Visual Communication’s Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival goes virtual, runs September 24 through October 31, 2020

By Oliver Carnay

For complete list and other details on how to get tickets, please go to:

The largest festival of its kind in Southern California, LAAPFF is also a proud Academy Award®-qualifying film festival for the Short Film Awards. In a season where anti-Asian American sentiment and violence is alarmingly on the rise, LAAPFF’s programming hopes to mobilize and engage audiences towards social activism and civic engagement – a cornerstone that is part of the Festival’s foundation. This year’s productions by Asian American & Pacific Islander artists from across the globe will amplify themes, including race, immigration, gentrification/economic security, and the upcoming US election.The Festival will be presented online to stay in guidelines that protect the health and safety of the Festival community.

“2020 marks the 50th Anniversary for Visual Communications,” said Francis Cullado, Executive Director of Visual Communications. “The organization was born because our founders began searching for visual resources to build a greater consciousness of Asian Pacific history in America. Fueled by the burgeoning Civil Rights and Anti-War movements, they set out creating learning kits, photographing community events, audiotaping stories, and collecting historical images of Asian Pacific American lives. I am proud that we are able to present another edition of LAAPFF, and that this year’s lineup centers select conversations that are most urgent to our communities here in America.”

From the short film and episodics lineup, select highlights include:

●World Premiere of MICHELLE (Dir.: Kenya Gillespie). In this narrative short, a shy 10-year-old girl fights off her bullies with a little help from her idol: decorated U.S. figure skater Michelle Kwan.

● PASSAGE, directed by Asavari Kumar, follows an Indian woman who revisits her immigration journey and voyages through a tempestuous emotional landscape of memory, identity, belonging and the illusion of the American dream.

● The World Premiere of MAY 35 (Dir.: Tina Takemoto). This experimental film is a haunting commemoration of the Tiananmen Square uprising made from fragments of censored archival imagery transferred onto film using razor blades and scotch tape. “May 35” is a phrase used to evade the censorship of evidence pertaining to the violence that began on June 4th, 1989.

●The narrative short BLACK GHOST SON (Dir.: Christopher Low) follows a first generation Chinese American, as he struggles with raising his black son, having to face deep seated prejudice from his family, culture, and himself.

●RED LADIES, directed by Parida Tantiwasadakran, is a witty look at when a daughter returns home to stop her mom from becoming the first female Asian American Republican assemblywoman, but is instead blackmailed into being a part of her mother’s campaign ads.

● The North American Premiere of I’M NOT YOUR F***ING STEREOTYPE (Dir.: Hesome Chemamah). In this award-winning narrative short, a Muslim girl from Southern Thailand falls prey to racism in school and spirals into an identity crisis.

● The World Premiere of STASIS (Dir.: Patrick Nan), which builds a dystopian parallel world where police artificial intelligence interrogates innocent people for unsupported crimes.

● World Premiere of Episodic series CLUB ULTRA (Dir.: Shelly Mar): When her partner is murdered, Officer Janice Acorn goes looking for justice. Instead, she finds the truth.

● Complete lineup of short films available here

A convergence for stories of AAPI storytellers in America and beyond, LAAPFF proudly announces the addition of the following titles to the features lineup:

●The World Premiere of SKY BLOSSOM: DIARIES OF THE NEXT GREATEST GENERATION, directed by Richard Lui, American journalist and news anchor for MSNBC and NBC News

● The West Coast Premiere of WAIKIKI. This narrative feature, directed by Christopher Kahunahana, explores life behind the superficial veneer of picture perfect tourist illusion of Hawaii. With a stunning performance from Danielle Zalopany, this will surely be a must-see of the Festival.

● The Los Angeles Premiere of THE MISEDUCATION OF BINDU, directed by Parthana Mohan. This soon to be classic charmed audiences at its world premiere in SXSW, with hilarious performances from Megan Suri and David Arquette.

Narrative highlights also include: the World Premieres of Mallorie Ortega’s THE GIRL WHO LEFT HOME and Yuechen Hao’s ONE MEAL; the North American Premiere of Shim Hye-Jung’s A BEDSORE; and the U.S. Premiere of Bao Tran’s THE PAPER TIGERS.

