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Heel to the Chief: The documentary 'Imelda' looks at the life and 'soles' of shoe-loving Imelda Marcos.

Shoe Gazers

Imelda Marcos documentary highlights the San Jose portion of the Asian American Film Festival

By Todd Inoue

MARCH MADNESS is a term usually reserved for hoops, but for the past couple of years, it could describe film festival craziness that invades the South Bay around St. Patrick's Day. Cinequest warmed up the retinas in time for the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival's pilgrimage to San Jose. It's the fourth year of this endeavor co-hosted by the National Asian American Telecommunications Association and the local Contemporary Asian Theatre Scene, with a weekend of movies and shorts celebrating and demystifying the Asian and Asian American experience.

This year's selection seems a bit choppier than those in previous years. There is no huge event film like 2003's Charlotte Sometimes or 2002's Daughter From Danang. Three documentaries anchor the minifestival. Imelda is an amazing portrait of the ornate former Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos. The film attempts to do for Imelda what The Eyes of Tammy Faye did for the fallen televangelist: take the focus away from the famous distractions (eye makeup for TFB/shoes for Imelda) and reveal what lies beneath, though it might not be as pretty as one expects.

Chinese Restaurants: Song of the Exile is an inside peek at three different Chinese food depots in South Africa, Turkey and Israel, where the true definition of home and community are explored. Then, a Japanese-Canadian baseball team gets its due in Sleeping Tigers: The Asahi Baseball Story--which should be of interest to the local Japanese-American sporting-league communities.

The festival opens with Flavors, an Indian-American ensemble comedy. A young Indian-American man and his Caucasian fiancee plan a wedding. His parents arrive from the old country, and the cross-cultural shenanigans begin with subplots that involve co-workers, high-tech strangers and a lonely immigrant housewife. The movie is set in the IT sector, where mixed signals of the heart and wireless variety abound. Like a brown-skinned Friends, Flavors stays rooted in the romantic-comedy genre and at times pushes the mush. Though not as bad and clichéd as American Adobo, Flavors leaves a pleasant aftertaste but nothing memorable.

Festival mainstays--stylish imports and genre-pushing shorts--are represented by the British South Asian film Second Generation, the Hong Kong coming-of-age tale Just One Look and the curiously poignant My Ninja for Your Nun-- and the Shadows and Light shorts programs. And don't forget about the rowdy Directions in Sound show at Agenda Lounge headlined by DJ Apollo.

San Francisco got the big guns of the festival, including Zhang Yimou's epic Hero, a retrospective on Anna May Wong and a Stephen Chow double shot of Shaolin Soccer and God of Cookery. San Jose ended up with the comparatively weaker films, but it's San Francisco's ball, and it makes the rules.

The 22nd San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival in San Jose happens Friday-Sunday (March 19-21) at the Camera 3 Cinemas. A reception for 'Flavors' with director Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK happens Friday night, immediately after the Camera 3 screening, at d.p. fong galleries (383 S. First St,, San Jose). See www.naatanet.org/festival for details.

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From the March 17-24, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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