Saturday, February 10, 2007

2007 SFIAAFF—Michael Hawley's Wish List

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!

* * *

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!

DongJia Zhengke's documentary companion piece to Still Life.

HanaHirokazu 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, I knew I had to see this gay Korean debut feature from director Leesong Hee-il.

Opera JawaGarin 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 GardenIm 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 GriftersMamoru 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 AffairYamashita 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.


Anonymous said...

Hey Michaels!

I was so anxious about seeing my wish list confirmed or denied, that when I came home yesterday and saw a big program-sized package from CAAM for my roommate, I called her and asked if I could open it in her absence. Thankfully, she said Yes!

I'll wait until the festival list is officially announced to be specific, but let me say that three of my wishes came true (two from the U.S. and one from Australia) and another film I didn't know I should be wishing for, because I didn't know it existed, is screening, a debut by a director whose short really impressed me years back.

I'll be here on Tuesday to comment when I no longer have to be cryptic like you guys.

Michael Guillen said...

You are such a TEASE!!

Anonymous said...

Adam, I feel so sorry for you. Xmas morning's gonna come and you won't have no presents to open!

Unknown said...

Next Stop: Oblivion? In that case, I hope all these get programmed too.

Hopefully there are alternatives to oblivion. I have a suspicion that this will be my most eagerly-anticipated SFIAAFF line-up yet though when it's announced Tuesday.

Anonymous said...

now we all know if your wish comes true. :)

Anonymous said...

Well, if wishes were fishes, I guess I'd be up to my neck in dead fish right about now. Be careful what you wish for, indeed.

I'm sure there are plenty of great films in this year's program, but for the moment my enthusiasm has been doused and I honestly don't even feel like looking inside the catalog. I doubt I'll be able to resist for long, however.

Anonymous said...

Michael H,

I've been there, hoping for certain films and finding nothing but disappointment. But hopefully that'll subside for you w/ the SFIAAF schedule because it's chockfull of films to get excited about. I've resolved to not wish much on the International scale with SFIAAF since CAAM's primary goal is to foster Asian-American cinema, and they've had GREAT pickings the past few years.

The Asian-American films I was referring to cryptically in my initial comment were AMERICAN ZOMBIE and IN BETWEEN DAYS, and the Asian-Australian film was FOOTY LEGENDS. And the one I am now most excited about that I didn't know existed is Joy Dietrich's TIE A YELLOW RIBBON. Her short SURPLUS was mesmerizing, so I'm looking forward to what she could dream up for her first feature.

I'm sure you know that there's a lot of discussion amongst the major film festivals in SF about who brings what, a lot of trade offs being made. So hopefully some of your disappointments might reappear as hopes at the SFIFF and the Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Transgender/Intersex festival this summer.

Plus, man, with a Hong Sang-soo Retrospective, I feel as if my hope bank has received major interest installments for years to come. I hope he gets a good crowd.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the soothing words, Adam. I never used to expect much from the SFIAAFF in terms of foreign films, but they've gotten so good at it in the last half dozen years, culminating in last year's staggering line-up that included GRAIN IN EAR, LINDA LINDA LINDA, CITIZEN DOG, KEKEXILI, CAFE LUMIERE and WATER. Needless to say, I too am looking forward to catching up with Hong Sang-soo, and I've been wanting to see IN BETWEEN DAYS ever since Michael G. returned from Toronto singing its praises.

Michael Guillen said...

Rumor has it that Mr. Hawley has brushed away a few dead fish to peruse the festival catalog and has actually found a few things he's wanting to see.