Welcome back to Day Two of my trip to the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival at the Camera 3 Cinemas!! Today I saw five films so let's get started shall we?
The first film I saw was NINJA KIDS, the newest film by acclaimed director Takashi Miike. Based on the popular Manga comic, the film's about Rantaro, a cute little eight-year-old kid who has wild looking orange-ish hair and big Harry Potter-like glasses. His parents send him off to ninja academy to become a great ninja and to bring honor to their family. Once there he makes friends with his classmates, who are also wild and crazy in their own way. Dressed in cool blue ninja pajamas, the class learns the fundamentals of rock climbing, explosives, and ninja star throwing. But soon their skills are put to the test as Rantaro and his friends must protect the Saito clan, who are former ninjas turned cross-dressing hair stylists that look like they came straight out of the Castro district. With the help and guidance from their teachers, the boys bravely defend the Saito clan, and Rantaro learns the true meaning of the word ninja.
Back in July of last year at the Camera 3, I saw Miike's last film 13 ASSASSINS, which in my review I mentioned that, "not since Akira Kurosawa's 1954 masterpiece SEVEN SAMURAI has there been a samurai film of this perfection." So when I saw this film, which is a family film, I was completely blown away! The fact that Miike made a film that was a complete 180 degrees from his last was staggering. The film felt like it was filtered through acid filled orange Kool-Aid. It was trippy, bizarre, absurd, and I loved every minute of it! The film was picked up and distributed by Warner Brothers (if you can believe that) and hopefully will be playing soon at a movie theater near you! In the meantime, check out the film's official website (it's in Japanese) at wwws.warnerbros.co.jp/nintama.
Film number two of the day was the WERE WE LIVE SHORTS PROGRAM. The program consisted of eight short films about family, love, life, and death:
L.A. COFFIN SCHOOL: A group of students attend this special school to experience their own deaths and relive past memories of their lives.
THE CHAMPIONS: A very funny film about a neurotic family called the Champions that believes that there house is haunted....by an evil spirit living their couch.
BEI YAN WAN SHANGHAI: In Shanghai there is a migrant worker district called Bel Yan Wan that is about to be demolished and the film follows two families from this area.
DEREK & LUCAS: Two boys playing soccer discover a dying dog in the woods and argue on what to do about it.
WERE WE LIVE: A short doc about the Hamad family, who now live here in the US but are still reminded of their traumatic experience living in Iraq. Very powerful and disturbing short film.
SHANGRA-LA: A funny short film about a group of Tibetan monks now living in a Bay Area suburb that wonders why people don't come out of their homes.
RAYMOND: An emotional and funny film about a young man named Raymond who returns home to the Bay Are to tell his family and his ex-boyfriend that he has cancer.
DOL, FIRST BIRTHDAY: The film's about a Korean American gay man who comes home to partake in his nephew's first birthday.
After the program, the cast and crew of the short film RAYMOND participated in a Q&A session. Overall these were some amazing short films!
The third film of the day was SURROGATE VALENTINE 2: DAYLIGHT SAVINGS (or just DAYLIGHT SAVINGS), the new film by Dave Boyle. In this sequel to last year's Closing Night smash hit, singer/songwriter/rocker Goh Nakamura returns as "Goh." Life's been good for Goh as of late. His music has been featured in a big time television commercial for the drug Relatrix, and he's about to go on his biggest tour of his life when his girlfriend in L.A. Ayako Fujitan (daughter of Steven Seagal) breaks up with him via Skype. Heartbroken and shaken, Goh wanders aimlessly through San Francisco while hanging out with his old flame Rachael (the lovely Lynn Chen). At his going away party he meets fellow musician and new love interest Yea-Ming (playing herself), the lead singer from the group Dreamdate. Before Goh can make his move, she leaves to go do a show in Las Vegas. Feeling a connection with her, Goh's cousin Mike (Michael Aki) convinces him to go on a madcap roadtrip with him to Sin City and see if there is something between them.
The film is a perfect follow-up to the first film. Our friend Goh grows up in this film and we see him go through a wide range of emotions that are heartfelt and oh to real. The real Goh's acting in the film was really good and seeing Lynn again is always a pleasure. But kuddos goes to Yea-Ming, who really shines in the film. Also the soundtrack in the film is incredible! Both Goh and Yea-Ming provide some astounding music that you should own! After the screening, Boyle, Goh, Yea-Ming, Michael, and members of the Top Hats Motorcycle Club participated in a fun Q&A session. To learn more about the film and to purchase a copy of the soundtrack, visit the film's official website at http://surrogatevalentine.com.
The fourth film I saw was the ultra cool and ultra hilarious NICE GIRLS CREW. The film focuses on three best friends Sophie (Lynn Chen), Leena (Sheetal Sheth), and Geraldine (Michelle Krusiec), who have known each other since grade school. Now as adults, they are reunited and decided to start a book club called, you guessed it, Nice Girls Crew. In five separate shorts, the girls tackle a different book with different results that leads to some of the funniest moments I have ever seen captured on film! The series was produced by the Center for Asian American Media and it was also created and written by Festival staff member Christine Kwon. The films were also co-written and directed by filmmaker Tanuj Chopra, whose film PUNCHING AT THE SUN was screened at 2006 film fest. NICE GIRLS CREW was the first film series to be produced by CAAM and to have it premiere during the festival was awesome! After the screening both Kwon and Chopra held a fun-filled Q&A that hinted that there could be more of NGC films in the near future. I for one would love to see more of this series! Make sure you check out the series' official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ngcseries.
The fifth and final film I saw was the HBO produced documentary LOVE CRIMES OF KABUL. Set at the Bagh Women's Prison in Kabul, Afghanistan, the film follows a group of women who are incarcerated for premarital sex, running away from home, and adultery.. Emmy-nominated director Tanaz Eshaghian tells the stories of these women and reminds us that in other countries, women are still being treated like second class citizens.
Words cannot describe just how shocking the documentary was. Raw, unflinching, and unnerving, the film really get your blood boiling and makes you wonder how and why some societies still treat women this way, granting them no rights or a voice to speak their minds or opinions. A powerful and disturbing documentary that really got under my skin. Highly recommended!! To learn more about the film and to see when it will be shown, visit the film's official HBO website at www.hbo.com/documentaries/love-crimes-of-kabul/index.html.
Today was a great day of film watching! Six films in two days, and there's still more to see on Sunday! To learn more about Center for Asian American Media and the film festival, and to make donations, please visit their website at http://caamedia.org.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!