March 2009 Archives

SFIAAFF logo 2009

B and I spent the weekend at the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival, watching about 12 hours of movies. We're big SFIAAFF junkies, and look forward to spending days shuttling back and forth between the Castro and the Kabuki.

Half Life was by far my favorite movie at the festival. It's a dark dreamy Bay Area drama about a suburban Northern California family dealing with personal crises, against the backdrop of near-future global warming scenario.

The Love of Siam, a Thai gay teen romance, wasn't what I expected. I expected it to focus primarily on angsty young men discovering their sexuality, but it turned out to be a family drama with a wide range of sub-plots: a missing family member, an alcoholic parent, boy band troubles, children's friendships, straight teen voyeurism and crushes, and a woman on the edge trying to protect her family. (And yes, some aww-inducing Thai gay teen romance holding it all together.) This was the first Thai film I've seen, and it was fun to watch.

Heaven on Earth, about a woman from India who joins a working-class Indo-Canadian Sikh household as a new arranged bride, was painful to watch and gut-punchingly good. Of all the movies we watched, this spurred on the longest conversations, days after we watched it. There's a lot here, and I'd love to see a prequel, a la Wicked, telling the story from the point of view of one of the other characters.

Ocean of Pearls was pretty much the exact opposite--a sweet, somewhat predictable, feelgood movie about a bright Indo-Canadian Sikh doctor grappling with identity issues and medical ethics. I liked the fact that the Q&A afterwards touched every angle, from a medical professional discussing the medical dilemmas raised in the movie, to a man asking about Sikh representation on film.

The Mosque in Morgantown is a tight documentary about Wall Street Journal writer Asra Nomani's battle to bring gender equality and moderate politics to her hometown mosque in West Virginia. The documentary's strongly biased toward Nomani's struggle, but you see glimmers of the complicated undercurrents of community opinion. It left me thinking about the role of insider-outsider strategies, and the importance of standing up to take on awkward issues in our community spaces.

The 3rd I South Asian International Shorts program was mixed. I enjoyed Andheri, about an eventful day in the life of a Mumbai household worker, and Midnight Lost and Found, a love story between a nighttime drugstore clerk and a prostitute, played out over the course of nightly condom buying runs.

Festival season's not over yet. This Friday, we have tickets to go Fruit Fly, which is supposed to be in the same vein as the awesomely fabulous Colma: The Musical.


Anirvan Chatterjee is a San Francisco Bay Area tech geek and bibliophile.


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