In May 2006, Silk Screen held its first annual Asian-American Film Festival This was the first event of its kind in the Pittsburgh region. The Festival opened with a Opening Night Gala, where over 350 guests enjoyed performances and food from across Asia. The eight-day Festival showcased 22 films, drawing an audience of over 2,000 people. Ten actors and directors came to Pittsburgh to present their films and engaged with the public in various events during the Festival. National press coverage was achieved, The Wall Street Journal mentioned the efforts of Silk Screen in a complimentary way.
Amu is the story of Kaju, a twenty-one-year-old Indian American woman who returns to India to visit her family. The film takes a dark turn as Kaju stumbles against secrets and lies from her past. A horrifying genocide that took place twenty years ago turns out to hold the key to her mysterious origins.
How were Kaju’s family involved in the killings? What happened and why? Who were the culprits? Who benefited? Will Kaju have the courage to pursue the truth no matter the cost? Will it destroy her relationship with her mother? Will it affect her burgeoning romance? Will it change everything she knows about herself and about India?
Arahan, South Korea
A modern-day version of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this Korean action-comedy jettisons the earnest self-importance of CTHD in favor of sending up the dusty cliches of the martial arts movie. Yu Sang-Hwan (played by Ryu Seung-Beom, the director’s brother) is a nerdy, pencil-necked cop who spends all day giving tickets and whining about how he wants to do more in life. Meanwhile, on the other side of Seoul, the Seven Masters, led by Ja-Un (Korean film icon, Ahn Sung-Ki from Nowhere To Hide), sit around whining about the state of the world and how the flow of universal ch’i has become impure and corrupt. When a palm blast from Ja-Un’s daughter goes awry, Yu crosses paths with the Seven Masters and they offer to train him to reach his full martial arts potential. Wouldn’t you know it? At that exact same moment on the other side of town, a construction crew unearths the ultimate evil.
Anchoring all the talk about Palm Blasts, Dragon Ch’i and tao disciples in modern day Seoul , Arahan wrings maximum comedy and action mileage out of its kung fu concepts. A big-budget, crowd-pleasing flick, Arahan pits gormless dorks against pitiless killers in an unstoppable avalanche of action setpieces. Forget about what Hollywood ‘s offering you this season – Arahan is the summer blockbuster to watch.
Being Cyrus, India
Being Cyrus snakes into an intriguing psychological drama, but unravels almost like a quaint comedy. The six colorful characters play against each other in a bizarre opus of repartee. Dinshaw Sethna is a dope-smoking retired sculptor, who lives in the secluded hills around a small hill station called Panchgani. Dinshaw opens his house to a stranger, Cyrus, who gratefully accepts his invitation as well as his wife, Katy Sethna.
The tale revolves around the rather dysfunctional Sethna family and swings between Panchgani (Katy & Dinshaw Sethna’s home) and an old dilapidated building in Mumbai (wher Dinshaw’s wife, Tina, live in apparent conflict). As Cyrus befriends and enters into the family as Dinshaw’s sculping apprentice, all the cracks begin to open. The layers unfold and things do not seem quite right. What’s more is that nothing about Cyrus seems quite right either.
Being Cyrus journeys through mind-spaces, though it lends itself as a great new take in classic Film Noir. And although it aims to take the audience on a confusing goose chase, we are left in uncertainty for some time about the crimes committed, and the end ties up conclusively apart from the protagonist’s own predicament.
Being Cyrus is an English language film directed and co-written by Homi Adajania. The story is narrated by the protagonist, Cyrus, who himself sits at the brink of his dilemma of why life is the way it is. The uniqueness of Being Cyrus lies in the originality of the story, the novelty of its Parsi family backdrop (a small minority in a microcosm of cultures in India) and the distinctive look of the film. It’s a thought provoking file that will take the audience through a journey of emotions with alarming twists. Being Cyrus is an obsessive, inconclusive, disorderly, and strangely humane story about an outsider struggling to get inside himself.
