The San Diego Asian Film Festival is much more than kung fu flicks, immigration stories and comedies about the generational rift between immigrant parents and their American-born children.
While those stories are presented, said film festival founding executive director and local news anchor Lee Ann Kim, they don't come close to representing the wide range of experiences among the Asian Diaspora. As the annual film festival grows, its programming naturally becomes broader.
“It's inevitable,” Kim said. “The more Asian-American filmmakers that get into the industry, the more expansive the stories will be. That is simply a measure of good filmmaking that's happening in the community. As we continue, we will see a lot more complicated stories, or stories that are untold-and that is what we're looking for.”
Those untold stories include the accounts of Japanese-Americans who served in the U.S. military during World War II, the internment of Japanese-Peruvians in Texas and life in the Philippines under the Marcos regime. Audiences will also see films about issues that Asians often consider taboo-honor killings, drug abuse, suicide and gay life.
“Asians in general are very closeted when it comes to talking about sex, when it comes to talking about pregnancy, drugs and especially gay issues in our community,” said Kim.
But the San Diego Asian Film Foundation, which produces the festival, has a responsibility to screen these films in an attempt to present all facets of the community, she said. “That's the whole reason we have this film festival-it engages the community in discussions about issues they normally would not have.”
This year-the festival's sixth-may be the most diverse yet. Three programs of gay/lesbian/transgender films include the feature Saving Face, a comedy starring Joan Chen about a Chinese lesbian and her widowed, pregnant mother, and Creating a Place at the Table, a documentary by local filmmakers that looks at three San Diego-based multicultural lesbian couples. A program called “La Frontera Asiatica” explores the intersection of Asian and Latino cultures. The festival also includes a number of works created by women filmmakers.
Asian culture comprises dozens of countries, hundreds of dialects and a multitude of customs, and that diversity is reflected in the filmmakers and their stories. The films come from around the world, including China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan, along with some local entries.
Still, Kim insists the festival-which includes more than 130 films, workshops and panels, and a gala awards ceremony-isn't just for Asian audiences.
“My dream one day is to walk into a film program and see a white person sitting next to a Korean person, sitting next to a gay couple, sitting next to an elderly Native American couple,” Kim said. “I want the community to own it-because we're only as good as the people who attend our festival.”
The San Diego Asian Film Festival opens Thursday, Sept. 29, and runs through Oct. 6 at the UltraStar Mission Valley theater complex at Hazard Center. For a schedule, visit www.sdaff.org.