Oh, Reel-y: Asian American International Film Festival ShortsPosted: July 31, 2012
While I’ve been attending the New York Asian Film Festival and Japan Cuts for the past few years, this is the first year that I’ve been aware of the Asian American International Film Festival. Last Saturday, I made my way to Chelsea to view some of the selections. I’ll talk here about some of the shorts I saw and cover some feature length films in a later post.
This American Life
This program contained five short films, and posed the question, “What does it mean to be Asian American and living in America?”
A Flicker in Eternity
Unfortunately, I missed the first few minutes of this piece, but what I caught was excellent. It tells the true story of Stanley Hayami, a Japanese-American who lived in an internment camp before being drafted into the 442nd regimental Combat Team during WWII. Using photographs and animations of Hayami’s beautiful drawings and paintings from his diary and letters to poignant and bittersweet effect, this short shares a searing snapshot of one of the most shameful, galling, and too often ignored policies in this country’s history: simultaneously imprisoning American citizens while calling on them to fight and die in defense of their country.
An American Mosque
This documentary short presents the story of the Pakistani community in Yuba City, California and the mosque its members built before it was destroyed one night in an act of arson. While the perpetrators were never brought to justice (shocker, I know), the community came together to rebuild the mosque, and the words of support and donations from non-Muslims in the area sound a note of hope in this engaging and enraging story.
Out of the Shadows
This short narrative piece presents the story of Jin, a North Korean illegal immigrant having to choose between attending college and possibly jeopardizing his family’s welfare. This is a film school piece, as evidenced by the amateur, overly dramatic performances, but it portrays a story and a perspective of a people not often told and rarely seen in cinema and the reality of those in this country for whom the American dream is never really within reach.
Two Seconds After Laughter
This piece about an Indonesian immigrant’s return home is unique and visually arresting. The cinematography is great, the scenes of Indonesian dance are enchanting, and the charisma of the protagonist is palpable.
Outsider at Home
This is a documentary about the stereotypes and negative portrayals that Asian Americans face in mainstream media. This is a travesty I’m well aware of (hence my penchant for Asian cinema when I want to see interesting people who look like me on the screen), but I doubt any changes will happen in the next, well, ever, especially when offensive tripe like 2 Broke Girls gets renewed for a second season. I’m getting tired of getting mad about this.