20th Annual Asian American Showcase
April 3 – 16, 2015
It’s been twenty years, and “Asian American Showcase” is still going strong as a platform for new work by established and emerging Asian American filmmakers. The Gene Siskel Film Center and the Foundation for Asian American Independent Media (FAAIM) welcome you to this anniversary edition, April 3-16, celebrating the Asian American woman.
This year we put the spotlight on female directors, with five films directed by women, and three more focusing on women. The festival opens with the atmospheric, award-winning neo-noir MAN FROM RENO, starring Ayako Fujitani, and closes with the action-packed documentary 9-MAN, with director Ursula Liang in person.
Director and TV star Ravi Kapoor makes a personal appearance with MISS INDIA AMERICA, his delightful comedy on over-the-top overachievement. Local chefs and restaurant owners will provide an inside perspective on Asian food, following Grace Lee’s heart-warming and mouth-watering OFF THE MENU.
JEEPNEY by Esy Casey and DELANO MANONGS by Marissa Aroy highlight Filipino culture and Filipino American activism. Japan’s first female Country Western singer Tomi Fujiyama is the subject of the documentary MADE IN JAPAN. A native Hawaiian transgender woman serves as cultural activist and role model for her hula students in the inspiring KUMU HINA.
The art exhibit “Flash,” curated by Haley Jung and critically examining the sexploitation of the Asian American woman in mass media, will be on view in our Gallery/Café from April 3 through July. The public is invited to the opening reception on Friday, April 3, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
— Barbara Scharres
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 Directors Tim Hugh and Jonathan Laxamana; FAAIM's extended network of volunteers; the Filipino American Network; the Illinois Arts Council, A State Agency; and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
MAN FROM RENO
2014, David Boyle, USA, 111 min. With Ayako Fujitani, Pepe Serna
"A stylishly made genre film that revels in its old-fashioned sense of mystery and suspense."
— Mark Adams, Screen Daily
“A little bit Patricia Highsmith, a little bit Nancy Drew…the film’s polish belies its low budget.”
— Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter
Drenched in San Francisco atmosphere, this neo-noir tantalizes with the iconic imagery of fog-shrouded streets, coastal hills, and the sumptuous vintage interiors of the Hotel Majestic. Burned out Japanese detective-novel writer Aki (Fujitani of TOKYO!) goes incognito in the city by the bay, but a seductive stranger blows her cover. In a nearby town, a dead body creates a dilemma for the local sheriff. Aki is soon plunged for real into the mysteries she has only imagined. In English and Japanese with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
MISS INDIA AMERICA
2015, Ravi Kapoor, USA, 95 min. With Tiya Sircar, Hannah Simone
- Sat, Apr 4th 8:00pm
The stereotype of the Asian American over-achiever comes in for some good-natured ribbing in this humorous tale of Harvard-bound Lili (Sircar), future brain surgeon, future super-wife, and all-around take-no-prisoners contender, who faces some hard life lessons via the beauty pageant she enters with ulterior motives. Director Kapoor (co-star of TV’s “Gideon’s Crossing” and “Crossing Jordan”) has a ball with the premise, colorfully satirizing cherished community conventions and offering a look inside the upwardly mobile Indian American family. HDCAM video. (BS)
2013, Esy Casey, Philippines/USA, 61 min.
The iconic “jeepney” of the Philippines, a uniquely homemade mass transit vehicle fashioned from the shell of a military jeep, is ready for its close-up, as director Casey creates an affectionate profile of the hybrid mini-bus in all its folk-art extravagance. The creation of these intricately decorated vehicles is the setup for Casey’s inquiry into the disappearing craft and the social and economic pressures felt by the drivers in an increasingly globalized environment. In English. HDCAM video. (BS)
2014, Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, USA/Fiji, 77 min.
An all-embracing regard for fluid gender roles is only one aspect of this profile of native Hawaiian teacher and cultural activist Kumu Hina, a transgender woman embarking on marriage with a younger man. The Emmy Award-winning directors create a full and lively picture of Hina’s charismatic leadership as role model and communicator of Hawaiian language and heritage as she embodies the ancient tribal tradition of the mahu, a revered two-spirit person who combines male and female energies. In English and Hawaiian with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
OFF THE MENU
2015, Grace Lee, USA, 60 min.
Leave it to filmmaker Grace Lee (AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY, THE GRACE LEE PROJECT) to approach the subject of Asian food in America from a new angle and with her trademark sense of humor. Lee gamely samples the warm hospitality of a Wisconsin Sikh temple’s feast, checks out the empire of a self-made Texan “sushi king,” the innovations of a young Manhattan fusion chef, and more, affirming that the way to the heart of any Asian American community is definitely through its stomach. DCP digital. (BS)
MADE IN JAPAN
2014, Josh Bishop, Japan/USA, 90 min.
The trajectory of one woman’s dream is followed in this story of Tomi Fujiyama, Japan’s first female Country Western singer. Falling in love with CW in the early post-WWII years, young Tomi, known for a huge voice that belies her petite stature and her killer rendition of “The Tennessee Waltz,” finds fame on the USO circuit, records seven albums for Columbia, and shares the Grand Ole Opry stage in 1964 with her idol Johnny Cash. MADE IN JAPAN details her nostalgic return to Nashville. In English and Japanese with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
2014, Ursula Liang, USA/China/Canada, 89 min.
This illuminating look at a little known sport has the universal appeal of action, humor, and cultural depth. Director Liang chronicles the past and present of the aggressive, fast-moving ballgame of 9-Man, a demanding team sport that originated in the streets of North America’s Chinatowns in the 1930s. Liang delves into the historical circumstances that birthed 9-Man, and doesn’t shy away from questioning the exclusionary aspects that attend its present-day organized form. In English and Chinese with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)