Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gay Film “Boy” Highlight of San Diego Asian Film Festival

But Most Festival Films Copy Hollywood’s Formulas Too Closely

story and photos by LEO E. LAURENCE

Copyright © 2009 by Leo E. Laurence • All rights reserved

While the San Diego Asian Film Festival (AFF) October 16 through 29 was larger and splashier, it ha serious earmarks of the popular Latino Film Festival (LFF) in the spring annually.

Indeed, the man running the Asian event — the energetic Phillip Luque, AFF's operations director — was formerly a right-hand man to the Latino festival’s executive director, Ethan van Thillo.

While literally hundreds of independent, international films of predominantly Asian culture were running on six screens at the Ultra-Star Cinemas in the Hazard Center; Luque was the man running around with a two-way headset, and keeping the larger AFF running smoothly.

While the Asian festival — now in its 10th year — was bigger than the Latino festival, the AFF movies copied too many of the styles of Hollywood films: filled with raw sex, guns, drugs and vio-lence.

In sharp contrast, the Latino festival's films selections — though fewer — were international movies that focused largely on good drama, without the need for raw sex and violence.

One of the featured attractions of the recent AFF was the classic movie Red Cliff, promoted as “the most expensive film in Asian history.”

But, it was a typical war movie, albeit that it focused on the major battles of the Han Dynasty in 208 A.D., when over 2000 sailing ships were burned during brilliant military strategy by an underdog army and navy.

After watching about a half hour of the bloody battles, I got bored with the violence. And, the movie ran for an unusually long 2 hours, 28 minutes. Indeed, the original version of Red Cliff, ran for a full four hours, and was cut in half for American audiences.

Easily one of the best AFF movies was Boy” an extremely sensitive drama of an 18-year old Philip-pino who discovers he's Gay in a go-go bar in Manila's seedy world of cheap Gay strip clubs.

With unusually good, natural-light cinematography and a screen script that could bring tears to your eyes, as well as deep laughter.

Boy showed the two boys in a long, prolonged seduction with sex scenes where you knew what was happening without showing it hard-core.

An army of over 400 volunteers, mostly Asian, was involved. “The big change is that in the past, volunteers were in their 20’s, but now they are high-school students,” said AAF Volunteer Coordi-nator Mark Gadia in an interview.

The Asian festival seem to have produced much larger crowds than did the Latino Film festival in the spring. Attendance was “over 10 percent better than last year,” according to operations manager Luque.

The AFF also produced a larger, 131-page, slick magazine loaded with expensive advertising, as compared with a lower-cost, 67-page program for the Latino festival in March. But, the Latinos were facing a sharp downturn in corporate advertising, as a result of the recession.

While the UltraStar Cinemas multiplex is an older building in the Hazard Center; it remains the venue for both the Asian and Latino festivals. But the building has a major problem with air condi-tioning.

It has only one air-conditioning system for seven theatres. That means they have to turn the temperature control down seriously low in order to keep the largest theatre cool. But that also made the smaller theaters freezing cold.

In this time of a premature and alarming rise in flu this fall, many movie patrons could be heard coughing regularly during screenings. Some patrons even covered their noses with handkerchiefs, to serve like face masks to stay safe against infection. One patron just left one-third into a movie saying, “it's too cold in here.”

The Asian Film Festival ran a full 15 days. More information can be found by e-mailing or calling (858) 565-1264.

PHOTO CAPTIONS (top to bottom):

Crawford High student Ding Wong, 15, served as a volunteer at the Asian Film Festival. Photo by Leo E. Laurence

Asian Kazuki Nakagawa, 21, who lives downtown, served as an Asian Film Festival volunteer. Photo by Leo E. Laurence

Asian SDSU student Edgardo Bungay, Jr., 20, of Chula Vista watched the Gay movie “Boy” at the Asian Film Festival. Photo by Leo E. Laurence