Diego Public Library patrons. Use the SDLIBRARY discount code during your online purchase.
LGBT-themed films will be shown in three locations: UltraStar in Hazard Center, UCSD’s Visual Arts Presentation Lab at the SME, and at UCSD’s Atkinson Hall, with the majority of films shown at UltraStar in Hazard Center.
Proceeds from the gala awards dinner will benefit REEL VOICES, a high school documentary filmmaking program offered by Pac-Arts for students in the San Diego area. REEL VOICES has a submission of shorts at this year’s festival. For more info or ticket packages, visit sdaff.org.
—Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at email@example.com.
American Asian Panorama LGBT Films: (All films screened at UltraStar Cinemas, 7510 Hazard Center Dr. #100. Mission Valley).
“Eat With Me”
Friday, Nov. 7 at 6:35 p.m. (2014 / 95 min)
George Takei takes a back seat to Los Angeles with a cameo in this film about a mother and son forced to live together who use food to help them come to terms with their communication and intimacy issues, while exploring relationships of their own.
Saturday, Nov. 8 at 12:50 p.m. (2014 / 75 min)
A love story that fueled a 43 year path to equal rights, this film follows Filipino-American Richard Adams and his Australian husband, Tony Sullivan, the first couple to file a federal lawsuit seeking equal treatment for same sex marriage. Official Selection, 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival and Audience Award winner at 2014 Cinema Q Film Festival.
Saturday, Nov. 8 at 3:10 p.m. (2014 / 86 min)
This film features Brooklyn dating with a humorous twist, by way of a bisexual daughter of Iranian immigrants. Director Desiree Akhavan is able to address and discuss sexual identity in a way that feels natural and fresh. Won Best Screenwriting at OUTFEST and an official selection at Sundance Film Festival this year. Filmmaker expected to attend for post-film discussion.
“Shorts: Gay of Thrones”
Saturday, Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m.
From a divine princess and fierce drag queens to a king-sized dilemma, a royal dose of drama and fun awaits in these nine short films.
Sunday, Nov. 9 at 2:30 p.m. (2014 / 77 min)
This documentary follows Kumu Hina, a māhū (“middle” or third gender person) teacher who passes on Hawaiian culture through hula to her students and inspires a young māhū to lead her class. Audience Award winner at 2014 Asian American International Film Festival, Best Documentary at Frameline Film Festival.
Asia “Pop” LGBT Films: (Screened at UltraStar Cinemas, 7510 Hazard Center Dr. #100. Mission Valley.)
“Anita’s Last Cha-Cha”
Sunday, Nov. 9 at 7:55 p.m. and Monday, Nov. 10 at 6:40 p.m. (2013 / 110 min)
Directed by Sigrid Andrea P. Bernardo. Set in a small village in the Philippines, dress-hating Anita falls in love for the first time when a beautiful older woman moves to her village. Winner of Best Picture and Best Actress in the 2013 CineFilipino Film Festival.
“Masters” LGBT Film: (Screened at UCSD’s CalLit2 Atkinson Hall auditorium located at Voigt Drive and Equality Lane.)
Sunday, Nov. 9 at 4:20 p.m. (1994 / 118 min)
Digitally restored film that inspired many at its ’94 Venice Film Festival premiere, Vive L’Amour takes three people: a street crawler, a skirt-chasing hustler, and a real estate agent, and uses comedy and what has been called the director’s “courageous use of pacing and silence” to intersect their lives.
“Remembering Queer Korea”
A historical retrospective on queer images in Korean film. Kick-off reception takes place at UCSD’s SME building on Thursday, Nov. 13 at 5 p.m. Attendees will enjoy refreshments and appetizers prior to the screening of “The Girl Princes.”
“The Girl Princes”
Thursday, Nov. 13, 6:45 p.m. (2012 / 79 min)
Historical documentary with a musical bent, this film is set in South Korea in 1950s, when the rise and sudden fall of female “gukgeuk” — musical theater where women played all the roles. The performers, many of whom are profiled today, were idolized at the time but some explored the boundaries of their sexuality within their troupes and even found love.
“The Pollen of Flowers”
Friday, Nov. 14, 6:30 p.m. (1972 / 85 min)
This is touted as one of the finest Korean films of the 1970s, and it was the first Korean film to feature a homosexual relationship and other scandalous themes. Directed by Ha Gil-jong, who produced the film after attending UC Los Angeles’ film school, it was recently digitally restored.
Friday, Nov. 14, 8:30 p.m. (1988 / 94 min)
Set in the Choson dynasty, the lead character (Sabangji) is intersex (though the film nearly eliminates her masculine characteristics after the first scene) and after experiencing an identity crisis, soon explores her more female characteristics through homoeroticism.
Saturday, Nov. 15, 10 a.m. (1996 / 96 min)
This film is told in three parts, following the narrator from birth to adulthood (1950s – 90s). It depicts how one Korean family that might not necessarily accept homosexuality, cannot deny their gay sons, as all the while progress continues. It begins as a conservative historic film but morphs into a comedy.
“Shorts: Uncle ‘Bar’ at Barbershop, Auld Lang Syne”
Saturday, Nov. 15, 12:15 p.m. (22 min / 26 min)
A light-hearted conversation turns explosive in a barbershop.
After a chance encounter in a park, two men reconsider an old romance.
These five films will be screened at UCSD’s Visual Arts Presentation Lab, located in Room 149 of the Structural and Materials Engineering building on Matthews Lane. Park in the Gilman lot. Parking free on Saturday.