Buffalo Boy, France/Belgium/Vietnam
Buffalo Boy tells a deceptively simple tale in a deceptively simple fashion. Ostensibly a coming-of-age story, this languorous, beautifully shot feature debut from Minh Nguyen-Vo, a writer and director, centers on a teenager whose journey from innocence to knowledge is also a twinned meditation on both the natural and very unnatural state of things.
Nguyen-Vo throws a frame around the world nicely, giving the landscape’s rough beauty a sense of classic proportion, even if the lush greens bring to mind the distinctly nonclassical Henri Rousseau. And the filmmaker certainly knows the power of his chosen medium: one of the most striking shots is of a boat prow going nowhere and surrounded by swirling water, a graphically strong image that also suggests the resiliency of the Vietnamese people.
Buffalo Boy has none of the hothouse exoticism you sometimes find in stories set in that part of the world or in tales of the natural world and those most closely connected to it…
One of the strengths of Mr. Nguyen-Vo’s film is that despite the overwhelming physical beauty of the landscape and the simplicity of his characters, he doesn’t succumb to such aerated thinking. The world in Buffalo Boy is filled with wonder, but it is a world also filled with real desire, real death, not abstractions.
Cell Phone, China
Cell Phone is a Comedy/Drama from renowned Chinese filmmaker Feng Xiaogang and screenwrtiter Liu Zhenyun. It topped the box office of home-made films in China in 2003 and became a cause celebre among Chinese couples after its release.
The film takes a look at the troubles and mistrust brought to life by mobile phones which are becoming more and more advanced with each passing day. The cell phone makes our life more convenient and interesting, but it can also cause trouble and crises when they are sometimes used to reinterpret the truth.
Cell Phone portrays a love triangle between a successful middle-aged TV talk show host, his wife and his lover. Yam Shoyi uses his cell phone to juggle his relationships. It helps him tell lies and hide the truth, but also reveals his secrets and puts his relationships in danger.
Electric Shadows, China
From one of China’s newest voices in cinema and new wave of young female directors comes this charming and heartwarming tale of a small town cinema and the lifelong influence it had on a young boy and young girl who grew up with the big screen in that small town…and years later meet by chance under unusual circumstances in Beijing.
Eve and The Fire Horse Special Presentation, Canada
Eve, a precocious nine year old with an overactive imagination, was born in the year of the Fire Horse, notorious among Chinese families for producing the most troublesome children.
Caught between her 11-year-old authoritative sister’s fantasies of sainthood and cultural confusion and her own sense of right and wrong, Eve faces the challenges of childhood with fanciful humour and wide-eyed wonder. Sometimes the most troublesome children are the ones that touch our hearts most deeply.
The New Year’s Eve and the Iran-Iraq war, Tehran is being repeatedly attacked with missiles. Gilaneh, a lonely middle-aged villager has to send her son to the war. She must also accompany her daughter to Tehran in search of her son-in-law, who has illegally left the service…
15 years later: again the New Year’s Eve, and Gilaneh – fatigued with life – is taking care of her chemically-wounded son and is also far away from her daughter. Incapable of looking after her son, Gilaneh is waiting for a woman from the South who has lost her husband in the war and made a promise to get married to Gilaneh’s son…
This film depicts people whose love and destiny have been violated and changed by war
Grain in Ear, China/South Korea
Cui Shunji is a Chinese woman of Korean ancestry. A single mother bringing up a young son, she lives away from her hometown, and makes a living by selling Kimchi, a Korean style pickle. An unlicensed vendor, she is constantly on the run, pursued by the local commercial prosecutor.
Kim is also an ethnic Korean. He and Cui fall in love, but Kim is a married man; their love can only be an underground affair. Police officer Sergeant Wang is Cui’s regular customer. Taking pity on her, he helps her get a business permit. Life seems promising for Cui.
