Asian American International Film Festival to Screen Japanese-Related Titles

Asian American Film Festival

Wednesday, July 26 through Saturday, August 5

Village East Cinema – 189 2nd Avenue (between 11th and 12th Streets)
Asia Society – 725 Park Avenue at 70th Street

Admission: $15/$11 seniors, students, handicapped patrons, Asian CineVision Members and Community Partners

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Asian American International Film Festival, and the nation’s first and longest running Asian-interest film festival has a lineup of 20 feature films and 63 shorts representing 18 countries, including Japan, of course. There are almost 20 films from Japan that are by Japanese, Japanese American, or Japanese Canadian filmmakers or focus on Japanese topics. Several films are sprinkled throughout AAIFF’s eleven short film programs, covering a range of voices in the working world, gender equality, LGBTQ issues, and specifically in Japan itself.

JapanCulture•NYC is proud to partner with AAIFF on two screenings! We’re co-presenting the shorts series Japanese Narratives – Nihongo Stories of Japan, screening on Friday, July 28 at 7:00 p.m. at Village East Cinemas, and Proof of Loyalty: Kazuo Yamane and the Nisei Soldiers of Hawaii on Thursday, August 3 at 9:30 p.m. at Asia Society. Thanks to the generosity of our friends at AAIFF, JC•NYC readers will receive a 25% discount for general admission tickets to ANY film or program during the festival – not just the Japanese ones! Use promo code JCNYCaaiff40 when purchasing tickets through AAIFF’s website.

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Five Percent Man

SHORTS: HOW WE WORK (CAREER CHOICES)

Friday, July 28 at 6:30 p.m.

Village East Cinema – 189 2nd Avenue (between 11th and 12th Streets)

Representing the most grueling and harsh work Asians have to face and endure just to get by, the stories and lives in these films showcase the tenacity, hard-working mentality and perseverance Asians show not just in the workplace, but in life as well. Two of the five shorts in this series have Japanese and Japanese American themes: Five Percent Man and Cliff, Superfan.

  • Five Percent Man
    Directed by Takeshi Tanaka
    Japan / 2016 / 25 mins / Japanese with English subtitles / New York City Premiere
    Kishida (31) is an independent film producer. Recently he has been working closely with a television documentary program. In the midst of that he gets a phone call. The call is from Naomi Yamaguchi (31), a young film director who says, “I want to make the movie of my lifetime.” If she makes the movie, she wonders if he would work together with her even if the pay were low. While he can understand her passion as she presses him to do this, Kishida is not convinced and the two disagree in their views. Set in the independent film industry, this is a story about the environment surrounding young creators in their daily efforts to make something, and the hardships and troubles that they face.
  • Cliff, Superfan
    Directed by Diane Quon
    USA / 2016 / 27 mins / English / New York City Premiere
    Friday, July 28 at 6:30 p.m.
    Village East Cinema – 189 2nd Avenue (between 11th and 12th Streets)
    In the last 22 years, 68-year-old Clifford Hayashi has attended more than 4,000 Stanford games. Nicknamed “Stanford’s Superfan,” Cliff leads cheers, imparts statistics, and travels the country to attend games. His devotion to multiple sports and the athletes is unshakable and legendary. But although most know who Cliff is, the man himself remains a mystery. Usually attending games alone, Cliff does not own a phone or computer. Until a year ago, he did not own a car.

 

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So, We Draw Gold Fishes

SHORTS: JAPANESE NARRATIVES – NIHONGO STORIES OF JAPAN
Presented in Association with JapanCulture•NYC

Friday, July 28 at 7:00 p.m.

Village East Cinema – 189 2nd Avenue (between 11th and 12th Streets)

Featuring the very best of shorts submitted from Japan, from bone washing to two strangers falling in love after a suicide attempt to the adventures of four young schoolgirls, this vivid collection provides a unique range of perspectives on a rich culture.

