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L.A. Asian Pacific Film Fest Starts This Week

The 35th Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival will be presented May 2 to 10 at select cinemas in the Los Angeles area, including Little Tokyo, Downtown, and the L.A. Live Entertainment Center.

This year’s festival will showcase over 200 films, including both features and short films, with eight feature film world premieres.

Since 1983, the LAAPFF has presented over 4,000 films, videos, and digital mediaworks by Asian international and Asian Pacific American artists, and additionally features seminars and panels, in-person guest appearances, and filmmaker awards. It continues to be the largest festival of its kind in Southern California and is the premier showcase for the best and brightest of Asian Pacific American and international cinema.

The LAAPFF is a proud Academy Award-qualifying film festival for short film awards. Recipients of the festival’s Golden Reel Award for Narrative/Animated Short Film will be eligible to submit in the Animated Short Film/Live-Action Short Film category of the Academy Awards.

For program information, visit

Opening Night

“Yellow Rose” tells the story of a headstrong Filipino girl, from a small Texas town, fighting to pursue her country music dreams while facing the threat of deportation.

“I am so humbled that our film has been chosen for this honor,” says Paragas. “‘Yellow Rose’ has taken over 15 years to make and it couldn’t come at a more important time when anti-immigrant sentiment is at an all-time high. This is a story for everyone facing challenges in finding their voice, their dreams and, more importantly, their home.”

“The festival is excited to showcase Diane Paragas as our first-ever Filipina American Opening Night presentation,” says Francis Cullado, executive director of Visual Communications. “We feel that ‘Yellow Rose’s’ themes stemming from our collective experiences of what defines American can create cultural cross-connections throughout our diverse communities.”

Members of the cast and crew will be in attendance for a Q&A following the screening, which will be held on Thursday, May 2, at 7 p.m. at the Aratani Theatre, 244 S. San Pedro St. in Little Tokyo.

Closing Night

“For our 35th edition, we are thrilled to bookend our festival with two world premieres, ‘Yellow Rose’ and ‘Empty by Design,’” shared Lindy Leong, LAAPFF senior programmer. “…This truly is an extraordinary moment of historical significance for Asian American Pacific Islander film and indie film festivals, and it is a win for broader representation of and support of both women and Southeast Asian American stories from the heartland to the homeland. Most importantly, both films tell compelling humanist stories and demonstrate strong indie storytelling voices in the making.”

“Empty by Design” tells the story of Samantha (Rhian Ramos), who moves back home to Manila from the U.S. after a loss in her family, and Eric (Osric Chau), who also travels back for a job. Both expatriates find themselves struggling with their new identities. Despite the disconnection to their culture, they find a sense of place by confiding in each other and eventually discover what they have long been looking for.

The film also stars Chris Pang (“Crazy Rich Asians”), Dante Basco (“Hook”), Desmond Chiam (“Now Apocalypse”), Yoshi Sudarso (“Power Rangers: Ninja Steel”), and Madeleine Humphries (“The Stepdaughters”). The film is produced by Chau, Pang, and Basco.

The screening takes place Friday, May 10, at 7 p.m. at Regal L.A. Live: A Barco Innovation Center, 1000 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles.

Centerpiece Presentations

The Festival Centerpiece Presentations feature two rising Asian Pacific American filmmaking voices. “Go Back to China,” directed and written by Emily Ting, is her second feature film, which recently had its world premiere at SXSW. Justin Chon returns to LAAPFF after his award-winning film “Gook” screened in 2017, with his latest directorial and co-written feature, “Ms. Purple,” which gathered critical and audience accolades at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it world premiered.

Both Centerpiece Films will be presented on Saturday, May 4, at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively, at the Aratani Theatre with filmmakers and cast in attendance.

“An American Story”

An American-born son of Japanese immigrant parents who arrived in the U.S. at the turn of the century, Mineta’s humble beginnings in pre-Silicon Valley to his meteoric rise to the highest echelons of American government take us on a vaunted tour of both professional and personal achievement punctuated by key historical events as an eyewitness, oral historian, and survivor.

