Related Articles: Movies, All

The 21st San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival

I didn't think it was possible, but this year the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival is even better than the last. The focus turns to South Asian cinema with an all-star roster that will blow your mind away Bollywood style. This might be your only chance of seeing the worldwide Indian blockbuster spectacular Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in all its glory or the heart wrenching, you'll-cry-for-three-hours-but-be-a-better-person-for-it, Mother India (the crème de la crème of Indian flicks) at the Castro. Waiting nearly a year to see the number one comedy in England, Bend it Like Beckham, was worth every minute; you'll walk out of the theater walking on air. If you love sports try catching The Game of Their Lives about the 1966 North Korean soccer team that provides a rare look inside the country, or YMCA Baseball Team hailing from South Korea about a group of baseball players fighting for more than just a run. If you love music, you'll be swimming in it - the Directions in Sound programs, the doc Mutiny and Music Video Asia will have you dancing in your seats.

It's rare that so many outstanding movies can be seen in this city all within the span of a little more than a week. This is your chance - get out of your house and go see a movie. The stellar line-up includes:

Bend it Like Beckham - OPENING NIGHT
After watching this movie not only will you have a big, fat grin on your face, you'll feel an irrational need to fly to England just to buy the soundtrack. Soccer, the Spice Girls and love get kicked around in this romantic comedy about a young woman with a gift for soccer, from a family of conservative Indian immigrants, who tries to balance a love for the sport, a desire to please her family and an obsession with famed soccer god David Beckham.

Robot Stories - CLOSING NIGHT
How do you insert a robot motif through a series of vignettes without venturing into your typical sci-fi territory? Just watch this film and you'll find out! In every moving story an automaton plays an integral role that allows the people around them to become more human.

Crouching Dragon, Hidden Cheese
There's a reason this program only screens late at night. Every year the most random and uncategorizable shorts are put into this program of all programs. Among the most quirky are Daniel Hsia's "How To Do the Asian Squat", an instructional film about the preferred sitting style in the Asian streets, another how-to film meets camp-fest "The Japanese Tradition: Sushi" by Junji Kojima, "Random Acts of Violence" by Michael Velasquez which features the first ever fight scene with a skateboard, SFIAAFF veteran and darling Wes Kim's new short "Why it's a Good Thing" which dispels stereotypes by exploring them and the satirical comedy "Fist of Cheese" by Abraham Lim that has one of the best dubs jobs this side of Hong Kong.

The Game of their Lives
This BBC doc gives you access to North Korea like you have never seen before and perhaps may never see again. It looks at the country's 1966 star-studded World Cup soccer team as they traveled to England only to beat the grandmasters of Italy. This stylish, exceptionally well-made film pays homage to the beautiful sport while exploring complex political issues and racial harmony. Some scenes are so touching they just might make you cry.

Eliana, Eliana
The director of this film, Riri Raza, should give a lesson in digital filmmaking. Hailing from Indonesia, it follows the gorgeous and alluring Eliana as she battles her overbearing mother, runs around trying to find her missing roommate and tries to make sense of life. This charismatic film will have you mesmerized.

Mutiny: Asians Storm British Music
The mere existence of this film makes me happy. Filmmaker Vivek Bald examines the origins of the Asian dub scene by interviewing its major players - Asian Dub Foundation, the Voodoo Queens (an all-girl punk band with three Asian members, who would have thought?), Fun-da-mental (considered the first radical Asian band), Talvin Singh (who sports no less than three hairstyles) and many, many more - about their musical influences, what drove them to become musicians and growing up amidst deteriorating race relations in the U.K. Offering great historical footage and clips of live shows, this doc is NOT to be missed!

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
Otherwise known as K2H2, this Bollywood blockbuster starring Mr. Bollywood himself, Shahrukh Khan, is a rare opp to see singing, dancing, and bizarre love triangles all in one seating at which promises to be one seriously surreal screening. The storyline is a your typical boy meets girl, they dance, boy meets another girl, then they dance, then they all dance together, girls realize they're in love, more singing, one girl flees while the other stays, yet more dancing - you get the drift. If you've never seen a Bollywood (India's version of Hollywood) film before now is your chance, if you've seen K2H2 a dozen times - you've never seen it this way before, trust me.

Directions in Sound
Bands, DJs and videos - what more could you possibly want? Three nights of insanity: punk bands (like Pete the Genius and Piano Drag), hip-hop (give it up for Derrick D and Fuse One plus two more outstanding impresarios), the Dhamaal crew versus NYC's Mutiny (DJs Rekha and Siraiki, two fierce women DJ's that bring it all home) crew spinning some serious plastic and videos from six outstanding bands including, local band Soulstice's "Fall into You", Ee's "One Year Less" and Sunday's Best "Don't Let it Fade". These events will have you running to your nearest record store for more.

3rd I South Asian International Shorts
This program is my personal favorite and rarely have I seen a program in which EVERY SINGLE SHORT is awesome. Seriously, every single one rocks the mic. "Badger" by Rajshree Ojha is a technically masterful piece about a respected, dedicated teacher gripping with his role, "The Drop" by Hardeep Singh Kohli is a hilarious glimpse into the lives of four friends on a mission with high production values and great edits, Yousaf Ali Khan's "Skin Deep" is a harrowing look into a mixed race boy's struggle to assimilate in a racially divided community, and "Butterfly" by Tanuj Chopra featuring the superstar actress, Tilottma Shome who plays 'Alice' in Monsoon Wedding, is a sensuous and poignant love story.

My Life as McDull
Cute and cuddly, you'll want to reach in and give McDull a great, big hug. This Japanese animated feature follows a 'lil piggy as he learns the lessons of life. Sweet and unassuming, this film is family-friendly and is a breath of fresh air.

The Dream Life of Asians
This experimental shorts program will not disappoint. Not when it offers pieces like "Whizewhig" by Chih Cheng Peng which inserts a bit of spice into San Francisco's landscape, Wes Kim's "Vision Test" whose comedy knows no bounds by making a seemingly ordinary trip to the eye-doctor a socio-cultural experiment and the claymation "Vessel Wrestling" by Lisa Yu, a gothic-horror short that's somehow cute and lovely.

Bollywood Bound
Four aspiring actors/models/TV personalities from Canada have their hopes on Bollywood in this funny and honest doc. Some have already made it and are looking for the next big step while others are never going to make it and need to get their asses home. Think The IT Factor, the hit series on Bravo, but with brown people. To quote ol' Frankie Blue Eyes, "If you can make it here [in this case Bollywood] you can make it anywhere." The resulting struggle is too good to miss.

Mother India
When you think of the best in Indian cinema think of everything Satyajit Ray ever made and think of this one of a kind film. Directed by Mehboob Khan, this masterpiece is an allegory for the struggling yet proud country post-independence. A young mother is abandoned by her husband after he becomes maimed in an accident; she is left with three children to fend for and debt up to her eyeballs. What does she do? Watch and find out. If you see one movie at the fest- let this be it. You will never, ever forget it.