  • My Bird
    Directed by Toshiyuki Ichihara
    Japan, UK / 32 mins / Japanese with English subtitles / New York City Premiere
    Doi, a middle-aged bird watcher, happens to find a girl committing suicide by jumping into the stream and somehow saves her life. The girl has a crush on the lifesaver and then Doi starts getting attracted to the young girl who is far apart in age like father and daughter.
  • So, We Draw Goldfishes
    Directed by Makoto Nagahisa
    Japan / 2016 / 28 mins / Japanese with English subtitles / New York City Premiere
    So, We Draw Goldfishes takes a look into the lives of four 15-year-old girls living mundane lives in a conservative town without much entertainment. However, one summer day, they release 400 goldfish in a swimming pool at a secondary school.
  • Born Bone Boom
    Directed by Gori
    Japan / 20 mins / Japanese with English subtitles / New York City Premiere
    Hitoshi has returned to his hometown of Agunishima, Okinawa, to introduce his wife, Yuko, to the family. But Yuko is furious when she’s told the reason for the trip home. The true purpose was for the “senkotsu” ceremony – Agunishima’s continuing custom of cleansing the bones of the dead. This is a heartwarming comedy of a disconnected family discovering their true selves through the ceremony of cleansing bones.
  • No Song to Sing
    Directed by Lukasz Gasiorowski
    Japan / 24 mins / Japanese with English subtitles / New York City Premiere
    A professional femme fatale enjoys selling fantasies to lonely men but when she becomes caught in the web of her own deceptions, she finds herself unable to pay the price of her own merchandise.

 

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Akashi

SHORTS: NEVERTHELESS, SHE PERSISTED: STORIES OF WOMEN

Saturday, July 29 at 9:00 p.m.

Village East Cinema – 189 2nd Avenue (between 11th and 12th Streets)

Though society has progressed rapidly over the past few decades, gender inequality still persists throughout the world. Societal standards and discrimination manifest in everything from employment to wages to simple interpersonal relationships. Asian women in particular struggle with these issues, oftentimes finding their gender clashing with their cultural identity.

  • Mango Sticky Rice
    Directed by Mallorie Buenaventura Ortega
    USA / 2017 / 15 mins / English / New York City Premiere
    Mango Sticky Rice is a musical romance written by Naomi Iwamoto, whose short film Best Buds is also screening during AAIFF. The musical focuses on Katie, a young woman who loves food, and Chris, a restaurant deliveryman who has fallen for Katie but doesn’t have the courage to tell her. For Katie, who is fiercely protective of her individuality, the concept of changing just to satisfy others is out of the question. After Katie’s family and friends pressure her to try online dating, she chooses the Thai restaurant where Chris works as the setting for her dates. In the comfort of her favorite eatery, Katie reluctantly goes through the motions of an internet-induced courtship, while Chris longingly watches from the sidelines.
  • Akashi
    Directed by Mayumi Yoshida
    Canada / 2017 / 10 mins / Japanese with English subtitles / New York City Premiere
    Kana, a young woman from Japan, is pursuing her career in North America and has adapted to her new environment. However, her new lifestyle has made her emotionally distant, and she can’t seem to sustain a long-term relationship. Her mother calls informing Kana that Grandma passed away. As Kana returns home to pay her respects, she begins to recall her most intimate conversation with grandma. In their talk, Grandma is proud of Kana for leaving Japan. Kana argues it’s even harder to raise a family and sustain a marriage for a lifetime. Grandma tells Kana that their marriage was far from ideal, and to Kana’s surprise, Grandma reveals a secret that changes Kana’s attitudes on relationships.

 

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All Our Father’s Relations

All Our Father’s Relations
Directed by Alejandro Yoshizawa
Canada / 2016 / 56 mins / English / New York City Premiere

Saturday, July 29 at 9:45 p.m.

Village East Cinema – 189 2nd Avenue (between 11th and 12th Streets)

Children to a mother who was the last fluent hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ speaker from the Musqueam First Nation, the Grant siblings were brought up in their Indigenous culture, language, and spirituality, and yet, they were never considered “Indian” by the federal government of Canada.

Directed by Japanese Canadian filmmaker Alejandro Yoshizawa, All Our Father’s Relations tells the story of the Grant siblings who journey from Vancouver to China in an attempt to rediscover their father’s roots and better understand his fractured relationship with their Musqueam mother. Elders now, the Grants and their story reveal the shared struggles of migrants and Indigenous peoples today and in the past.

