The 24th Annual Asian American Showcase
April 5 - 17
The Gene Siskel Film Center and the Foundation for Asian American Independent Media (FAAIM) present the 24th edition of "Asian American Showcase," April 5 through 17. Enjoy the freewheeling diversity of independent dramas, comedies, and documentaries, including selected screenings with filmmakers in person.
From April 5 through May 30, enjoy the art exhibit "Visible" in our Gallery/Café. The show features nine artists including: Tri Ngo; Jennifer Huang; Cathy Hsiao; Adrian Kay Wong; Dan S. Wang; Ed Oh; Christine Han; Thomas Kong; and Joo Young Lee. Show opening reception at 7:00 pm on Friday, April 5.
For their essential role in making the Asian American Showcase possible, the Gene Siskel Film Center thanks Foundation for Asian American Independent Media (FAAIM) founding members Sooyoung Park, Ben Kim, and William Shin; Festival Director Tim Hugh; programming associates Jonathan Laxamana, Huu Ly, and Lydia Fu; FAAIM’s extended network of volunteers; the Filipino American Network; the Alphawood Foundation; the Illinois Arts Council, A State Agency; and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Go Back to China
2019, Emily Ting, USA/China, 96 min.
With Anna Akana, Richard Ng
The value of a hard-earned buck is the cheeky message of this smartly satirical comedy that has a pampered trust-fund princess summoned to labor in the family factory when her fed-up dad pulls the plug on her extravagance. Coerced into joining divorced toy-mogul dad Teddy (veteran Hong Kong actor Ng) and his new family in China, Sasha (Akana of MISS 2059) contends with her competitive half-sister Carol (Lynn Chen), dad’s nubile mistress, and the indignity of working for a living making squishy stuffed animals with seasonal themes. Director Ting (ALREADY TOMORROW IN HONG KONG) blends fashion and fun, and plays with pop culture stereotypes while Sasha gets a new lease on life when it turns out that her design school degree is a sellable asset after all. DCP digital. (BS)
2018, Kulap Vilaysack, USA, 106 min.
“Intensely personal…questions about family, truth, and the reliability of memory.”-- Shilpa Agarwhal, L.A. Weekly
At the age of fourteen, director Vilaysack (BAJILLION DOLLAR PROPERTIE$) learned during a family fight that the man she called dad was not her biological father. Twenty years later, married and about to start a family of her own, she goes in search of the mystery man who fled the war in Laos with her mother. In this revealing and deeply heartfelt documentary, the filmmaker follows the clues to Minnesota, Laos, and back, to discover a new extended family, and a flawed figure of a father, an opportunist and emotional blackmailer. The motif of the DC Comics superhero Katharsis, based on Vilaysack by her friend Gail Simone, recurs throughout a saga that brings her new powers to cope. In English and Lao with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
Shorts Program: Asian American Dreams
2018, Various directors, USA, 94 min.
- Sun, Apr 7th 5:30pm
Dreams are a way to express memories of the past, anxieties in the present, and hopes for the future. This program looks at a collection of dreams that many share. All in DCP digital.
ONE CAMBODIAN FAMILY PLEASE FOR MY PLEASURE
2018, A.M. Lukas, USA, 12 min.
In 1981, a Czechoslovakian woman (Emily Mortimer), herself a refugee from a war-torn country, writes a letter requesting that a Cambodian family be rescued from the violence and unrest in their native land and delivered to her adopted home in Fargo, North Dakota. Based on a true story.
2018, Jackson Segars, USA, 14 min.
During a tense and melancholy visit with the family of his Korean American fiancee, a Japanese American man bonds with her ailing grandfather over a shared language and hobby. In English, Japanese, Korean with English subtitles.
2018, Jen Frisch-Wang, USA, 8 min.
After mysteriously aging 60 years overnight, a young-girl-turned-older-woman struggles to reconcile her love of art with the "model minority" pressures placed on her by society and family.
2018, Youthana Yous, USA, 15 min.
A desperately lonely Indian American woman accidentally becomes "besties" with a social media influencer who may have an ulterior motive in befriending her.
ONE SMALL STEP
2018, Bobby Pontillas and Andrew Chesworth
A Chinese American girl, supported by her shoemaker father, pursues her dream of becoming an astronaut into college and beyond. Nominated for the 2019 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
SPEAK EASY, B
2018, Becca Park, USA, 15 min.
A visit to a therapist prompts a young queer woman struggling to cope with depression and heartache to embark on a surreal journey through the desert inside her mind.
2018, Jing Jing Tian, USA, 6 min.
In New York City, a Chinese American man defies both his father and the world by assuming an identity no one expects or affords him. In English and Chinese with English subtitles.
2018, Dan Chen, USA, 16 min.
Marooned in middle America, a high school recluse and a college dropout experience alienation, othering, and companionship.
2019, Tim Tsai, USA, 68 min.
A small Texas port reaches a turning point after Vietnamese refugees new to the town become resented competitors in the local fishing industry, in this documentary with a message pertinent to today’s immigration debates. In the late 1970s, a large group of Vietnamese boat people settle in tiny Seadrift, Texas, where they take up the prevailing occupation of crab fishing, stretching resources thin and riling longtime residents that hold nativist views. A “crab war” of sabotage and dirty tricks escalates with the killing of a white fisherman, followed by the fire-bombing of Vietnamese homes and boats. In the months that follow, the KKK moves in en masse, to hold armed rallies and cross-burnings, triggering the Vietnamese to file a landmark lawsuit against the Klan. At the height of the hostilities, the townspeople begin to pull back and ask the critical question, Is this who we really are? DCP digital. (BS)
Ulam: Main Dish
2018, Alexandra Cuerdo, USA, 90 min.
The recent ascendancy of Filipino cuisine to mainstream hot status is explored in this mouthwatering look at a trend that’s an open secret among foodies. Filipino chefs have long labored in American haute cuisine kitchens, hiding their cultural identity behind the food traditions of many nations. Director Cuerdo explores a new era of prominence for award-winning second-generation Filipino American chefs, including Amy Besa and Romy Doroton of Brooklyn’s popular Purple Yam, Nicole Ponseca of Jeepney, Johneric Concordia and Christine Araquel-Concordia of their family-centered The Park’s Finest, and Alvin Cailan of Amboy. The food itself is indisputably the star of this show, demonstrating the comforting appeal of a cuisine rooted in rich heritage and family dinner-table tradition. DCP digital. (BS)
2018, Adele Pham, USA, 59 min.
The confluence of immigrant ambition, free enterprise, and sheer perseverance fed into the rise those Asian nail salons that seem to be on every block in every U.S. city, and filmmaker Pham has the whole story at her fingertips. It all started back in 1975, when Hitchcock star Tippi Hedren (THE BIRDS) enabled a group of twenty unemployed Vietnamese immigrant women to obtain training and licensing as manicurists. The movement took off wherever Vietnamese settled, while technicians of other Asian ethnicities soon entered the business, and elaborate nail art was branded as a trendy Asian phenomenon. Pham delves into the subject with an eye to intercultural relations, especially with regard to tensions between the Vietnamese and African American communities. DCP digital. (BS);
Fiction and Other Realities
2019, Bobby Choy and Steve Lee, USA/South Korea, 85 min.
With Bobby Choy, Im Hwa-young
Music becomes the common denominator in this cross-cultural romantic comedy when aspiring Korean American singer/songwriter Bobby (Choy) goes in search of his roots and falls in love. When his performing career is limited to singing in his mom’s bathtub, Bobby knows that a change of scenery is desperately needed. An offer to work as a rock band’s roadie on a Korean tour takes him to the land where he observes with glee that everyone else looks like him. As if by fate, tracing an old family snapshot brings him face to face with winsome Ina (Im), a young busker performing her songs on a park bench. The real cultural exchange is about to begin, with the music--a host of tuneful numbers and soulful pop ballads--front and center. In English and Korean with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)