I spent four years in Seattle, acting and performing to my heart’s content, and went back last week for a visit. So when my old mentor, Roger Tang, mentioned that the Seattle Asian American Film Festival was happening, obviously I had to see something. Especially since I have a movie review podcast now.
The beauty of the shorts program was that you could get a range of Asian American experiences in just an hour. There were family comedies and dramas, dark surrealism, horror, action, and a rom com. All of them were well-written, beautifully shot, and a perfect example of what Asian American cinema has to offer. Here’s a rundown of a few of my favorites:
Sameer and the Great Samosa
Honestly, it made very little sense while I was watching; it was my kind of bizarre, dark humor. But it was one of the films that has stuck with me, and that must be acknowledged.
The story covers what so many of our Asian-American cultural narratives are about: the homeland and food. (In fact, three of the eight shorts featured food.) What set this one apart was the fact that it never got overly sentimental; instead it got weird. It didn’t spent all of it’s time questioning the relationship between the two lead characters, their cultural differences, or their feelings for one another. Instead, all of those questions were represented in the form of a giant Samosa that formed itself around the lead character, Sameer. The samosa looked bizarre, and it was effective. You could smell the ghee cooking just by looking at it.
It also told you everything you needed to know about Sameer’s feelings about his homeland, while opening up questions about his new home in America.
Happy Birthday, Claire
This one is another strange film that has stuck with me. It has very little dialogue, and a lot of eerie foley sounds, but once the audience gets in on the secret, it’s fascinating.
The story is a dissection of family and the zombie apocalypse. The point of view is not from the survivors of the zombie apocalypse, it’s from the compassionate, heart wrenching side of parents who have suffered a tragedy.
There’s nothing stereotypically “Asian” about it; just that the family featured is Asian American. And after the loss we all suffered with Glen’s death The Walking Dead, I think this is a great follow up in Asian Americans in the zombie apocalypse.
I Won’t Miss You
This was probably my favorite. Dialogue driven, simple, romantic, and just sentimental enough to make me love every minute.
Joy Regullano (Supernatural) wrote this piece inspired by a friend of hers dying in high school. In this comical short, her best friend dies and returns as a ghost. Their banter is reminiscent of Juno and Gilmore Girls: quick, sarcastic, and full of heart.
Joy’s comedic acting and hilarious script made for something that was not only accessible, but professional and fun.
All of these shorts give me hope for the future of not just Asian American cinema, but all of American cinema. In a time of franchises, sequels, and reboots, these original, fun, thought-provoking shorts were a breath of fresh air.
In addition, having Asian Americans behind the scenes is equally as important as having them in front of the camera. So let’s celebrate Asian American writers, directors, and producers. And let’s give a shout out to the Seattle Asian American Film Festival for presenting these film makers to the world!