Examining complex notions of home and identity, as well as destructive colonial policies that continue to impact Indigenous peoples, All Our Father’s Relations is very relevant in today’s political climate in North America.

 

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Semiotics of Sab

SHORTS: STILL HERE, NOT GOING AWAY: PERSPECTIVES ON IDENTITY

Sunday, July 30 at 2:00 p.m.

Asia Society – 725 Park Avenue at 70th Street

Ever since the 2017 election, the American media landscape has been flooded with stories sympathetic to supporters of the current administration. Absent from this narrative are the millions of people of color negatively affected by policies and agendas in the new political environment. The following films represent and showcase the unique presence and voices to be heard of the millions of Asian Americans in the Western World.

 

  • Semiotics of Sab
    Directed by Tina Takemoto
    USA / 2016 / 6 mins / English
    A five-decade career. A five-minute tribute. Tina Takemoto’s rapidfire experimental film essay memorializes the career of gay Japanese American actor Sab Shimono, using his expansive career of over 150 roles to explore the poetics of queer Asian American masculinity.

 

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The Lockpicker

The Lockpicker
Directed by Randall Okita
Canada / 2016 / 105 mins / English / New York City Premiere

Sunday, July 30 at 2:00 p.m.

Village East Cinema – 189 2nd Avenue (between 11th and 12th Streets)

The Lockpicker is a portrait of a coming-of-age thief processing personal trauma with the scarcest help from both his family and society. Levelheaded and deftly shot, the film builds raw emotional forces from the accretion of slight moments of remembrance of regrets and visions of violence.

 

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The Surrounding Game

The Surrounding Game
Directed by Will Lockhart, Cole Pruitt
USA / 2017 / 97 mins / Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean with English subtitles / New York City Premiere

Sunday, July 30 at 4:30 p.m.

Village East Cinema – 189 2nd Avenue (between 11th and 12th Streets)

The game of Go, hailed as mankind’s most complicated board game, has claimed centuries of play. Today in East Asia, you can find children get trained in special Go academies and reach high levels of mastery at young ages, while in the West, the Go scene is much less dignified and mainstream despite the community’s burning enthusiasm for the game.

The Surrounding Game follows lives of America’s top young Go players over the course of four years in China, Korea, Japan, and the United States, using their efforts to launch the first Western professional Go system as a framing device while delving into the beauty of this three-thousand-year old intellectual art/sport, as well as its fanatical players’ quest for greater meaning of life by dedicating thousands of hours in the game. In The Surrounding Game, we meet Andy Liu, Ben Lockhart, and Curtis Tang as they participate in the first professional Go certification exam in the United States and vie to become the first-ever American professional Go players. The three young Go prodigies reveal their hopes and anxieties about life as they embarked on the journey through the world of Go, illuminating the tight-knit Go scene in North America in particular, as well as a coming-of-age story of what it means to live a meaningful life as a whole.

Directors/Producers Will Lockhart and Cole Pruitt are master players of Go and co-founders of the American Collegiate Go Association. The Surrounding Game is their debut feature film and the first feature documentary about the game of Go.

 

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Proof of Loyalty

Proof of Loyalty: Kazuo Yamane and the Nisei Soldiers of Hawaii
Presented in Association with JapanCulture•NYC
Directed by Lucy Ostrander and Don Sellers
USA / 2017 / 55 mins / English with English subtitles / World Premiere

Thursday, August 3 at 9:30 p.m.

Asia Society – 725 Park Avenue at 70th Street

Kazuo Yamane and the Nisei Soldiers of Hawaii tells the story of a Japanese American who played a crucial strategic role in World War II. He and his fellow Nisei from Hawaii combatted prejudice and discrimination to loyally serve their country. Their extraordinary service, mostly untold, ultimately changed the course of U.S. history.

 

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Sunsets

Sunsets
Directed by Michael Aki, Eric Nakamura
USA / 1997 / 98 mins / English

Friday, August 4 at 9:30 p.m.

