The 35th Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, organized by the arts nonprofit Visual Communications, highlighted bold female talent through various sold-out films and panels between May 2-10.
With week-long festivities and screenings across Downtown Los Angeles and Little Tokyo, the festival kicked off with Diane Paragas’ first feature film “Yellow Rose” in the Aratani Theater.
“Yellow Rose has taken over 15 years to make and it couldn’t come at a more important time when anti-immigrant sentiment is at an all-time high,” stated writer, producer and director Diane Paragas. “This is a story for everyone facing challenges in finding their voice, their dreams and, more importantly, their home.”
Tony-winning actress Eva Noblezada stars in the film as an aspiring teenage country singer whose mother faces deportation. With stellar original songs and a topical story, the opening-night film won the Grand Jury Award for outstanding North American narrative feature.
The festival also included insightful panels during C3: Conference for Creative Content, industry mixers such as the HBO APA Visionaries program and a multimedia exhibition co-sponsored with the Japanese American National Museum called “At First Light.”
Saturday night, the theaters were filled to the brim for festival centerpieces: Emily Ting’s “Go Back to China” and Justin Chon’s “Ms. Purple.” In Ting’s “Go Back to China,” Anna Akana plays spoiled socialite Sasha who gives up her life of luxury and reluctantly returns to her father’s homeland. In Chon’s “Ms. Purple,” Tiffany Chu stars as Kasie, a brave yet misfortuned Korean American woman who struggles to support her dying father while working as a karaoke hostess in Los Angeles’ K-Town.
Other notable films during the festival included:
Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell,” based on the director’s true story of elaborate lies surrounding an impromptu wedding and grandma’s ailing health, featuring Awkwafina as a granddaughter thrown into her family’s elaborate plot
Sasie Sealy’s “Lucky Grandma,” where film legend Tsai Chin faces off against angry New York Chinatown mobsters as a fierce chain-smoking matriarch after a crazy night of casino escapades
Bora Kim’s “House of Hummingbird,” which won the Grand Jury Award for international narrative feature, following a melancholic South Korean middle schooler who faces dissolving friendships and dysfunctional family relations
The festival closed out with “Empty by Design,” in which director Andrea Walter examines the relatable feeling of being lost between two spaces. Two friends, played by Osric Chau and Rhian Ramos, draw closer as they share experiences of coming home after years abroad and feeling like foreigners in their own home city. Closing night brought tears, as not a dry eye was spotted among the audience members.
Though the festival has wrapped up, this month’s hectic schedule of events has not yet ended for Visual Communications. On May 18, the organization will celebrate their 49th anniversary at the LA Grand Hotel Downtown. The event honorees are award-winning documentary filmmakers Walt Louie and Jessica Yu. For ticket information, visit the VC website at www.vcmedia.org.
Photo credit: Steven Lam