Documentary highlights include: The World Premiere of Richard Lui’s DIARIES OF THE NEXT GREATEST GENERATION; the North American Premiere of Ning Huo and Gary Shih’s NOODLE KID, the International Premiere of Heretu Tetahiotupa and Christophe Cordier’s PATUTIKI: THE GUARDIANS OF THE MARQUESAN TATTOO; and screenings of Hao Wu and Weixi Chen’s 76 DAYS, Ramona S. Diaz’s A THOUSAND CUTS, Ursula Liang’s DOWN A DARK STAIRWELL, and Jiayan “Jenny” Shi’s FINDING YINGYING.

In celebration of Filipino American History Month in October, LAAPF partners with NBCU TIPS for the special artist conversation “The Pinays Who Are Pipelining New Talent at NBCUniversal”. The panel will feature three of the powerhouse Talent Development Executives from Universal Filmed Entertainment Group and NBC Entertainment: Grace Moss, Jandiz Estrada Cardoso, and Rosemary Palacios. They will speak to leading the Hollywood charge for inclusion with groundbreaking and highly competitive talent pipeline programs.

To further honor the celebration of Filipino American History Month, LAAPFF invites audiences to check out titles from more Filipino/a/x artists, including:

● The World Premiere of Celine Parreñas Shimizu’s THE CELINE ARCHIVE, which explores the story of Celine Navarro who was buried alive by her community in Northern California.

● The World Premiere of THE GIRL WHO LEFT HOME. A musical written and directed by Mallorie Ortega, starring Haven Everly and Paolo Montalban.

●The World Premiere of ETA, written and directed by Justin Ricafort – a 2020 Visual Communications Armed With a Camera Fellow. The narrative short follows a middle aged Filipino father who moonlights nightly as a rideshare driver.

● The West Coast Premiere of DEATH OF NINTENDO. A narrative feature directed by Raya Martin and set in 90’s Manila, this film follows four friends who go on a journey of self-discovery together as they play videogames and wrestle with new dilemmas.

● The Los Angeles Premiere of HARANA, written and directed by Marie Jamora. In this narrative short, a cover band singer in a Vegas casino tries to connect with her daughter who is growing up in the Philippines without her.

● Kayamanan Ng Lahi Pamana Media Project, a short film program that celebrates kid media makers from the LA-based Filipino Cultural Dance group.

In addition to the film lineup, the LAAPFF team looks forward to creating a space where attendees can connect with one another. Every Friday to Sunday throughout the Festival, LAAPFF will host artist conversations programmed under the C3:Conference brand, where filmmakers and audience can gather, connect with each other, and listen to select artist conversations from peers.

In partnership with Okaeri and the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), LAAPFF will present “Coming Out and Coming Home: Documenting the Voices of Queer and Trans Japanese Americans,” a special conversation that celebrates the diverse experiences of the Japanese and Japanese American LGBTQ Community.

Building on the success of last year’s debut, the 2020 edition of the REORIENT program will highlight creative works in emerging media—virtual reality, video games, live streaming, and more. All REORIENT programming is accessible from laptops and/or mobile devices, and is free to the public.

“Although we are sheltering at home, the projects featured in REORIENT bring us to outer space and the depths of the ocean, into digital worlds and the minds of plants.” says Sue Ding, REORIENT Senior Programmer. “This year’s program also showcases innovative responses to the constraints of creating and connecting amidst a global pandemic. From Zoom performances to interactive soundscapes, these projects offer compelling explorations of our relationship to community, memory, and the world(s) around us.”

As part of an ongoing partnership with HBO® and their commitment to magnify emerging filmmakers, the Festival is excited to premiere the winners of this year’s HBO APA Visionaries Short Film Competition: Tiffany So’s FINE CHINA, Johnson Cheng’s LONELY BLUE NIGHT, and Thomas Percy Kim’s SI. With the theme of “Breaking Barriers,” this year’s competition drew a record number of film submissions that provided a unique lens into the challenges and victories of overcoming obstacles. The evening of these premieres will have appearances from 2020 HBO APA Visionaries Ambassador Shannon Lee, performing artist NIKI, and more.

Continuing on previous years’ showcases of films from the Pacific Islands/Oceania, the Festival will continue to amplify the voices of those voices with stories and storytellers from Hawaii, Guam, New Zealand, Tonga, and Samoa. The films will be presented in an expanded Pacific Cinewaves shorts program, with additional feature films throughout the Festival.

