Guide to the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

164 programs. 21 countries. Six venues. Don’t even try to hold back.

By Oliver Saria

The 26th Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, produced by Visual Communications, runs April 29 to May 8.

In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee
(United States, 2010)
60 min., documentary
Acclaimed documentarian Deann Borshay Liem returns to her native Korea to find her “double,” the mysterious girl whose identity she assumed when she was adopted by an American family in 1966. The provocative documentary explores the ethics of international adoption, the complexities of identity and the personal cost of living a lie.
Why it matters: Haitian “orphans” anyone?
May 3 at 7 p.m., Downtown Independent

Macho Like Me (United States, 2009)
80 min., documentary
Do men have it easier? Helie Lee, best-selling female author of Still Life With Rice, puts that notion to the test, living as a man for six-and-a-half months. The documentary chronicles her journey; she ultimately resurfaces as a woman with a changed view on men, privilege and relationships.
Why it matters: David Henry Hwang might have written about drag, but Lee’s got the cojones to do it.
May 5 at 9:15 p.m., Downtown Independent

Mamachas del Ring (United States/Bolivia, 2009)
75 min., documentary
First-time director Betty M. Park documents the struggles of Carmen Rosa the Champion, an indigenous woman fighting to succeed in the male-dominated world of Bolivian professional wrestling. (Think Nacho Libre with petticoats and bowler hats.) Carmen’s husband issues an ultimatum: her family or her sport. Which one will she choose?
Why it matters: It was an official selection of the 2010 Slamdance Film Festival.
May 5 at 7 p.m., Tateuchi Democracy Forum at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy

God is D_ad (United States, 2009)
96 min., narrative
A group of misfits travel by RV to a fantasy/comic book convention in this whimsical road trip film set in the late 1980s. Alluding heavily to the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, the film alternates between the Midwestern Unites States and an elaborate fantasy world.
Why it matters: Writer/director Abraham Lim was the recipient of a prestigious Korean Film Council grant.
May 1 at 2:30 p.m., Directors Guild of America

Ktown Cowboys (United States, 2010)
55 min., narrative
Let the soju flow! Director Daniel Park’s film follows a motley crew of partyhoppers as they introduce a new transplant to L.A. K-town’s raucous nightlife. (How much do you wanna bet someone gets punched?) All the fun of a night in K-town without the second-hand smoke.
Why it matters: It features local fave, comedian Danny Cho, and New York transplant, musician Bobby “Big Phony” Choy.
May 1 at 4:30 p.m., Directors Guild of America

The Mikado Project (United States, 2010)
84 min., narrative
Angry Buddha Theater Ensemble has just lost its leading male actor, Jace, to a prime-time gig on TV. Without Jace’s star power the company faces imminent demise as the troupe fights over the revival of The Mikado, a racially charged Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera.
Why it matters: Director Chil Kong draws heavily from his 10 years as artistic director of the now-defunct Lodestone Theatre Ensemble.
May 1 at 9:30 p.m., Directors Guild of America

The Actresses (South Korea, 2009)
105 min., narrative
Virtuoso director E. J-yong assembles six of the most famous women in Korean film for a multi-generational mockumentary. The actresses—Youn Yuh-jung, Lee Mi-sook, Choi Ji-woo, Ko Hyun-jung, Kim Min-hee and Kim Ok-vin—vie for the spotlight during a cover shoot for Korean Vogue, improvising scenes about their respective private and public personas.
Why it matters: A must-see for fans of Korean cinema…or catty divas.
May 8 at 7 p.m., Downtown Independent

My Heart Beats (South Korea, 2009)
110 min., narrative
Female director Eunhee Huh helms this film about a lonely, 37-year-old English professor who injects some passion into her mundane life by becoming a porn actress. She endures military-style training and extreme dieting. Unbeknownst to her young attractive co-star, she’s a virgin.
Why it matters: You could probably use more meaningful (dare we say, deeper) depictions of porn besides, well, porn.
April 30 at 10 p.m. & May 2 at noon, Directors Guild of America


The Short Programs
Can’t sit through a whole feature-length film because YouTube has whittled down your already short attention span? Well, you’re in luck. The festival short programs run the gamut from serious to sumptuous to surreal. Here’s a preview:
Explore timely political issues with Love Is Worth It and Mister Green. The former presents a day-in-the-life of Iraq war vet and gay rights activist 1st Lt. Dan Choi, an outspoken opponent of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. In Mister Green, a jaded government undersecretary ends up embroiled in a radical conspiracy to save the planet.
Tempt your taste buds with two deliciously indulgent offerings. Boba and Melon Gum is director Alice Park’s homage to Jim Jarmusch’s cult-fave Coffee and Cigarettes. New York-based band Kite Operations chows on chicken wings, jajangmyeon, and live octopus in Islands, a delightfully straightforward music video.
For something more fanciful, check out Actually, I Am a Superman. A boy and girl suffer brutal taunts from classroom bullies—that is, until they show the thugs their “special” abilities. In My Four Inch Precious, a lovelorn garbage man nurtures a dying flower that blossoms into an enchanting woman.

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