Sunday, October 02, 2005

Comic Relief contained a different kind of short... Things got started with Slap, directed by Roman Cortez, a film about gossip. Boxing and the relations between the sexes were contrasted in Below the Belt. Directed by Michael Velasquez, this metaphor was skillfully developed. Grandma's Happy Fist, directed by Hyun-Ho Choi, got appreciative laughter from the audience whenever it was shown during the festival. It seems that Little Red Riding Hood might have kicked some ass in her time... Super-Hairo, by Peter Wang, had an interesting twist to the dating game. It involved hair and being invisible. Ruckus, directed by Dean Ishida, was a funny take on trying to become a boy band. The fact that the members are in their 30s only makes the video even more humorous. Mukul Khurana
Muni to the Marriage, directed by Stuart Gaffney, was a simple meditation about the right to marry--regardless of sexual orientation. This is a topical subject. You may have heard about it in your neck of the woods? The situation in Two Women, a Brother and a Baby, directed by Ali Wong, is a little more complicated. Two women discover that they are lesbian and fall in love. That's the easy part. They then want to become parents with a child who shares their genes... Tina Gharavi, director of Mother/Country, goes to her native Iran in order to seemingly inform her mother about her life choices. But, it seems to me that the short was more about questions that Gharavi would like to have answered by her mother. Gender F*cking was a reflection on gender variance by Maricar Camaya. Director Mark V. Reyes gave us insight into the cruising scene in Manila. Last Full Show clearly depicts the life of young men when they are searching. It is not easy to learn to live with disappointments. Mukul Khurana


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Saturday, October 01, 2005

I said I liked challenges--that I liked things that are out of the ordinary. My so-called Queer Life was such a collection of shorts. These shorts were out of the ordinary to me, but for many amongst us, this is everyday life. Barefeet was directed by Sonali Gulati. Using poetic words and mesmerizing images, a story was narrated that spoke of going home. Yet going home was not really going home because the narrator had to leave a part of herself behind--her lesbian identity. Though she was thrilled to be able to express her Indianness openly in India (something she couldn't do in America all the time), the main character had to acknowledge that she was also leaving home by leaving America because here she could be true to her sexuality--something she couldn't do in India. In fact, gay and lesbian sexuality is somewhat tolerated in Indian society. It is, as Clinton discovered, a "don't ask, don't tell" kind of a world. Ariana, directed by Michael Sandoval and Shashi Balooja, dealt with the tension created in the home of a Dr. Abbas Immad when he brings his male lover home. The grandmother he takes care of becomes a source of division between the two. But a source of division can also become a source of unity... Mukul Khurana

San Diego Asian Film Festival--Day 2

If pure love is your thing, Crying out Love, in the Center of the World should be on your menu. Directed by Yukisada Isao and written by Shinobu Yaguichi & Junko Yaguich, this story is of a kind that we don't really recognize in the West. It is the story of a true and deep love that exists despite being platonic. The story begins with Ritsuko finding a cassette in an old sweater--a cassette with great meaning (in fact, it could be argued that the film was sponsored by SONY as cassettes and Walkmans play large roles in this movie). There are secrets that Ritsuko (who is about to marry Saku) harbors. But there are secrets that Saku harbors that concern a certain Aki in his past. This is one of those stories that will have you crying and then sobering up for no reason at all--then, crying again... The Greeks understood melodrama, but so do the Japanese. Mukul Khurana

