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Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival Announces 8th Annual Festival Lineup; Kicks Off With Benson Lee’s Seoul Searching on Nov. 12


Seoul Searching (dir. Benson Lee)
Seoul Searching (dir. Benson Lee)

PHILADELPHIA, PA – The 2015 Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival presented by Comcast NBC10 Telemundo62 Comcast Spectator today announced their full slate of films for the 2015 edition of this Philadelphia cultural treasure. For the 8th edition, the festival will open with the Philadelphia premiere of Benson Lee’s Seoul Searching, starring Justin Chon, Jessika Van, In-Pyo Cha, Teo Yoo, and Esteban Ahn, screening at the International House’s Ibrahim Theater. Director Lee will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A. The screening will be followed by the PAAFF’15 Opening Night Reception featuring a 1980s dance music and costume contest (free to all ticket and badge holders).

This year’s festival is comprised of 23 features and over 30 shorts from 17 countries spread over 4 continents and of these, 5 are East Coast premieres and 14 Philadelphia premieres, with a special presentation of Center for Asian American Media’s Muslim Youth Voices project featuring world premieres of short films produced by local Muslim youth.

Lia Chang in Hide and Seek
Lia Chang in Hide and Seek

Bev’s Girl Films’ Hide and Seek starring Lia Chang and Garth Kravits, will have its Philadelphia premiere as an Official Selection at The 2015 Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival (PAAFF15) on Saturday, November 21, 2015 in the Women’s Shorts Program at Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107 at 2:15pm. Two of six PAAFF’15 shorts in the Women’s Shorts program are produced by local filmmakers; Romaine by Eiko Fan and How is How by Pheng Tang. Romaine (12 mins.) is a short doc about Romaine Samworth who, despite being blind for over 85 years, uses vibrant colors to tell personal stories through sculpture. How is How (7 mins.) examines the life of a single Chinese immigrant mother, who becomes out of sorts with her life while going through a career transition.

Split End | Eddie Shieh
Romaine | Eiko Fan
Hide and Seek | Garth Kravits
How is How | Pheng Tang
When Mom Visits | Chiung-wen Chang
America 1979 | Lila Yomtoob

Each of the films in this FREE program of shorts was either produced by women, star women in central roles, or deal with women’s issues. Garth and I will be in attendance for the Q & A. Click here to RSVP.

“The 2015 festival is our biggest festival yet and promises to be one of the most dynamic,” says Festival Director Rob Buscher. “With our new programs and expanded community engagement, we are looking forward to enjoying a richer experience for audiences and filmmakers alike.”

Special events include: community screening series with free films in neighborhood-based cultural centers; panel discussions “Asian Americans in Television” on November 13 and “Girls Make Better Ninjas (Or I Can’t Be Angry, I’m Asian): An Exploratory Workshop on AAPI Feminism” on November 21; centerpiece event “Strength in Numbers,” featuring music videos, live performances and a panel discussion guest curated by Scott CHOPS Jung on November 14; and the Closing Reception on November 22.

The main PAAFF’15 venues are International House in University City (3701 Chestnut Street) and Asian Arts Initiative in Chinatown North/Callowhill (1219 Vine Street). The complete feature lineup (in alphabetical order) is as follows.

View the online program with full details at http://tiny.cc/paaff15

Aroma From Heaven (dir. Budi Kurniawan, Indonesia) – Featuring interviews with farmers, scientists, philosophers, academics, anthropologists, and business owners – this film explores 300 years of coffee production in Indonesia.

Changing Season (dir. Jim Choi, USA) – Famed farmer, slow food advocate, and sansei David “Mas” Masumoto faces health challenges as his queer progressive daughter Nikiko, returns to the family farm with the intention of stepping into her father’s work boots. EAST COAST PREMIERE.

Crush the Skull (dir. Viet Nguyen, USA) – A pair of professional burglars find themselves having to pull one last job and find themselves in a sadistic torture den where they now have to fight for their lives. Adapted from Nguyen’s YouTube short of the same title. PHILADELPHIA PREMIERE.

Dukhtar (dir. Afia Nathaniel, Pakistan) – A mother kidnaps her ten-year-old daughter to save her from the fate of a child bride. Their daring escape triggers a relentless hunt and a cynical truck driver proves to be an unlikely ally. The trio embarks on an epic journey, where the quest for love and freedom comes with a price.

Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten (dir. John Pirozzi, Cambodia) – This compelling documentary uncovers the forgotten history of the Cambodian music scene during the Vietnam War era, which blended Western rock and roll with local traditions, and was suppressed by the Khmer Rouge.

For Here or to Go? (dir. Rucha Humnabadkar, USA) – Set against the backdrop of the 2008 recession, this dramatic comedy examines the many personal battles faced by immigrants living in America. Set in Silicon Valley, a software professional loses a plum position with a startup due to visa issues. PHILADELPHIA PREMIERE.

In Football We Trust (dirs. Tony Vainku & Erika Cohn, USA) – This film is an insightful documentary exploring the so-called ‘Polynesian Pipeline’ to the NFL in the tightly-knit Polynesian community in Salt Lake City, through four young men striving to overcome gang violence and near poverty through the promise of American football. PHILADELPHIA PREMIERE.

Jalal’s Story (dir. Abu Shahed Emon, Bangladesh) – This film follows an infant, rescued from a river and adopted, later abandoned, who becomes a gangster in adolescence. Recently chosen as the Official Selection to represent Bangladesh in the Foreign-Language Category of the 88th Academy Awards. EAST COAST PREMIERE.

