The Asian American Film Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. It has grown from its humble beginnings where 13 films formed the line-up, to the 100 films that will be screened this year. The 1970s saw the emergence of an urgent voice by Asian-American filmmakers who, inspired by the social activism of the 1960s and the creation of Asian American media arts organizations like Visual Communications in Los Angeles and Asian CineVision in New York, began creating the first significant batch of Asian American films. Collectively, they sought to address a basic need—the need to see themselves on the screen; the need to see their stories told accurately and with all the richness and complexity accorded to others. Yet for all their efforts, limited access to mainstream media meant that these works were not reaching the widest possible audience. The Asian American Film Festival was born to showcase the efforts of this dedicated group of filmmakers. Given below is a list of films from this year’s festival.
A Dream in Doubt (U.S. 56 min. English and Punjabi with English subtitles). Four days after 9/11, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh, was murdered at his gas station in Mesa, Ariz. This documentary follows his brother, Rana, as he tries to understand why Balbir was killed. The film eloquently depicts Rana’s journey towards reconciling the American Dream with the jarring reality of the world today. Director: Tami Yeager. March 20, Tuesday, 7:15 p.m. AMC Van Ness Theatres, 1000 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco.
Mistress of Spices (UK/USA 2005, 35 mm Color, 92 min.) From the creative team of Bend it like Beckham, comes this heart-warming adaptation of Chitra Divakaruni’s celebrated novel. Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai is Tilo, a beautiful but lonely spice mistress whose vows to help others with her magical powers are tested when a handsome stranger Dylan McDermott enters her shop. Director: Paul Mayeda Berges. Cast: Aishwarya Rai, Dylan McDermott, Nitin Ganatra, Anupam Kher. March 17, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., San Francisco. March 24 Saturday, 4:45 p.m. Camera Cinemas, 201 S. 2nd St., San Jose.
Umrao Jaan (India, 35 mm color, 188 min. Hindi with English subtitles). Kidnapped at age eight and sold to an upscale Lucknow brothel, a beautiful courtesan pursues a forbidden love affair amidst turn-of-the-century turbulence. International star Aishwarya Rai shines in this gorgeous, opulent remake of the 1981 Bollywood classic. Director: Dutta; Cast: Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Suneil Shetty. March 18, Sunday, 8:30 p.m. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., San Francisco.
The South Asian short films that are being showcased as part of 3rd I South Asian shorts are Battle of Lanka, Clear Cut, Simple, Dandaka Dharma, Hanuman Finds Sita, Monsoon, The Naming Ceremony (Naamkaran), Writings on the wall, and Zohra. Throwing Away the Maps Shorts Program features End Note and Muzak. The other short films to be shown are Music video for the band Bombay Dub Orchestra, Chapter One of Sita Sings The Blues, Karmacy: Horizons, Koba: Get Over, Lead Role: Father, and MC Riz: Post 9/11 Blues.
Full schedule and ticket details can be found at www.asianamericanmedia.org