No Regrets: San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, part two

March 23, 2009 at 6:53 am 13 comments



Xun Zhou abuses her lungs, The Equation of Love and Death, 2008

Xun Zhou abuses her lungs, The Equation of Love and Death, 2008

I’m sick as a dog this week with a pernicious chest cold and I blame it all on the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. I’d just started recovering from version one of this malaise when the Film Fest started last Thursday. But I had so much fun at the Opening Night party, the screenings, the receptions and the afterparties that I made myself thoroughly ill again. So now I’ve got version two, with a hacking cough that won’t go away. I’m chugging Wal-Tussin straight from the bottle and using up all of my Tiger Balm to try to get some sleep at night. But I’ve got no regrets, even when I’m coughing uncontrollably at three in the morning.

The SFIAAFF was especially good this year, with an embarrassment of riches of Asian American and international features, documentaries and shorts. I previewed several programs before the festival but I also went to see a bunch during the festival itself. It’s a testament to the depth and quality of the programming that the festival could only find a slot at noon on Saturday for an excellent film like Cao Baoping’s The Equation of Love and Death, starring chain-smoking A-list Chinese actress Xun Zhou, which in other years or at other festivals might have been an Opening Night movie. It’s equally telling that the screening at the cavernous Castro Theater was crowded with viewers despite its off-hour scheduling. It was like that for every show that I went to, including a Wednesday night short film program, the romantically inclined It’s Easy Because You’re Beautiful, which included Object Loss, A. Moon’s excellent, wistfully sad meditation on adoption, loss and patterns of behavior, as well as several slick Korean shorts that played like miniature versions of Coffee Prince.


Anushka Sharma & Shak Rukh Khan get down, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, 2008

Anushka Sharma & Shak Rukh Khan get down, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, 2008

I also had the pleasure of experiencing my very first Shah Rukh Khan film, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, which has made me a fervent fan of the sexy and charismatic King of Bollywood. I’m a sucker for men who can dance and Shah Rukh Khan brings it on that count in spades.


The parties, social events, and casual meet-ups with old friends make up the other half of the festival and they were especially fun this year–sometimes the SFIAAFF feels like one big frenetic Asian American filmmaking convention. I talked to a half-dozen people who had specifically planned their vacations around attending the festival, including journalist, author and muckracker Pratap Chatterjee, who showed me his string of tickets to about two dozen festival shows.







I also noticed the latest trend in headgear for fans of Asian American cinema. Everywhere I went there were stylin’ dudes sporting porkpie hats—at one party I counted twelve wearers of this little topper, including two of the bartenders.


Queues and toppers, San Francisco Chinatown, Arnold Genthe, 1895

Queues and toppers, San Francisco Chinatown, Arnold Genthe, 1895

Of course porkpies and other fashionable hatwear go way back in Asian American history. Turn-of-the-century San Francisco Chinatown was full of men in queues and felted hats.


Carlos Bulosan, fashion plate

Carlos Bulosan, fashion plate






Famed Pinoy author and poet Carlos Bulosan often wore a tasteful fedora in his publicity stills, and the porkpie was favored by other manongs as well.

Kaba hat, 2008

Kaba hat, 2008






And Kaba Modern brought the porkpie to last year’s edition of America’s Best Dance Crew on MTV.


Tad Nakamura and Kevin Lim, porkpiers

Tad Nakamura and Kevin Lim, porkpiers








So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the porkpie has found favor in the Asian American scene. Here’s a couple natty porkpie wearers at the festival.


Mas porkpie, Poleng Lounge, SFIAAFF 2009

Mas porkpie, Temple Nightclub, SFIAAFF Closing Night Party, 2009







And here’s the picture I wished I’d taken that I cribbed from the festival’s Best Photo contest website.


So I’m laid up with a cold this week, rewatching my collection of Francis Ng dvds and trying to keep up with my responsibilities like feeding my children and editing my film. But even though I overdid it, the festival only comes around once a year and I’m glad to have been able to participate in such an excellent, significant event. As someone once observed, Chuck D. claimed that rap music is the CNN of the black community and filmmaking has become the Asian American equivalent. Maybe it’s because it’s a little less scary for Asian American parents if their kids want to make movies instead of, say, becoming performance artists or abstract painters, but the Asian American film community is alive and kicking and the SFIAAFF’s continued health and well-being is a testament to that fact. Here’s hoping it continues to successfully channel our cinematic glories for many more years to come.


Update: Xun Zhou just won Best Actress at the Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong, for The Equation of Love and Death.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Get It While It’s Hot: The 2009 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival A God And A King: Chow Yun-Fat and Shah Rukh Khan

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. dlee  |  March 23, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Glad to see your positive report on The Equation of Love and Death. I was a bit on the fence on it when I pre-ordered it last week but I couldn’t resist seeing a Zhou Xun film.

    re: your illness, have you tried the ultimate go to cure-all, hot water, dried plum seeds and salt to taste? 🙂

    p.s. I dug out my old unwatched vcd of Till Death Do Us Part based on your recommendation. I’m hoping to watch it some time this week.

