Participant Observation is the Process of Learning by
Observing and Participating in Cultural Life
The San Diego Asian Film Festival Returns!
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We here at the Worldview Project are super excited about this year's San Diego Asian Film Festival. The Festival kicks off on Thursday, November 11, when the opening night comedy Oh Lucy will screen at Balboa Park's Natural History Museum. Celebrating its 18th year, the festival will present over 150 feature and short films hailing from 20 different countries. Most of the films will screen at the traditional home of the festival, the Ultra Star Theater in Hazard Center, but films will also screen in 6 different venues including the Media Arts Center's Digital Gym and UCSD, where the annual Taiwan Showcase will once again be screened.

Shubh Mangal Saavdhan
Shubh Mangal Saavdhan

The SDAFF is the biggest yearly event for the nonprofit Pacific Arts Movement, which puts on many events throughout the year. Executive Director Ken Lee, who took over for founder Lee Ann Kim in 2016, has continued the tradition of presenting one the the premier festivals of any type in Southern California. The tireless efforts of the organization's Artistic Director, Brian Hu, and his team, will bring audiences an expertly curated selection of films. Hu will introduce many of the films and lead post-screening Q&As with filmmakers. A Q&A will not follow every screening, so it is a great idea to read through film descriptions on the SDAFF website. These sessions are often very interesting, giving the audience a deeper understanding of what they have just seen—and not infrequently some humorous takes on the making of the films! This behind-the-scenes insight, and the opportunity to ask filmmakers about their work in person, is a primary advantage of attending a large scale film festival. We recommend it!

While in past years the festival may have had a more particular view of what constitutes an "Asian" film, this year it embrace the widest possible diversity of what constitutes Asian experience. Indeed, as Pac Arts searched for a unifying symbol of Asia for this year's banners and posters, they eventually decided on a retro style rice maker to represent Asia because it is one of the few cultural attributes that is shared by most, if not all, contemporary Asian societies.

I See You
Kita Kita (I See You)

Oh Lucy
Oh Lucy (Opening Night Film)

In a pre-festival media kickoff session, Artistic Director Hu was asked if there was a particular theme for this year's festival and he offered this: the films representing Asian experience are so diverse that having an overarching theme would be extremely difficult. While East and Southeast Asian countries produce a great number of martial arts, animation and horror movies, and Indian cinema is dominated by Bollywood, most of the films selected for the SDAFF break this mold and showcase a more varied view of Asian experience. (Don't worry, there are also martial arts films and a Bollywood rom-com!)

One way to counteract stereotypes isto see the immense diversity and cultural distinctions found within cultures, and the SDAFF selections certainly accomplish this. Many of the films challenge simplistic views of cultures, and while the films show a great deal of admiration for cultural traditions and expressions, the festival also presents many films that bring light to problematic conditions in some Asian countries. For example, while many Asian countries (and indeed many countries throughout the world) discriminate against LGBT folk, the festival includes several films that embrace LGBT themes.

No matter what your favorite genres are, you are likely to find a number of films to enjoy in this year's festival . Many (perhaps most) of the films cut across two or more genres, but here is a general listing of the festival's feature films:

Animated Films: Classics of Chinese Animation, Have A Nice Day and Cocolors.

Comedies: Oh Lucy!, Love And Goodbye And Hawaii, Claire's Camera, Shopping For Fangs, Bad Genius, Stand Up Man, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, The Girl From Yesterday, A Beautiful Star, The Feels and Mon Mon Mon Monsters.

Documentaries: Out Of State, My Enemy, My Brother, We The Workers, Land Without People, Caniba, Maineland, Who Is Arthur Chu?, Fermented, Small Talk, Island Soldier, 95 And 6 To Go, Finding Kukan, I Am Another You, The Silent Teacher, Mrs. Fang, Bamseom Pirates, Seoul Inferno, Abu, A Better Man and The Problem With Apu.

Dramas: They, Samui Song, The First Lap, One Day, Those Long Haired Nights, The Last Verse, A Fish Out Of Water, The Valley, Columbus, Our Time Will Come, Youth, The Foolish Bird, No Date, No Signature, Birds Without Names, Taxi Stories, One Thousand Ropes, Close-Knit.

Dramedies: The Day After, A Taxi Driver, Cardinal X, Wexford Plaza, The Great Buddha+ and Newton.

Romances: Kita Kita (I See You) and Before We Vanish.

Thrillers: Marlina The Murderer In Four Acts, Shinjuku Swan Ii, Paradox, The Villainess, Dragonfly Eyes, A Day and Somewhere Beyond The Mist.

Individual tickets for most of the films are $12 (except for the opening and closing night films which are $40 apiece). There are discounts for seniors, students and military. Pacific Arts Movement members also get a discount on tickets and passes. If you buy a block of 10 or more tickets (as The Worldview Project is doing for the film My Enemy My Brother which screens on Saturday afternoon) you will also get a discount. Real film aficionados who have the time to take in many films might want to pick up a festival pass which ranges from $150 for Pac Arts members to $295 for the general public. Festival 6-pack tickets are also available and bring down the cost of individual films to $10. All films screened at 4:00 PM on weekdays are free, as areShorts for Shorties, Reel Voices and all the screenings at the UCSD Price Center.. Galas and other special events cost extra.

The Feels
The Feels

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts
Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts

To view the full festival schedule please visit:

The Worldview Project loves to collaborate with other organizations and on Saturday we are co-presenters for the documentary film My Enemy, My Brother.

As Roger and Gene used to say, "Save us an aisle seat!"

Tom Johnston-O'Neill
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