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Senses Working Overtime: Valerie Tian gets the mojo working in 'Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity.'

In Focus

Clueless about squatting? The Desi scene? The Asian American Film Festival sets the record straight.

By Todd Inoue

FILM-FESTIVAL fever doesn't end when Cinequest packs up. For the third year, the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival comes to San Jose with movies and shorts celebrating and demystifying the Asian and Asian American experience.

The films unspool at Camera 3 Cinemas March 14-16 unless otherwise noted.

Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity
Actress Sandra Oh (Arli$$) and Canadian director Mina Shum reconnect nine years after making their awesome coming-out film, Double Happiness. In Long Life, Oh stars as a harried single mother working at a Chinese restaurant in dreary Vancouver. Her 12-year-old daughter, Mindy (Valerie Tian), is obsessed with Taoist spells that she works in hopes of elevating her mom's personal and financial situation. Crazy things happen when the spells completely miss her mom and affect two other people, sending the film on two separate spiraling sidebars. The film splits equal time between the three stories--mother/daughter, a butcher who wants to be a monk, and a bridge worker who gets laid off. Shum balances these with her trademark light touch, adding perspective in the lives of Vancouver's Chinatown. The dialogue is snappy and quick--like a Chinese-Canadian Gilmore Girls--and 12-year-old Tian gives a great performance as a precocious kid with big glasses and bigger dreams. The film is followed by a reception at DP Fong Gallery (383 S. First St., San Jose), with Mina Shum in attendance. (March 14, 7pm)

Charlotte Sometimes
Lori (Eugenia Yuan) and Michael (Michael Idemoto) are best friends who share a hidden attraction to each other. Gloria's boyfriend is a lousy, distant piece of crap, which sends her to Michael's abode to crash, flirt and watch manga videos. Swirl a mysterious visitor named Darcy into the mix, and Charlotte Sometimes gets its legs and stands erect as a cool emotional thriller. The flick is moody and tense, filmed among the stucco facades of Southern California, with characters and plots seemingly plucked from an Adrian Tomine short story. Director Eric Byler surprises with subtle yet edgy charms, conveying drama and sensuality with simple dialogue and deafening silence. (March 15, 7:30pm)

The Game of Their Lives
Back in the summer of 1966, the North Korean soccer team arrived in England for World Cup No. 8 as 1,000-1 long shots. The lightly regarded Koreans, averaging 5-foot-5, shocked the world by tying Chile 1-1 and defeating Italy 1-0 in a game considered the greatest upset in World Cup history. The giant killers advanced to the quarterfinal round against Portugal, tallying three goals by halftime, before soccer legend Eusebio woke up to rewrite the fairy-tale ending. Footage from the actual games and practice sessions is interspersed with new film about the team's whereabouts plus interviews with the Middlesbrough townspeople who took the team to their heart. As an added bonus, the filmmakers will be in attendance to tell of the most recent 2002 reunion that took place in England. (March 15, 3pm)

Directions in Sound--Hip-Hop, Don't Stop!
The "kid's table" of the festival is also the rowdiest and hottest place to be. Music videos from Asian American artists Alms for Shanti, Bullfrog, Ee, Julie Plug, Soulstice and Sunday's Best will be screened while DJs Derrick D, Mike Nice, Fuse One and Butter B work the decks. The evening also coincides with a record-release party for Triple Threat DJs and will include a live performance by the trio of Vin Roc, Shortkut and Apollo. (March 15, 9pm, Agenda Lounge Cellar, 399 S. First St., San Jose)

Saigon USA
This excellent documentary about America's largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam--Westminster's Little Saigon in Orange County--is framed by the 1999 protests against a video-store owner who hung a Communist flag and picture of Ho Chi Minh in his front-window display. The dialogue that ensued--about loyalty, tradition and freedom of speech--serves as excellent conversation points for Saigon USA. Perspectives of the older generation that mourns the loss of its homeland are balanced with the voices of the younger generation, which is busy trying to carve out its own definition of the American dream. Highly recommended. (March 16, 12:30pm)

YMCA Baseball Team
American missionaries introduce baseball to a Seoul village in 1907, just as the country enters a tumultuous era of imperialism under Japan. The village YMCA forms Korea's first baseball team, which boosts the villagers' spirits when they play the rival Japanese team. At times goofy, other times patriotic, YMCA Baseball is a lighthearted depiction of sports' ability to uplift people. (March 16, 2:15pm)

Crouching Asian, Hidden Cheese
Ten shorts of varying length, precision and hilarity lead off with How to Do the Asian Squat--a hilarious spoof of '50s training films. The rest of Crouching Asian's highlights have some connection to ass kicking. Random Acts of Violence is an extended low-fidelity fight scene (with outtakes!), and Fists of Cheese is a dizzying combo of hip-hop and chop-socky martial arts (with bad dubbing!). Be sure to come early--How to Do the Asian Squat is priceless and one of the best shorts to come through in years. Blink or get picky over parking, and you might miss it. (March 15, 5:15pm)

The Rest

Three South Bay filmmakers will discuss their craft at a special 11am panel discussion at Camera 3 on Saturday. Sung Kim (Book of Rules), Sheridan Tatsuno (Obon) and Purvee Christie Johal (Expecting Shanti) will talk about making a feature film. Duane Kubo (Cruising J-Town) will moderate.

Where's the Party, Yaar? (March 16, 7:15pm) is a comedy about the American Desi (South Asian) social scene through the eyes of recent Indian immigrant Hari Patel, who can't get any play because of his "fobby" (fresh-off-the-boat) status. Untold Triumph (March 15, 1:15pm) documents the Filipino regiments of the U.S. Army during World War II. Life Tastes Good (March 16, 4:45pm) is Philip Kan Gotanda's 1999 food-obsessed mobster tale. The festival concludes with the South Asian International Shorts program (March 16, 9:30pm), which shows the diversity of voices emerging from the Indian diaspora.


The Asian American Film Festival runs March 14-16 at Camera 3 in San Jose. Most screenings are $9. For details, check www.naatanet.org.


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From the March 13-19, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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