When their love affair is disclosed, Kim, under pressure to save his marriage, claims that Cui is a prostitute. She is arrested and subsequently raped in a police station by the drunken and soon-to-be married Sergeant Wang. Released from custody, Cui, in the face of shame and humiliation, continues her pickle business. Sergeant Wang and his fiance also continue to buy from her. The fiance even orders pickles from her for their wedding. Her son’s death sends her into total despair. She puts poison in the pickles destined for Sergeant Wang’s wedding.
Frenzy, madness, and pulsating arteries; The hysteria of a game that is inarguably the most idolized sport of the nation: Cricket!
For Iqbal, an 18-year-old deaf and dumb lad from a small village, cricket was the reason to live; it was his religion, his outlet, for he harbored just one dream – the national team.
As Iqbal treads the path to his dream his thirst to succeed is challenged by life’s harsh adversities, there is but one hope — an ever encouraging little sister and Mohit, a village drunkard in whom Iqbal seeks the only chance of victory. What follows is a momentous journey of bravery, pride and human achievement; as Iqbal and Mohit embark on a dream chase!
A movie not just on cricket, but the undying spirit to conquer against also odds…An exhilarating flight towards destiny, intertwined with cricket madness, and the desire to win will make you rise and cheer for Iqbal.
It’s Only Talk, Japan
Yuko is 35 years old, single, out of work, and on medication from her psychiatrist to combat her manic depression. Living in Kamata Town (“not an ounce of chic”, according to her web page) Yuko divides her time between a variety of men friends, each with his own peculiarities.
Her university classmate, Homma, suffers from impotence. “K”, whom she meets on the net, is a self-confessed pervert. Then, there is a young gangster, Yasuda, who is a fellow manic depressive. Her cousin, Shoichi, is also on the scene, having left his family to pursue his mistress, only to be given the cold shoulder by her, too. Yuko seems to create a different persona (and a different history) depending on whom she is talking to at the time. Human contact is just as important for her as for anyone else, but sometimes her condition makes it difficult for others to relate to her for as long as she would like.
Journey from the Fall, Thailand/USA
Against his wife’s wishes, Long Nguyen chooses to stay in Vietnam and fight for his beloved country. Knowing that his decision may separate him from his family forever, he asks his wife, Mai, to leave their homeland for safer shores. Together with her son and mother-in-law, Mai reluctantly boards a tiny fishing boat bound for America and they begin a perilous journey across the sea, with nothing but hope to keep them alive.
Meanwhile, as the city of Saigon falls under communist rule, Long is captured and imprisoned in a series of re-education camps. There, he endures solitary confinement and witnesses the death of his friends, spiraling him downwards into a deep despair. Believing his family is dead, Long’s faith is revived when a mysterious visitor brings news of their survival in the new world. In one moment his fate becomes clear, and he sets in motion a dangerous plan to escape and join his family in freedom.
Journey from the Fall is dedicated to the millions of boat people and survivors of the communist re-education camps. This is their story.
La Visa Loca, Philippines
Jess Huson (Robin Padilla) has a dream. Like many struggling Filipinos, he yearns for a better life for himself and his family by going to America. And like many struggling Filipinos, fate always denied Jess a U.S. visa. Driven by desperation, Jess embarks on a comical adventure filled with lamebrain schemes and outrageous plans that end up in hilarious train wrecks that can happen only in the Philippines.
Will Jess make his dreams come true? Will he get a U.S. visa? Will he leave his father (Johnny Delgado) and the mother (Rufa Mae Quinto) of his child behind? Will he get to live the life he always wanted?
“La Visa Loca” is a hilarious comedy that nails the answer to the question: how far would Filipinos go just to get a U.S. visa?