  • 2. valeriesoe  |  March 23, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Hey D,
    Been mostly doing lemon tea with honey, which seems to help. Sleep is the best cure, but it’s hard when the coughing starts. I”m thinking a shot of whiskey before bedtime–

    “The Equation of Love & Death” is pretty good, esp. Zhou Xun. It’s a got a quirky sensibility that’s nice to see in a commercial film. I’m liking the stuff the Huayi Bros. are putting out these days–makes me hopeful for “Chasing Shadows.”

    I also like Heiward Mak’s “High Noon,” though it’s definitely rough around the edges. It will be interesting to see what the HK film industry does with her.

    Let me know what you think of “Til Death Do Us Part.” It’s not your typical Francis Ng, if there is such a thing.


  • 3. dlee  |  March 23, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    I used to swear by Nyquil but I think they stopped putting alcohol in it. 😦

    re: High Noon, all three of the Winds of September films sound interesting to me and worth looking into. But I’ll have to wait for a my own government bailout until I can see for myself.

    Huayi Brothers have definitely become a name brand to look for. If they get behind a film, it’s worthy of notice in my book.

  • 4. Wei Ming Dariotis  |  March 23, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    The Festival was amazing! My tenth year of going and I just get more excited about it every year (since Chi-hui took over as Festival Director). I got to see the Opening and Closing films, Half-Life, You Don’t Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story, and Fruit Fly. I wish I could have seen more, but the week before Spring Break is always really crazy.

    Hey, do you think we can ask Chi-hui to start scheduling it during the week OF Spring Break instead? Then I would never go anywhere, I would just stay at the Theater 24/7. I would pay for one of those all-festival passes. In fact, maybe I could get a lifetime membership that lets me get into everything, all the time?

    Ah, fantasy!

  • 5. dlee  |  March 24, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Yang Chi-Hui programmed the Chinese portion of our local DC Filmfest in 2005. One of the best in years, and since. I remember seeing Peacock, The World, and Shanghai Story that year.

    V, I sat down and watched Till Death Do Us Part last night. Turns out, I did see it before but it’s been so long ago that forgot most of it. Well worth a re-view, too. Though it’s a grim and harrowing story, Anita Yuen gives a terrific performance that one seldom associates with her (well, at least, me). The social worker scene is particularly affecting. Not a big fan of Alex Fong but, in this case, the role suited him well, good looking but two-dimensional. 🙂 And yes, Francis Ng is exceptional as Bo Bo’s tenuous anchor with reality.I’m not sure how often I’ll go back and revisit it (I want my escapism, light!) but I’m glad to have watched this one again. Thanks!

  • 6. LeRoid  |  March 24, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Yes, I am one of the proud hat wearers during the festival. Thanks for noticing! Just a small correction- that group photo was taken during the Closing Night Party at Temple Nightclub.

    LeRoid D.
    SFIAAFF 2009 Volunteer Coordinator and owner of many hats

  • 7. valeriesoe  |  March 24, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Hey LeRoid,

    Thanks for the correction! I’ve fixed it for posterity. And thanks for being a hat fashionista. We all enjoy seeing them.


  • 8. valeriesoe  |  March 24, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    Hey Wei Ming,

    I would love Chi-Hui to program a theater just for us year-round. Then we could quit our jobs and live off of our trust funds. Right?


  • 9. valeriesoe  |  March 24, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Hey D,

    Glad you liked “Til Death Do Us Part.” I may have to rewatch it, too, though it’s a pretty harrowing train wreck. But I do love Francis in that movie–the whole bit about his wife and reading to her is quite wonderful. As well as the scene where Anita Yuen desperately comes to visit his apartment (he’s ironing his shirt cuffs at that point). Good stuff. And, yes, Alex Fong is the male equivalent of a flower vase.


  • 10. Leanne Koh  |  March 25, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Hey VAlerie,
    That picture is mine! haha! too bad I didn’t win.

  • 11. valeriesoe  |  March 26, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Hey Leanne,

    Wow, that’s so cool that you took the “mas porkpie” picture–like I said, I wish I’d taken that picture. Great job–I was surprised you didn’t win since you got a bunch of votes.

    Oh, well, thanks for reading–


  • […] the oak park story Save the date! The Oak Park Story will have its world premiere as part of the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival on Sun. March 14 at 2p and Mon. March 15 at 7p. It will be screening alongside Curtis Choy’s […]

  • […] was the fourth film of a long day of movie-going. I have a soft spot for this program since it was at last year’s festival that I caught my very first Shah Rukh Khan movie, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, which spurred my obsessive […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

supported by

Blog Stats

  • 456,834 hits



%d bloggers like this: