22nd Annual Asian American Showcase
March 31 - April 12
The Gene Siskel Film Center and the Foundation for Asian American Independent Media (FAAIM) present the 22nd edition of Asian American Showcase. Enjoy the freewheeling diversity of independent dramas and documentaries, including selected screenings with filmmakers in person.
Renowned jazz artist Tatsu Aoki and dancer/choreographer Lenora Lee, co-directors of LIGHT, appear in live performance on April 8 with the Chicago premiere of their film combining avant-garde music, film, and dance. Director Joyce Wong appears with her drama WEXFORD PLAZA on April 6, and documentary filmmaker Robin Lung appears with FINDING KUKAN on April 9.
— Barbara Scharres, Director of Programming
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.
Throughout April in our Gallery/Café, the art exhibit “Fierce Tidings: On Rage and Hope” presents work by contemporary Asian American and Asian Diasporic artists, drawing from their personal experiences of events relating to injustice and trauma. The public is invited to the opening reception on Friday, March 31, from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
The Tiger Hunter
2016, Lena Khan, USA, 94 min. With Dani Pudi, Rizwan Manji.
“Resonates with genuine affection and abundant authenticity.” — Justin Lowe, Hollywood Reporter
“Delightful fish-out-of-water comedy that wins with gentle humor and genuine heart.” — Stephen Palmer, Eastern Kicks
Armed with a spiffy polyester suit and a shiny new engineering degree, Sami (Pudi) sets out from rural India to 1970s Chicago to become a “professional American,” the memory of his long-dead dad, the village hero, still fresh in his mind. Disappointment rules when he lands only a lowly temp job and scores a spot in an apartment packed with cab-driving roommates with engineering degrees. Scrambling for the lowest rung on the corporate ladder, he seeks to convince his would-be sweetheart and her mercenary father that he’s already ensconced in a mansion, complete with butler and chef. Director Khan’s wacky comedy satirizes an ambitious immigrant’s plight while delivering a winning message about remaining true to your roots. DCP digital. (BS)
Bayang Ina Mo
2017, Ramona S. Diaz, USA/Philippines, 94 min.
“Effortlessly engaging, capturing a sense of lives revealed.” — Dennis Harvey, Variety
“Cinema vérité at its finest…engaging, intimate, and full of life.” — Siân Melton, Film School Rejects
The world’s busiest maternity hospital in Manila is the setting for this warm, immersive documentary providing a touching, enlightening, humorous and shocking portrait of motherhood stripped down to its most human essentials. Director Diaz (IMELDA, THE LEARNING) surveys a vast complex of delivery rooms and communal wards, where as many as 150 women, most of them poor, nurse newborns while they share beds, meager resources, advice, and gossip. Stories, memorable incidents and personalities abound, as MOTHERHOOD conveys a sense of wonder at life beginning and thriving without first world amenities but with an abundance of hope and dedicated concern. In Filipino with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
Resistance at Tule Lake
2016, Konrad Aderer, USA, 78 min.
The myth that Americans of Japanese ancestry interned during WWII responded uniformly as a docile “model minority” is disproved in this story of the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in northern California, where Japanese Americans en masse stood up for their rights, even when it ultimately meant deportation. Director Aderer (ENEMY ALIEN) delves into the history of Tule Lake, where the majority of internees refused to complete a loyalty questionnaire and were branded “disloyal” by the U.S. government. The imposition of martial law sparked strikes and radical activism, as the government filled the camp beyond capacity with thousands more so-called disloyals, creating an unprecedented critical mass of resistance. In English and Japanese with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
2016, Joyce Wong, Canada, 80 min. With Reid Asselstine, Darrel Gamotin.
“Stands out for its immense sincerity…thoughtful and lighthearted.” — Kathy Zhou, Slug Magazine
A struggling suburban strip mall is the setting for two intersecting dramas of young adult angst in this diptych that explores the longing and stalled hopes of security guard Betty and recently unemployed bartender Danny. Set largely at night in the eerie light of Betty’s guard station and empty parking lot, her story reveals the romantic naiveté of an awkward 19-year-old loner who misinterprets an ambiguous male advance. In Danny’s mirror-image story, his relationship with a girlfriend and half-hearted attempts to make a living peddling cosmetics at house parties make for a sometimes conflicting but sympathetic look at the male side of the equation. DCP digital. (BS)
2017, Lenora Lee and Tatsu Aoki, USA, 57 min.
- Sat, Apr 8th 8:00pm
Inspired by the life of Bessie M. Lee (1894-1955), who, after migrating to New York City, spent two years in indentured servitude, LIGHT is a film in which dance, memory, music, and poetry collide in a visual and aural landscape; a meditation on women being propelled into the unknown by courage and faith to risk their lives and everything they have for freedom. LIGHT highlights the lives of women, including Bessie M. Lee, who through the resilience and triumph over unimaginable experiences, were grounding forces in the creation of the New York Chinatown community in the early 1900s. DCP digital. (Description courtesy of Lenora Lee)
2016, Robin Lung, USA, 75 min.
The long-lost 1942 documentary KUKAN, and the Chinese American playwright Li Ling-ai who created it, become a seven-year quest for filmmaker Lung, who traces the baffling mystery of the film’s complete disappearance. Lauded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and awarded an honorary Oscar, KUKAN was the passion of Li, who pawned her grandmother’s jewelry to raise the funds in order to document first-hand the tragedy and horror of Japan’s occupation of China between 1937 and 1940. Once widely shown and considered the most authentic record of China’s struggle, KUKAN dropped from sight, all copies apparently destroyed, until Lung embarks on her search. DCP digital. (BS)
2017, Justin Chon, USA, 94 min. With David So, Justin Chon, Simone Baker.
- Wed, Apr 12th 8:00pm
“Feels wholly alive in our present moment…hang-out comedy and nihilistic violence sit side by side.” — John Defore, Hollywood Reporter
“Compellingly immediate…alternating between bristling Spike Lee-style protest and the slacker sensibility of early Kevin Smith.” — Guy Lodge, Variety
Cannily contemporary in mood but set against the background of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, GOOK, winner of a Sundance Audience Award, unfolds one pivotal day in the lives of Korean American brothers Eli (Chon) and Daniel (So), owners of a grungy, failing discount shoe store in a neighborhood where they are barely tolerated as exploiting interlopers by customers who are poor, African American, and Latino. Director Chon creates a remarkable blend of grit and lyricism as the comedy of the brothers’ odd but easy-going hangout relationship with black eleven-year-old truant Kamille (Baker) slides into a dark, racially-charged scenario of searing tragedy. In English and Korean with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)