Thursday, March 22, 2012

Phil attends the SFIAAFF at the Camera 3: Day Three-March 18, 2011

Hello again everyone and welcome to the third and final day of my trip to the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival here at the Camera Cinemas! Today I was planning to see another five films today (if that was possible) but I settled for three. But let me explain what happened.

So there were two other films that I wanted to see originally: YES, WE'RE OPEN and VIETTE. Now when I got to the Camera 3 I was informed that both of these films had sold out! Needless to say I was quite bummed. However, later on in the Psycho Donuts area of the theater, I met Mye Hoang, who wrote, acted, and directed the film VIETTE! She was selling festival DVD autographed copies of her film, and yours truly bought one. Also, she was kind enough to personalized my copy for me, so thank you Mye and keep your eyes peeled here for my review of VIETTE in the very near future! So let's talk about the three films that I did see today!

First film up was the inspiring documentary MRS. JUDO: BE STRONG, BE GENTLE, BE BEAUTIFUL. The film's about Keiko Fukuda, who is just one of only four Judo practitioners in the world to currently hold the 10th Dan, Judo’s highest degree black belt. She is also the only women in the world to have this prestigious honor. Oh, did I mention she's only less than five feet tall, weighs less than 100 pounds, and is also 98 years old? This incredible and unbelievable doc tells Fukuda's life as it traces her seven decade Judo career: her travels to different countries, her commitment to the Judo teachings, and the sexism she encountered during her lifetime.

The documentary was preceded by the 25 minute short film RING LAILA, and it's about young women raised in the slums of Kolkata who who take up boxing. The film was directed by Anurada Rana. Check out the film's official website at

Director Yuriko Gamo Romer did a marvelous job creating the film by using rare archival footage, family and personal photos, and plenty of insightful and intimate interviews. After the screening, director Romer and Keiko Fukuda herself came down to participate in a Q&A session. Granted Fukuda was in a wheelchair and was tired but it was cool to meet her! So as a result Romer mostly answered the audiences' questions. Another great documentary that needs to be seen! Be sure to check out the film's official Facebook page at

The second film I saw was Indian drama ABU, SON OF ADAM. Basically, the film's about Abu and Aisu, a loving old Muslim couple in their late 70s who've been scrapping and saving to go on trip to Hajj, but only according to all diktats of Islam. People offer them money, but it's against their religion. They get set to go, then they can't, and that happens quite a lot in the film. Slow and quiet, the film was India’s official entry to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 84th Academy Awards and the 2012 Golden Globes.

OK, with apologies to the Academy, the Golden Globes, and to the SFIAAFF, this film didn't do anything for me. None at all. Yes, it was beautifully directed, but I didn't connect with the film at all. To be honest, I found it to be flat and forgettable. Some people liked it, but I would pass on this film.

The third and film film of the festival was another documentary. MR. CAO GOES TO WASHINGTON was about Joseph Cao, the first Vietnamese American Republican ever to be elected to Congress and his bid for re-election in 2010. Producer/director S. Leo Chiang followed Congressman Cao for over two years, chronicling the whole story: from his surprise win in the African American Democratic district in New Orleans, being the only Republican to vote for Obama's Health Care Bill, and the pressure to be re-elected. The documentary was also produced by CAAM as well!

After the screening, both Cao and director Chiang participated in a long and informative Q&A with the audience. This was my favorite documentary at the festival! Insightful, intriguing, sometimes funny, and tragic as well! To learn more about the film and future screenings, check out the film's official website at

Well another SFIAAFF has come to an end! Overall I saw nine films in two and a half days! Not too shabby! Hopefully I can see more films at next year's festival. So do yourself a favor and make plans to come out to the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. To learn more about the festival, make donations, visit the Center for Asian American Media's website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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