Man Push Cart, USA
The life of a former Pakistani rock star who now sells coffee from his push cart on the streets of Manhattan. MAN PUSH CART tells the story of Ahmad (Ahmad Razvi) a former Pakistani rock singer who ekes out a living selling coffee and donuts to morning commuters from his push cart in Midtown Manhattan. Ahmad supplements his income by selling bootleg porn DVDs, carefully saving his money to afford a place where he might be able to live with his estranged young son. It is a harsh, often humiliating life, but Ahmad carries on with a stoic dignity and sensitivity, seemingly determined to find his way. Then the dull routine of his life is brightened by two developments: the arrival of a young Spanish woman (Leticia Dolera) working down the street in a newspaper kiosk; and an offer of assistance from a wealthy fellow Pakistani (Charles Daniel Sandoval), who remembers Ahmad’s former life as a rock star.
While Ahmad strives to pursue these two new possibilities at a better life, the film returns regularly to the act of him setting up his cart in the early morning darkness: his preparations for opening, the other immigrants who prepare the city in middle of the night, his exchanges with his customers as they buy coffee, tea and bagels from him. This gives MAN PUSH CART a deliberate rhythm as it explores the complex and hidden depths of the character, who we learn is desperately hanging on to his small dreams in the midst of grief and despair. The denouement of the film is utterly heartrending, yet inevitable. Ahmad’s momentary glimpse of an escape from a circumscribed world closes down again and he has to pick himself up and focus on the same things he started with.
Mapado, South Korea
While on a fishing trip, 2 men wind up at Mapo Island where they find themselves with 5 elderly women who appear to have not seen a man for years. I think you can tell where this would go in the comedy direction.
Lee Jeong-jin (from Once Upon a Time in Highschool) and The Big Swindle’s Lee Mun-shik play the two male leads in paradise.
The Motel, USA
Growing up fatherless in the middle of nowhere, USA, is bad enough. But when you’re Ernest, a chubby 13-year-old Asian-American, you’re stuck cleaning the sheets that have been spoiled by strangers nightly. Living in a sleazy motel with his dragon lady of a mother and teased by the kids in town, his coming-of-age is less a rite and more an excuse to get out of Dodge.
Enter Sam (Sung Kang, Better Luck Tomorrow) – a Korean American with a taste for female ethnic diversity and the odd boozing habit. An unlikely friendship is struck, and suddenly Ernest is propelled into manhood via a host of ill-conceived ideas, including a carpe diem moment with his crush, a no-nonsense waitress at the nearby Chinese restaurant.
But no matter how badly planned the duo’s misadventures may be, Ernest’s disarming innocence betrays a desperate sense of longing. And it is this beguiling charm that carries through to the very end, along with moments of genuine hilarity and pathos. Propped by ace performances by the young cast members, The Motel offers an authentic look at a complex childhood of a minority, shedding light on the awkward moments that build us up to who we are. Michael Kang’s self-assured direction already garnered the film The Humanitas Prize in the Sundance Feature Film Category putting it in the same category as the acclaimed Whale Rider and Love & Basketball.
-Courtesy of Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival
Punching at the Sun, USA
Punching at the Sun is a crackling, emotionally-charged dream ride through the streets of Elmhurst, Queens. It is a tale of rage and redemption as seen through the fiery eyes of Mameet Nayak: a headstrong immigrant teen lost in the shadow of his brother’s death. When Mameet’s older brother Sanjay is gunned down in the family convenience store, a wave of loss reverberates through Elmhurst. The neighborhood loses a local basketball legend, the family loses a dutiful first-born son, and Mameet loses a mentor and best friend. One month later, Mameet is seething with grief, confusion and adolescent nihilism. He is a benchwarmer on the basketball team, doesn’t listen to his coach, and feels antagonistic towards the world at large. Along with his friends Ritesh and Parnav, he becomes a magnet for trouble, unable to suppress his fits of rage. Retreating inside a persona of teenage bravura, he becomes embroiled in a series of conflicts.