LAAPFF will also showcase a selection of films from the Undocumented Filmmakers Collective, a group dedicated to centering the film expertise of undocumented people not only as sources of stories but also as creators, artists, and primary audiences.

Continuing to champion the power of short filmmaking, LAAPFF is proud to debut the works from Visual Communications’ filmmaker programs. The Digital Histories program is a mechanism for Asian Pacific American older adults to use their unique voices and perspectives in sharing stories with the generations to come. Since its creation in 2003, Digital Histories has provided a professional and artistic work environment for underserved, ethnic-minority seniors. This year, Digital Histories will debut non-fiction works that touch on courtship through love letters, Japanese American patriotism and more.

VC founded the Armed With a Camera (AWC) Fellowship for Emerging Media Artists to develop the next generation of Asian American and Pacific Islander artists and connect communities through the power of storytelling. The Fellowship boasts alumni including Christopher Yogi (AUGUST AT AKIKOS), Erin Li (KEPLER X-47, currently on Amazon Prime Video’s Eheria) and Roxy Shih (DARK/WEB). This year the Armed With a Camera World Premieres invite audiences into poignant reflections on family ties, cultural identities, and intimate portrait documentaries.

Narrative Features include:

A BEDSORE – North American Premiere
Director: Shim Hye-Jung
South Korea, 2019 – Korean with English subtitles
Gang Chang-sik lives with his wife who was struck by a cerebral haemorrhage, and her caretaker, a Korean Chinese woman and illegal immigrant.

DEATH OF NINTENDO – West Coast Premiere
Director: Raya Martin
USA, Philippines 2019 – Tagalog
Set in 90’s Manila, four friends go on a journey of self-discovery together as they play videogames and wrestle with new dilemmas.

GOODBYE MOTHER – Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Trinh Dinh Le Minh
Vietnam, 2019 – Vietnamese with English subtitles
A Vietnamese bachelor returns home from the U.S. with a Vietnamese American boyfriend, attempting to come out to his widowed mother.

I’LL MEET YOU THERE – West Coast Premiere
Director: Iram Parveen Bilal
USA, 2020 – Urdu, English with English subtitles
A Muslim cop goes undercover at his estranged father’s mosque while his daughter hides her passion for a forbidden dance, uncovering a shocking family secret.

KIM JI-YOUNG, BORN 1982 – Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Kim Do-young
South Korea, 2019 – Korean with English subtitles
Kim Ji-young, an ordinary woman in her 30s, suddenly shows signs of being inhabited by others such as her late mother and older sister, and the stories of the people connected to her.

Director: Kiel McNaughton
New Zealand, 2019
A young Tongan man grappling with his wrestling superstar father’s legacy follows in his deceased father’s footsteps by fighting for the return of his dad’s stolen championship belt.

ONE MEAL – World Premiere
Director: Yuechen Hao
USA 2020 – Mandarin with English subtitles
A woman dreams of being a chef, but when her father plans to pass down the restaurant to her brother, she has to reevaluate her dream.

Director: Mallorie Ortega
USA 2018 – English
After finally breaking into a lead role on stage, Christine’s father suddenly passes away, leaving her responsible to save her family restaurant from shutting down.

THE LONG WALK – West Coast Premiere
Director: Mattie Do
Laos, 2019 – Laos with English Subtitles
An old Laotian hermit discovers that the ghost of a road accident victim can transport him back in time fifty years to his mother’s death.

Director: Prarthana Mohan
USA, 2019 – English, Hindi, Spanish with English Subtitles
When a bullied Indian teen forges her mother’s signature to test out of high school, she discovers she must pay a test fee by the 7th period, leaving her no choice but to turn to the students she desperately wants to leave.

Director: Bao Tran
USA 2019, English
A deadbeat dad, insurance scammer, and MMA coach must avenge their Kung Fu master’s death, right after they call in sick to their day jobs.

WAIKIKI – West Coast Premiere
Director: Christopher Kahunahana
USA, 2020
When a hula dancer on the run crashes into a broken spirit of a man, they begin a journey into a hidden world, developing a connection through humanity, nature, and culture.

WHAT ISN’T THERE (ANG NAWAWALA) – Retrospective Screening
Director: Marie Jamora
Philippines 2012, Tagalog
In this lyrical exploration of love, music and expression, a self-imposed mute returns home for Christmas and the anniversary of his twin brother’s accidental death.

