AFFD thanks for the AWESOME time.

30 07 2010
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Last night the 9th annual Asian Film Festival of Dallas ended on a high note…
Director Quentin Lee stopped by for the closing night screening of his film THE PEOPLE I’VE SLEPT WITH and he wow’d us with a fantastic Q & A (When you start out a Q & A with – “I hope no one is recording this” you know its going to be good).   * By the way Quentin and all you PSD fans – I was recording – we’re doing a whole piece for next week.  By far this year’s AFFD was the biggest ever (first year they’ve expanded to another venue – Angelika Dallas).  The all-volunteer organization has built one of the countries longest running and successful “genre” specific festivals in the country.  A 5 person jury has awarded 5 films awards.  These were awarded before the festival concluded on Thursday night.

AFFD 2010 Jury Award Winners

Best Narrative Short – Works of Art, directed by Andrew Pang

Best Documentary Short – Resilience, directed by Tammy Chu*

Best Animated/Experimental Short – Goh Nakamura: Embarcadero Blues, directed by Dino Ignacio

Best Documentary Feature – Iron Crows, directed Bong-Nam Park

Best Narrative Feature – Au Revoir Taipei, directed by Arvin Chen

AFFD’s 2010 Jury Members are:

Bruce DuBose – Executive Producer, Undermain Theatre

Dr. Charles Ku – Community Leader

Stephen Carlton – Founder and President, Asian Film Festival of Dallas

Philip Wuntch – Film Critic Emeritus, Dallas Morning News

Sean Griffin – Cinema-TV Department Chair, Southern Methodist University

Since I only saw AU REVOIR TAIPEI of those winners its hard to disagree, but PLASTIC BAG by Ramin Bahrani could easily have won for best documentary short.

I fully back AU REVOIR TAIPEI which I enjoyed so much I attended the second showing as well.   It was my early pick for favorite film of the festival.  One hell of a directorial debut for Arvin Chen and the lead actors Jack Yao and Amber Kuo were perfect.

I wanted to further highlight some of the films at this year’s festival.  To accompany AU REVOIR TAIPEI in my top 5 films of the festival here are the other four films.

Australian director Bruce Beresford’s (DRIVING MISS DAISY) moving film MAO’S LAST DANCER tells the true story of ballet dancer Li Cunxin.  We meet Li when he is only a little boy in rural China and follow him to Houston, Tx.  Talented actors Bruce Greenwood and Kyle MacLachlan are superb as the real life Ben Stevenson (Greenwood), the head of the Houston Ballet and Houston lawyer Charles Foster (Maclachlan).  This is more significant because both Bruce and Charles were at the screening and took part in a lengthy and wonderful Q & A (the audience had members from the Texas Ballet Theater which Bruce is the Artistic Director).  We’ll have a piece in the next few days of that Q & A – its worth the wait (sorry I went to Manchester United vs MLS and it ate up all my time to cut up the interview).  MAO’S LAST DANCER was an incredible experience and it was extremely hard to not ball my eyes out at the heart-warming ending.

The final film from ground-breaking Malaysian Director Yasmin Ahmad (1958-2009) is the effervescent TALENTIME.  Yasmin completed seven films in a six year period and touched on subjects that angered the conservative Islamic Malaysian government.   Her subjects and plots discussed woman’s rights, religion, race and cultural barriers in Malaysia.  Talentime is the tale of the contestants, families and teachers involved in a high school talent show.  The well done mixture of humor (raunchy even at time!!), sorrow (Two significant deaths), happiness (wedding planning), and love (numerous love duos and triangles) carries us along a wonderfully fulfilling story.  The couple above is Melur (passenger – Pamela Chong) and Mahesh (Mahesh Jug al Kishor) her “driver” and a deaf-mute, truly show how opposites attract.  The film touches on themes of first love, lost love, cultural and religious difference.  The story though is stole by one of the other contestants named Hafiz (Mohd Syafie Naswip).  He is a guitar playing singer who’s “original” songs deal with first love and then more movingly the recent death of his mother.  I can honestly say I was brought to tears more during this film then any other film (including Mao’s Last Dancer – where I balled at the end).  Yasmin Ahmad was a director that completely understood emotions and how to pull and tug at them to create brilliant art.

Yoichi Sai directed this wonderful story of ninjas, sharks, and tons of death.  KAMUI (Ken’ichi Matsuyama) is a rouge ninja that is always hunted by his former dojo mates and after a wild journey, he finds himself washed up on the shores of a small fishing village.  A person from Kamui’s past has been a member of the village since last time they encountered each other.  The film was enjoyable long before the shark-killing pirates showed up, but boy did it amp things up when they did.  The final battle between Kamui and Fudo (Hideaki Ito) is just BAD ASS – if you’re a fan of Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s battle of King Arthur and the Black Knight, then you’ll love the Kamui/Fudo fight!!!  It might not have had the appeal of ROBOGEISHA or the budget of IP MAN 2 – but Kamui was just pure fun ninja time.

We’ve previously talked about the wonderful directorial debut of Yang Ik-Joon and his abrasive film BREATHLESS.  Yang is the lead in the story of a ill-tempered and violent debt collector named Sang-Hoon.  We see Sang-Hoon at his violent worst and we slowly see the change in him because of his lovable nephew and a mouthy high school senior Yeon-Hue (Kim Kot-Bi).  Both Sang-Hoon and Yeon-Hue share a very tough home life and their borderline romance of a friendship is just so gripping.  The tale is obviously headed for a horrible and sad ending that Yang does a wonderful job of not jumping to quickly to.  Sang-Hoon deserves to pay for all that he does and has done to others around him, but in the end you just wish that he’d learned the lessons earlier.  Once past the shock of Sang-Hoon’s abrasive demeanor you have the chance to really see the full change of his character.  This film easily could have failed and yet the exact opposite is accomplished.  This movie is worth the time and money.

AFFD 2010 was filled with wonderful films and I can’t wait for next year – THE 10th ANNIVERSARY FOLKS!!!

Netflix all of these films above.

PSD will have two more pieces on AFFD as we cover the Mao’s Last Dancer Q & A and The People I’ve Slept With Q & A in the next few days.

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One response

30 07 2010
alicia

Hey, thanks for writing about and attending AFFD this year!

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