Over the course of four sweltering days, the story tracks the emotional unraveling of a young man. An impulsive act lands him in a youth detention center. His refusal to listen to his coach plants him firmly on the bench. A misguided attempt to protect his sister Dia’s honor erodes his already rocky family life. The lone bright spot is the neighborhood sneaker salesgirl Shawni, a spirited romantic with the potential to crack through Mameet’s self-destructive exterior. Between rap performances by the charismatic MC Uncle Sonny, and confrontations with local streetball king Tali Perez, Mameet finds himself struggling to muster a sense of hope in a violent world he feels is determined to view him as an outsider. Haunted by visions of his dead brother, and exasperated by the dead-end dreams of his friends, he must balance his anger and grief with his natural talent if he is to reconnect with his family, envision the future, and restore feelings to his heart.
Quiet Summer, Japan
Director Shuhei Fujita’s debute QUIET SUMMER tells a story of a young man raised in Japan, who comes to Taiwan to bury the ashes of his mother and finds his Taiwanese background. His travel quietly unfolds the happiness and sadness of a middle-aged Filipino worker and an old Chinese teacher living alone in a poor and single veteran community. QUIET SUMMER is a narrative film but strongly reflects the personal experiences and backgrounds of the director and actors in the society of Taiwan.
Red Doors Centerpiece Presentation, USA
With a story that is often favorably compared to Ang Lee’s early work, Georgia Lee’s phenomenal first feature tells the quirky and compelling story of a Chinese American family whose disconnection with one another lays the foundation for a thoughtful exploration on the nature of happiness. For Ed Wong (RUSH HOUR’s Tzi Ma), recent retirement triggers an existential crisis that leads him to become a monk. Meanwhile, his three grown daughters grapple with some unconventional choices in love: Samantha (Jacqueline Kim, CHARLOTTE SOMETIMES) retreats from a resumé-perfect fiancé, Julie falls for a Hollywood starlet, and Katie flirts with the boy next door. Father’s absence forces each member of the family to reevaluate their priorities, decisions and life choices.
—Christopher Au, San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival
Slow Jam King, USA
JoJo Enriquez, a Filipino-American, poseur gangsta-pimp, thinks he hears his call to the streets and carjacks Vance, a mysterious traveling perfume salesman. In tow is Devaun, JoJo’s best friend, who tries desperately to protect Vance from JoJo, and JoJo from the law. But no one is safe from JoJo’s impulses, as the motley trio hits the road to Nashville, and slowly succumb to an escapist adventure that takes them further away from JoJo’s reality, but closer to Vance’s reality. When JoJo discovers the truth about his reluctant road companion, the trip takes a turn that leads the three of them to truth, love, and the dirty underbelly of the Nashville country music scene, where they encounter the militant Black country music star, Buck Garvey.
Slow Jam King is an offbeat road comedy that skews genre lines and racial iconography, combining the quirky characterizations of Rushmore with the hip-hop sensibilities of Boyz N Da Hood, and the countrified outrageousness of Oh Brother Where Art Thou? It has had over a dozen festival screenings, and won Asian Cinevision’s Emerging Director Award.
From the courageous and provocative filmmaker Deepa Mehta comes ‘WATER’, the profoundly moving and provocative story of India’s widow houses, where women are taken to live (even today) apart from society following the deaths of their husbands. Sprinkled with humor, rife with universal emotions and alive with visual excitement, the story of ‘Water’ follows three widows who dared to stand up in the liberating time of Mahatma Gandhi. Seven years in the making, ‘Water’ was fiercely political controversy when the film’s India based production triggered violent protests by Hindu fundamentalists and was forced to shut down and remount the production- years later, under a shroud of secrecy in neighboring Sri Lanka. But at the film’s debut at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival, Mehta’s unflinching and passionate filmmaking resulted in a rousing standing ovation and critical acclaim. “After making ‘Water’, I feel I could retire. That is how satisfied I am.” Mehta said at the time.
Yek Shab, IRAN
A young woman who works as an office clerk lives with her mother in a cramped apartment in Teheran. One evening, when she comes back home from work, her mother asks her to go and sleep somewhere else. The girl wanders around the city all night long. She comes across three men, each with a different story to tell.