Village East Cinema – 189 2nd Avenue (between 11th and 12th Streets)

In this independent drama, Dave and Mark are two buddies who have recently graduated from high school in Watsonville, California. Dave works in a comic book store, while Mark is preparing to go to college in the fall. When their friend Gary is released from jail, the three spend most of the summer drinking beer, chasing girls, and committing petty crimes. As the fall approaches, and with it the first stages of responsible adulthood, the three realize that the days are numbered for their friendship as they know it.

Sunsets is part of the retrospective Class of ’97, which celebrates four features by Asian American filmmakers 20 years ago. A panel discussion will take place on Saturday, August 5 (see below).

 

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Best Buds

SHORTS: LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE (LGBTQ)

Friday, August 4 at 9:30 p.m.

Asia Society – 725 Park Avenue at 70th Street

On May 24, Taiwan became the first Asian nation to legalize same-gender marriage, giving hope to LGBTQ Asians across the globe. Unfortunately, one ruling cannot erase the discrimination LGBTQ Asians face. In many Asian countries, being gay or transgender is still illegal, even punishable by death. That’s what makes telling the stories of LGBTQ Asians so important. The following films reflect the wide range of experiences of LGBTQ Asians around the world. One of the films in this series is directed by Naomi Iwamoto, a Nisei born in LA.

  • Best Buds
    Directed by Naomi Iwamoto
    USA / 2017 / 11 mins / English / New York City Premiere
    Two actors. One car. Ten minutes.
    Danny (Ronak Gandhi) and Grace (Michelle Farrah Huang) have been best buds since they were kids. They know each other better than they know themselves. At least that’s what they thought, until a weekly hot-boxing ritual revealed secrets that will change their relationship forever.

 

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Defender

Defender
Directed by Jeff Adachi
USA / 2016 / 79 mins / English with English subtitles / New York City Premiere

Saturday, August 5 at noon

Asia Society – 725 Park Avenue at 70th Street

This deeply relevant documentary follows the work of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who has been fighting for justice and equality ever since he learned of his family’s internment during World War II. Taking on everything from police brutality to Donald Trump’s unconstitutional executive orders, Adachi proves that while racism is well and alive in America, there will always be brave people dedicated to fighting it.

 

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Strawberry Fields

Strawberry Fields
Directed by Rea Tajiri
USA / 90 mins / English

Saturday, August 5 at 2:00 p.m.

Asia Society – 725 Park Avenue at 70th Street

The story of the film centers on Irene Kawai, a Japanese American teenager in Chicago in the 1970s who is haunted by a photo of her grandfather she never knew, standing by a barracks in a World War II internment camp for Japanese Americans. Prompted by visits from the ghost of Terri, her dead baby sister, Irene journeys with her boyfriend, Luke, on a road trip to Arizona, where the Poston War Relocation Center once stood, and where the photo of her grandfather was taken.

Dierctor Rea Tajiri will attend the screening.

Strawberry Fields is part of the retrospective Class of ’97, which celebrates four features by Asian American filmmakers 20 years ago. A panel discussion will take place on Saturday, August 5 (see below).

 

THE CLASS OF ’97 PANEL: “THE ASIAN AMERICAN NEW WAVE”

Saturday, August 5 at 4:00 p.m.

Asia Society – 725 Park Avenue at 70th Street

1997 was a banner year, with four features making the rounds on the film-festival circuit—Michael Idemoto and Eric Nakamura’s Sunsets, Rea Tajiri’s Strawberry Fields, Chris Chan Lee’s Yellow, Quentin Lee and Justin Lin’s Shopping for Fangs. These four talented Asian-American filmmakers, considered by cinema and Asian American studies scholars and industry observers as the Asian American New Wave.

All four features have found their own way to theatrical distribution, and the four films, taken together, are emblematic of the state of Asian American cinema in the late Nineties. Each of these movies grapples with questions of Asian American identity in widely divergent ways, and the different paths they have taken to distribution reveals much about the way independent films are released in the U.S.

In addition to the four screenings, a joint panel will trace the directors’ individual careers and creative process.

See these exciting titles and support Asian CineVision, the non-profit media arts organization that presents the festival! To see the full lineup of films and to purchase tickets, please visit AAIFF’s website.