The goal of San Diego’s Asian Film Festival is to not only entertain audiences with more than 150 films from over 20 countries, but to also inspire viewers and immerse them in the diverse and complex cultures expressed in these movies.
“Films are about life experiences,” said Brian Hu, the Artistic Director of Pacific Arts Movement, host of the film festival. “And we aim to show films that combine both the Asian and global experiences that push the social envelope.”
Last week, the public got their first taste (no pun intended) of these cinematic works, some dramatic, some amusing and all enlightening. As a precursor to the Asian Film Festival, taking place Nov. 9-18, the Pacific Arts Movement curated an event called Chew the Scene, where guests could sample authentic Asian food from local restaurants while watching the premier trailers for keynote films appearing in this year’s festival.
Overlooking the San Diego Bay, this year’s food and film event took place at Liberty Station’s BRICK. Upon entering, guests were given the festival miniguide, a booklet of all the movies appearing in November’s festival along with the specific showings’ times and locations. On the cover is a 1980s Tatung rice cooker, outlined in neon.
“We try to stay away from logos that are too obviously Asian,” said Hu. “So, we tried to think of something that would unify everyone, all Asian cultures. We thought, ‘It’s got to be rice.’”
But inside the BRICK building, more than just rice was bringing in the crowds. Chicken, salmon, shrimp and even seaweed entrees from eateries like the Dumpling Inn, Crab Hut and spicy samples from Masala Street were present and for the picking. The food sampling stations were placed along the walls and windows of the large ballroom and dining tables were set up in the center under a canopy of hanging lights where extended family greeted new babies and film colleagues discussed upcoming projects.
Attached to the front wall were two large television screens which proceeded to play long-awaited film trailers filled with car chases, dance battles, explosions and, yes, even cartoon sharks in space. But there were three main film sneak peaks that took center stage for the evening: Oh Lucy, (co-starring Josh Hartnett) a drama about a woman who falls in love with her English teacher and travels to San Diego to win his heart; My Enemy, My Brother, based on a short film and tells the story of two former enemies in the Iraq-Iran war who embark on a journey to find lost family 25 years later; and Bad Genius, a comedy where a brilliant young girl and her friends come up with a plan to get SAT answers out to students and make a handsome profit.
“These kind of stories couldn’t be told 20 years ago,” said Hu. “We’re even featuring classic Chinese animated films from the 50s and 60s, the kids of films made by the communist party.”
Hu says the goal of the upcoming festival, as it is every year, is to inspire compassion through the world of film and really tap into the culture and social behaviors of people from other places around the world.
“The great thing about this festival…” said Hu, “…is that you discover films that you didn’t even know were for you yet.”