Kurosawa’s Revenge: For predictable Hollywood, it comes from the East

    Roll out the red carpet: San Diego goes Hollywood for the sixth annual Asian Film Festival from Sept. 29 through Oct. 6. The premier event of the San Diego Asian Film Foundation, founded by local news anchor Lee Ann Kim, brings in a cornucopia of over 130 short and feature films from the United States, Canada, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Taiwan and the Philippines.

    Last year’s film festival brought in over 9,000 guests, making the SDAFF one of the largest internationally known Asian-American film festivals in North America. This year the festival has expanded by adding four more days to its bustling schedule of screenings, workshops and panels, which will include over 100 of the filmmakers, actors and industry guests. In addition to returning to the UltraStar Mission Valley theaters at Hazard Center, the SDAFF has expanded to feature a second venue next door at Brickstone Salon at the Doubletree Hotel in Mission Valley.

    Award-winning and international film festival selections constitute the wealth of the festival’s screenings, including Cannes 2005 selection “Crying Fists,” a South Korean action boxing drama, Sundance 2005 selections “The Motel” and comedy “Saving Face,” and South by Southwest Film Festival entry “Cavite,” a Filipino thriller done in guerilla cinema-verite style. Opening the festival is “Marathon,” a South Korean blockbuster drama helmed by Jeong Yunchul about an autistic man whose only pleasure in life is running. “Marathon” swept the 2005 Baeksang Arts Awards, winning Best Feature Film, Best Actor (Cho Seung-Woo) and Best Screenplay. Comedic shorts, romance features, queer and gender films, documentaries, international features, family movies and even a multicultural Latino/Asian-American program co-sponsored by the San Diego Latino Film Festival fill all waking hours of the eight days of film magic. The festival closes with Lane Nishikawa’s directorial debut “Only the Brave” — the first narrative feature about the Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which served the U.S. military during World War II. Nishikawa and actor Jason Scott Lee are scheduled to attend the screening.

    The festival promises to be star-studded, with over 100 filmmakers, actors and industry guests such as Dustin Nguyen (“21 Jump Street,” “V.I.P.”) and Roger Fan (“Better Luck Tomorrow”) making public appearances at workshops, panels, competitions and many of the screenings. Top films will be awarded Sept. 30 at a gala in the Doubletree Hotel in Mission Valley. “Saving Face” has garnered much attention, since director/screenwriter Alice Wu will be presented with a Visionary Award for her work, and lead actress Joan Chen will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

    At the core of the festival features is the beauty of storytelling that emerges as a quintessential skill in the craft of filmmakers. Heartbreaking, humorous, poignant and rich with cultural awareness and personal narrative, each story is original and fresh in a sea of mainstream-running formula plots and paltry remakes.

    “There will be something for everyone at this year’s festival,” said Lee Ann Kim, SDAFF’s founding executive director. “From action and comedy to drama and compelling documentaries, I’m extremely proud of the crop of films we’ve selected. Plus the audience gets the added bonus of meeting more than 100 filmmakers and artists in person.”

    Originally an annual project started in 2000 by the Asian American Journalists Association of San Diego, SDAFF garnered enough interest to start the San Diego Asian Film Foundation, focused on bringing filmmakers, artists and educators with diverse cultural and independent media art practices to San Diego. It developed into a nonprofit organization in response, dedicated to supporting and promoting Asian and Pacific Islander culture through media arts. The festival is supported by major grants and donations by the Commission for Arts and Culture, the County of San Diego, the Community Technology Foundation of California, National Sharp Healthcare, Wal-Mart, National Endowment for the Arts and the San Diego Foundation.

    Tickets are $85 for an all-festival pass and $25 for a four pack. Individual screenings are $5 online and $7.25 at the door for films starting before 5 p.m., and $7.50/$9.50 for films after 5 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in person at the UltraStar Mission Valley box office, or online at http://www.sdaff.org.

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