This evening, while interviewing Kumakiri Kazuyoshi for his IndieFEST entry Green Mind, Metal Bats, I was delighted that Taro Goto served as interpreter. Taro wrote the subtitles for Green Mind, Metal Bats, helped produce White Light/Black Rain (which just screened at Sundance), and is one of the main facilitators of the upcoming San Francisco International Asian-American Film Festival. The press conference announcing the line-up is scheduled for next Tuesday and will go up online shortly thereafter.
Taro and I joked about my fishing for scoops. He asked if journalists really do talk to each other about what they uncover, trying to piece together the program? My eyebrow went way up. "Oh no, Taro!" I lied. But truth is that hunger is the best spice and nothing serves a festival like anticipation. I joked that some folks—such as Evening Class contributing writer Michael Hawley—even derive a unique pleasure out of comparing what they hope will come with what actually arrives. Here, then, is Michael Hawley's wish list. Let's see how close he gets. At the very least, it's a wonderful and informative overview of Asian film in 2006. Thanks, Michael!
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As I'm writing this, it's only a matter of days before the 25th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival announces its line-up for this year. I've looked over my wish list of films that have toured the festival circuit over the past year, and now it's time to speculate which ones I'll have the pleasure of seeing in the Bay Area from March 15 to 25.
A few things I know for certain: A major contemporary Korean auteur whose last two films were mysteriously overlooked by local programmers, will finally be getting some local respect. Also, the other Korean blockbuster of 2006 (the one not featuring a river monster) will be making an appearance. And as a big Kiyoshi Kurosawa fan, I'm very sorry to report that neither of his two most recent films, Loft and Retribution, will be on the schedule.
The ten films I've listed below are my most fervent wishes for 2007 SFIAAFF. These are all films that have been around the block, so to speak, and I fear that if they don't show up here, or at the San Francisco International Film Festival in April, it'll be Next Stop: Oblivion. Or at best an eventual Region 1 DVD release. Two of them, 4:30 and Invisible Waves, are films I optimistically skipped at Palm Springs. I might mention that the latest works by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Syndromes and a Century) and Tsai Ming-liang (I Don't Want to Sleep Alone) would have topped this list, were they not scheduled for multiple screenings at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in April.
4:30—The SFAIFF introduced me to Royston Tan's incredible short 15 in 2003, and its feature length version in 2004, so I have every reason to hope the festival will continue supporting his work.
Big Bang Love: Juvenile A—Because I just gotta be able to say I saw the Takashi Miike gay prison movie!
Dong—Jia Zhengke's documentary companion piece to Still Life.
Hana—Hirokazu Kore-eda's follow up to Nobody Knows.
Invisible Waves—It seems like almost everyone is disappointed in this recent work by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. Well, I'm demanding my right to be disappointed, too.
The Last Communist—Malaysian funny man Amir Muhammad's musical documentary road movie.
No Regrets—After reading Adam Hartzell's rave review from Pusan at Koreanfilm.org, I knew I had to see this gay Korean debut feature from director Leesong Hee-il.
Opera Jawa—Garin Nugroho's all singing, all dancing Indonesian updating of a tale from the Ramayana, and one of six features in the New Crowned Hope series celebrating Mozart's 250th birthday.
Rain Dogs—Praised at every major film festival of the past year, this is Malaysian director Ho Yu-hang's follow-up to 2004's Sanctuary.
Still Life—Jia Zheng-ke's Venice Golden Lion Winner. 'Nuff said!
Listed below are several other films I've made mental notes of during the past 12 months, and I would be happy to see any of them in this year's line-up. A number of them premiered only recently at Rotterdam or Berlin, so the chances of them showing up so soon in the Bay Area are slim. But one can always hope.
The Old Garden—Im Sang-soo's follow-up to A Good Lawyers Wife and The President's Last Bang had its U.S. premiere in Palm Springs last month.
Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters—Mamoru Oshii, best known for Ghost in the Shell delivers an "honest to God masterpiece of mad invention" according to Olaf Möller of Film Comment. The trailer is a trip.
Matsugane Pot Shot Affair—Yamashita Nobuhiro, director of last year's festival fave Linda, Linda, Linda has a new feature.
Khadak (aka The Color of Water)—Peter Brosens' and Jessica Hope Woodworth's Mongolian-set drama won The Lion of the Future prize at Venice last year, and recently drew many favorable notices at Sundance.
I'm a Cyborg but That's OK—Post-vengeance Park Chan-wook.
Time, Kim Ki-duk's tale of plastic surgery and identity.
Half Moon—The SFIAAFF will occasionally show films more often identified as Arab cinema. Two years ago they hosted the Bay Area premiere of Bahman Ghobadi's Turtles Can Fly, and perhaps they'll reward us again with his latest film. This is another feature in the New Crowned Hope series.
It's Winter—This Iranian film from Rafi Pitts won the New Voices/New Visions Grand Jury Prize at Palm Springs.
Finally, two years ago the San Francisco International Film Festival featured a spotlight on New Malaysian Cinema. As it turns out, four of the five directors from that series have new films being shown at Rotterdam and Berlin and—perhaps if we're lucky—the SFIAAFF. Those directors and their latest projects are Woo Ming-Jin (Monday Morning Glory) with The Elephant and the Sea, Deepak Kumaran Menon (The Gravel Road) with Dancing Bells, Yasmin Ahmad (Sepet, Gubra) with Mukhsin, and last but not least, Amir Muhammad with Village People Radio Show, a sequel to The Last Communist.