Documentary Features include:

Director: Hao Wu, Weixi Chen
United States, 2020 – Mandarin with English Subtitles
Raw and intimate, this documentary captures the struggles of patients and frontline medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan.

Director: Ramona S. Diaz
United States, 2020 – Tagalog and English with English Subtitles
Nowhere is the worldwide erosion of democracy, fueled by social media disinformation campaigns, more starkly evident than in the authoritarian regime of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Journalist Maria Ressa places the tools of the free press—and her freedom—on the line in defense of truth and democracy.

ACCEPT THE CALL – Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Eunice Lau
USA, 2019 – English, Somali with English Subtitles
A father seeks to understand why his son is accused of terrorism, as they journey to repair their relationship after breaking each other’s hearts.

Director: Baljit Sangra
Canada, 2019 – English, Punjabi with English Subtitles
A conservative Indo-Canadian family comes to terms with a devastating secret: three sisters were sexually abused by an older relative during their childhood years.

CURTAIN UP! – Los Angeles Premiere
Directors: Hui Tong, Kelly Ng
USA 2019 – English, Mandarin with English Subtitles
Asian American kids break stereotypes and discover their identities as they break a leg putting on a national debut production of “Frozen Kids.”

DOWN A DARK STAIRWELL – West Coast Premiere
Director: Ursula Liang
USA, 2020
A Chinese American police officer kills an unarmed black man in a dark stairwell, igniting a complicated fight for accountability and justice.

FAR EAST DEEP SOUTH – Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Larissa Lam
USA, 2020 – English, Cantonese with English Subtitles
A Chinese American family’s search for their roots leads them to Mississippi, where they stumble upon surprising revelations and uncover their racially complex history in America.

FINDING YINGYING – Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Jiayan “Jenny” Shi
USA 2020 – English, Mandarin with English Subtitles
A Chinese family travels to the U.S. for the first time to look for their daughter, an international student who vanished from a university campus.

Director: Yi Chen
USA 2020 – English, Mandarin Chinese with English Subtitles
FIRST VOTE is a vérité look at Asian American voters in battleground states.

Director: Deann Borshay Liem
USA, 2019 – English, Korean with English Subtitles
Four adoptees return to their country of birth and reconnect with their roots.

Director: Gerard Elmore
USA, 2020 – English
A dancer, a kumu hula (teacher of hula), and a former Miss Aloha Hula go on a journey to the annual Merrie Monarch.

NOODLE KID – North American Premiere
Director: Ning Huo/Gary Shih
Taiwan, China 2019 – Chinese with English subtitles
For want of maternal love, 14-year-old Ma Xiang makes the very first major decision in his life to leave his mountainous home to become an apprentice at a noodle shop in a strange city a thousand kilometers away.

Director: Heretu Tetahiotupa, Christophe Cordier
French Polynesia, 2020 – English, Marquesan with English Subtitles
With tattoo declared illegal by church & state, the last of the “black-skinned” Marquesan elders find clever ways to guard their dying people’s Polynesian history.

Director: Richard Lui
USA, 2020
A raw, candid look at today’s teens and millennials caring for a disabled parent.

Director: Celine Parreñas Shimizu
USA, 2019
Adulteress, traitor, heroine, or prey? In 1932, Celine Navarro was buried alive by her community in Northern California. This film digs up herstory.

Director: Alice Gu
USA, Cambodia 2020 – English, Chinese, Cambodian with English Subtitles
Everything you thought you knew about the donut begins with Ted Ngoy. This is the unlikely story of a Cambodian refugee arriving in America in 1975 and building a multi-million-dollar empire baking America’s favorite pastry, the donut.

Director: Norbert Shieh, Quyên Nguyen-Le, Joseph Mangat, R.J. Lozada
USA, 2019 – English, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog with English Subtitles
Four stories about immigrant cultures, self-expression, and living between borders and the military, as seen through the eyes of Asian Americans in San Diego.

TOKYO HULA – West Coast Premiere
Director: Lisette Marie Flanary
USA 2019 – English, Japanese, Hawaiian with English Subtitles
TOKYO HULA explores the explosive popularity of the hula dance in Japan from both Native Hawaiian and Japanese perspectives.

WHEN WE WALK – Los Angeles Premiere
Director: Jason DaSilva
English – USA 2019
Filmmaker Jason DaSilva explains the national healthcare crisis as he tries to be closer to his son who lives 2,000 miles away.

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