Springing Forward at SFIAFF

Peace Plaza pagoda in San Francisco's Japantown

I just returned from my visit to the 29th Annual San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAFF) where I had the opportunity to watch some fantastic films, attend countless nights of karaoke, meet several festival staff from other Canadian and American Asian film fests, network with visiting filmmakers and last but not least, attend the San Fran tour stop for Reel Asian’s presentation of Suite Suite Chinatown.

Film highlights: Hawaiian film One Kine Day (Dir. Chuck Mitsui), Vietnamese film Clash (Dir. Le Thanh Son), and Shorts Programme Living Life Large (personal fav’s were Barbara Kawakami: A Textured Life by Dir. Akira Boch and A Moth in Spring by Dir. Yu Gu) and Play/House (and more fav’s were Once Upon a Rooftop by Dir. Sybil Wendler, Top Spin by Dir. Sara Newens & Mina T. Son).

Korean BBQ dinners with other fellow Canadians

Of course, this excursion would not be complete with my Food Highlights: extra squishy mochi with blueberry filling from Benkyodo, genuine wood charcoal BBQ at Brothers Korean BBQ #2 (not to be confused with #1 or #3), and In-N-Out Burger (more for the cult-like experience, less for the quality of food).

Arthur and Jack doing sound check before Suite Suite Chinatown

However, I would say that the climax of this visit was definitely the presentation of Suite Suite Chinatown with live music accompaniment by Toronto-based musician Arthur Yeung and San Francisco-based musician Jack Tung. Most impressive to know is that Arthur and Jack have been sharing ideas about how they envision the musical score via email and online only. Their first in-person rehearsal didn’t take place until the day before the show. Being at the presentation, you would think that they had been practicing together for months – a true attestation to their talent. This multi-genre performance was followed by an engaging panel with Konrad Ng (Assistant Professor, University of Hawaii), David Chiu (President, San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Mayoral candidate), Carolyn Goossen (Associate Editor, New America Media) and visiting filmmakers in attendance: Joyce Wong, Aram Siu Wai Collier, Heather Keung and Lillian Chan.

Since I’ve been with Reel Asian, SFIAFF’s name and reputation often comes up in the office so when the opportunity to attend came up, it was too good to pass. The sheer caliber of this great festival is but one of its traits. I am now also in awe of their close-knit community of Asian American artists. By the time I had to leave, it seemed there was still SO MUCH to check out but so little time. Was it my lack of planning or ridiculously late nights? Maybe it’s all those reasons – but I’d prefer to blame the hour we lost when we had to “spring forward” on Sunday.