Jasmine (dir. Dax Phelan, Hong Kong) – A gripping and chilling psychological thriller about a man struggling to come to terms with his wife’s unsolved murder, who eventually decides to take justice into his own hands and things take a startling turn toward the unexpected. PHILADELPHIA PREMIERE.

Journey from the Fall (dir. Ham Tran, Vietnam) – Inspired by the true stories of Vietnamese refugees who fled their land after the fall of Saigon, and those who were forced to stay behind, this film follows one family’s escape by boat as its patriarch is imprisoned in a Communist re-education camp.

Live From UB (dir. Lauren Knapp, Mongolia) – This film follows the story of one of Mongolia’s most promising independent bands, Mohanik, as they create a new sound for their country, combining traditional instrumentation with Western rock, and discover what it means to be Mongolian today. PHILADELPHIA PREMIERE.

Love Arcadia (dir. Lawrence Gan, USA) – This contemporary romance is set in a small town where a charming goofball becomes emotionally entangled with an ambitious executive and as tensions escalate between their families’ businesses, their relationship is threatened. PHILADELPHIA PREMIERE.

Miss India America (dir. Ravi Kapoor, USA) – When an overachieving Orange County high school senior discovers her boyfriend has fallen in love with the reigning Miss India National, she decides she must pursue the crown in order to win him and the life she planned for herself back. PHILADELPHIA PREMIERE.

My Voice, My Life (dir. Ruby Yang, Hong Kong) – This film follows an unlikely group of misfit students from four of Hong Kong’s underprivileged middle and high schools who are cast in an after-school musical theater program and where each of them confronts unique personal challenges in the process of developing character. PHILADELPHIA PREMIERE.

Off the Menu (dir. Grace Lee, USA) – Grappling with how family, tradition, faith, and geography shape our relationships to food, this film uses our obsession with food as a launching point to delve into a wealth of stories, traditions, and unexpected characters that help nourish this nation of immigrants. PHILADELPHIA PREMIERE.

Oh, Saigon (dir. Doan Hoàng, Vietnam) – Hoàng’s family was on the last civilian helicopter out of Vietnam at the end of the war. Twenty-five years later, her family returns and reunites with the family they left behind, confronting their political differences and attempting to reconnect.

Right Footed (dir. Nick Spark, USA) – This film follows Jessica Cox, a Filipina American born without arms, who became the first person licensed to pilot an airplane with her feet, as she transforms from a motivational speaker to a mentor, and eventually into a leading advocate for people with disabilities. PHILADELPHIA PREMIERE.

The Roots Remain (dirs. Jean-Sebastien Francoeur & Andrew Marchand-Boddy, Cambodia/Canada) – This film follows the story of Canadian-raised Cambodian French graffiti artist FONKi, as he reunites with his family, explores Cambodia’s Hip Hop community, and dedicates a mural to his relatives in Phnom Penh who disappeared during the war. EAST COAST PREMIERE.

Seoul Searching (dir. Benson Lee, South Korea) – Set against the backdrop of 1980s Seoul and inspired by a summer exchange program that Lee attended in the summer of 1986, this John Hughes-esque teen comedy tells a universal coming-of-age story chock full of pop culture tropes, teen hijinks, and first love. PHILADELPHIA PREMIERE.

Someone Else (dir. Nelson Kim, USA) – A surreal drama about the clash of wills between two Korean-American cousins in New York City. A shy young law student hungry for a more vivid, risk-taking existence, visits his wealthy playboy cousin and attempts to sheds his old identity, but spirals out of control. PHILADELPHIA PREMIERE.

The Vancouver Asahi (dir. Yuya Ishii, Canada/Japan) – This tale of sports miracles and glory is based on the true story of a legendary baseball team in 1930s Vancouver examining the harsh realities of poverty and discrimination among 2nd generation Japanese Canadians. PHILADELPHIA PREMIERE.

Waiting for John (dir. Jessica Sherry, Vanuatu) – This film explores the John Frum Movement, now considered the last surviving Cargo Cult, from the perspective of the last village of believers, as they struggle to preserve their culture in the modern world. EAST COAST PREMIERE.

Winning Girl (dir. Kimberlee Bassford, USA) – follows the four-year journey of a part-Polynesian female teenage judo and wrestling phenomenon from Hawai‘i, and in doing so tells the dynamic story of an elite athlete on her ascent, a girl facing the challenges of growing up and an entire family dedicated to a single dream. EAST COAST PREMIERE.

The 2015 Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival is presented by Comcast NBC10 Telemundo62 Comcast Spectator; and made possible through the generosity of Premier Sponsor Aetna; Founding Sponsor HBO; Partner Sponsors Wells Fargo, PHLDiversity, Pennsylvania Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs, and Samuel S. Fels Fund; and Prime Sponsors PECO, Jefferson Health, Pacific Islanders in Communications, Greater Philadelphia Asian Studies Consortium, and Hepatitis B Foundation.

PAAFF is the first and only event of its kind in Philadelphia, bringing in audience members from all over the region and Asian American filmmakers, actors, and leaders, from around the world. The festival also hosts numerous screenings year-round independently and in partnership with regional arts and community organizations. PAAFF’s parent organization, Philadelphia Asian American Film & Filmmakers, is a nonprofit organization founded in 2008 to showcase films by and about Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans for the city of Philadelphia and Greater Philadelphia region. They aim to present captivating programs that engage, inspire, and connect our community both to one another and the non-Asian mainstream.

For more information about PAAFF’15 visit phillyasianfilmfest.org and follow on social media @paaff or #PAAFF15.

Lia Chang
Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek, which will screen at the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival on November 21st. She is profiled in FebOne1960.com Blog, Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

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