Friday, September 30, 2005

The mother in Dekada '70 is played by the attractive Vilma Santos (Amanda). She ably portrays the loving mother and the trials and tribulations of a woman. Her husband, played by Christopher De Leon, is a very truthful rendition of a middle-class man from an Asian country in the 70s. The sons, two out of five are played by Piolo Pascual and Marvin Agustin, heed different callings. One becomes a radical leftist. Another one joins the U.S. Navy. Yet another becomes a writer. Everything is represented. Obviously the choices are going to lead to conflict and strife. It is how Amanda navigates the life she has chosen and how she deals with the men in her life that gives us a compelling story. There were times when the script didn't feel entirely "tight," but perfection is not what this film is aiming for--it is the message... This was a dark time for the Philippines. The film lets us feel that reality. Mukul Khurana
Dekada '70 was a contribution from the Philippines which realistically portrayed the Marcos dictatorship. What might have been perceived as a "benevolent" authoritarian government by some, was a nightmare to many of its people. Because of the fact that they followed the American line, I think we were led to believe that things were not so bad. In fact, the brutal effects of a government that turned to martial law are clearly shown in this movie--as it affects a family. A family of boys, one would assume that the audience would get a male-dominated version of reality. But, the story really revolves around the mother. Mukul Khurana
It seems like the Olympics are a big deal to the Chinese. The Chinese feel they have been vindicated/recognized. Will China/Beijing just change due to the Olympics? What will happen afterwards? The consensus is that we have reached a "point of no return." China, indeed many Asian countries, has now embarked on a course of modernization, capitalism, and consumerism that can't be turned back. And don't we all deserve a "piece of the pie?" Is the American Dream a dream deserved solely for America or do others get to take a bite...? As to the issue of identity, we are all strangers somewhere or at some point in our lives. Globalization practically guarantees that we are all going to face this issue sooner or later. Mukul Khurana
At no point, do we get a clear picture. How do you define identity? Is it the language? Is it the people? Or, is it the way people do things in a culture? The 80s were a heady decade. After the Cultural Revolution, things were going to get better. Then, came the crackdown in the 90s. So it was with the American expatriates. They went in hopes of utopia and freedom to a China they imagined to be a good place to be in the 80s. Some returned in the 90s. They talked of the freedom to create. Despite the Communist regime in power, there was a lot that could be done (as long as the authorities didn't specifically forbid it). But, they also talked of smog--a city so heavily polluted that people were used to not being able to see across to the other side of their roads! This is not so uncommon in third world countries, but things are changing! Mukul Khurana
As Asian-Americans, I think we all have some degree of divided loyalties. America is our home, but the lands of our ancestors exert a powerful pull on us. So it is with six Chinese-Americans (who could be any ethnicity really). Hao Wu and Anna Wang understand this and have tried to tell this story in its visual form in Beijing or Bust. Set in the capital of China, we are introduced to Kaiser (who is credited with being the one of the founding members of Tang Dynasty--a rock group). Kaiser is torn between his American life and his feelings for China. In the end, he has chosen to start a family in Beijing. Likewise, Mimi and Ada--both artists (film and photography), are also torn between a life here and a life in China. Jeff and Bob have chosen the corporate/entrepreneurial lifestyle. They both point out the pros and cons of doing business with the most populated country in the world. Rania is a media artist who also straddles both worlds--are they Chinese or American? Or, are they Chinese-Americans? Mukul Khurana

San Diego Asian Film Festival--Day 1

It's the little things that make film festivals fun and exciting. Over the past few years, I have wished that the program guide be easy to navigate. I have been thinking that things could be a little different. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the format had gone in the direction I have always desired. There was an easy to read schedule that gave an overview of the festival--on a day-to-day basis. Not only that, but the presentations were listed in alphabetical order regardless of category! No more flipping around. The graphic and production quality of all the publications was great. Likewise, the graphics and videos used for promotional purposes was of the highest caliber (though that has always been the case). The music, created by David Helpling, has been of a consistently high standard for the past few years. Lest you think that I am only going to be writing positive things only, let me assure you that I intend to be an objective observer of the scene... But first, one more Hurrah! I am also glad that SDAFF is still in the same venue--just a different name... Hazard Center, associated with Madstone and Mann Theatres, is now UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas. My main reason for joy is that parking is not a hassle in this location. SDAFF seems to be doing well. This time around (the 6th annual), the festival runs for more than a week! I had a tough choice deciding between Marathon, Urban Legends, and Beijing or Bust. But ultimately, the decision turned out to be easier than I thought. I was tired of the "triumph of the spirit" kind of films. I was looking for something to challenge my ideas. I decided on Beijing or Bust. One of the main reasons for picking this documentary over the feature film and the shorts was the issue of identity. Mukul Khurana

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

San Diego Asian Film Festival about to begin...

The San Diego Asian Film Festival starts tomorrow. Tune in to keep abreast of daily events... Mukul Khurana