After Pearl Harbor as Japanese Americans on the West Coast were hauled off as enemy aliens to internment camps, Mineta passed seminal years of his youth at Heart Mountain, Wyo., where he forged a lifelong friendship with future U.S. senator Alan Simpson, meeting as 11-year-old Boy Scouts.

This personal insight informs Mineta’s natural penchant for consensus building, finding common ground and reaching across the aisle, whether party or race, and trailblazing important collaborations between seemingly disparate individuals, groups, and communities that have affected governmental policy and the law of the land.

Whether as an ad hoc architect behind pro-tech initiatives as mayor to his congressional leadership of the redress movement that led to the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, a formal apology of wrongdoing to the Japanese American community for race-based discrimination, he, in the words of President George W. Bush, was an invaluable counsel during the difficult days following the aftermath of 9/11. By his example, Bush said he mustered up the fortitude to have those conversations necessary to bring polarized communities together in a time of unimaginable tragedy for the nation.

More than a journeyman political figure, Mineta’s tenure as public servant also tremendously impacted U.S. car culture, that sacred object of American ideal of mobility, helping us to transition toward a mindset of public mass transit and environmental conservation we now continue to cultivate. His story offers us an aspirational example of how to be an American and a true patriot. Friday, May 3, at 6:30 p.m. at Tateuchi Democracy Forum, Japanese American National Museum, 100 N. Central Ave., Little Tokyo.

Special Presentations

“Our Special Presentations will highlight important moments in the Asian Pacific and Asian American film diaspora,” said Cullado, “These are important films, filmmakers, and stories that the festival is excited to share with all fest-goers. These programs represent the past, present, and future for all of our stories, storytellers, and artists.”

Here is a partial list:

In this special tribute program, VC recognizes her wide-ranging career and, in particular, her impact on generations of Asian Pacific American cinematic and performing talents who would follow her. This program includes Sung’s “Requiem” and “The Water Ghost,” “Half-Ass” by Victor Wong Huey, and “L.A. Coffin School” by Erin Li. Wednesday, May 8, at 7 p.m. at Regal L.A. Live.

• Armed with a Camera, Vol. 2019. The Armed With a Camera (AWC) Fellowship for Emerging Media Artists nurtures the next generation of Asian Pacific American artists to capture their world, surroundings and outlook on life. Films from this year’s fellows will be presented on Thursday, May 9, at 7 p.m. at Regal L.A. Live. The 2019 AWC fellows are Leatrice Ching, Eleanor Cho, Sarah Cho, Varun Chounal, Xin Li, David Liu, Gary Mei, Chris Nguyen, and Isue Shin.

• Digital Histories. Since its creation in 2003, the Digital Histories video production and digital storytelling program for older adults is designed for older generations to create and preserve visual stories to be passed down to younger generations. Their works consist of personal and place-based documentaries and other compelling narratives that contribute to the artistic expression and healthy lifestyles of older adults. Films from this year’s Digital Histories program will screen Sunday, May 5, at 2 p.m. at the Aratani Theater.

“All-American Girl” Anniversary

Now, 25 years later, LAAPFF will celebrate and engage in conversation with Cho and her other cast members, looking back at that monumental time, the show and its impact on Asian Pacific America and all of America. Tuesday, May 7, at 7:30 p.m. at Regal L.A. Live.

“The Ugly Model”

Doris Yeung’s “The Ugly Model” examines the paradox of a handsome male model who feels ashamed, ugly and emasculated because of his Asian ethnicity in America. Why does Kevin still choose to be a male model where validation is based on physical appearance and his ethnicity defines his marketability? Is he a masochist for beating his head against the glass ceiling or is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder?

Co-presented with Asian Professional Exchange (APEX) and Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA). Saturday, May 4, at 9:15 p.m. at Tateuchi Democracy Forum.

‘Moana in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi’

“Moana in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi” was not made available for sale; however, hundreds of DVD copies were sent to local schools to encourage students to learn Hawaiʻi’s native language.

With English subtitles. Presented by Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, Gold House, the Academy for Creative Media, University of Hawai’i and The Walt Disney Company.

Panelists (subject to change): Chris Lee, executive Producer, Hawaiian language version; Auli‘i Cravalho, star of both versions; Aaron Sala, musical director, Hawaiian language version; Osnat Shurer, producer, “Moana.” With a special performance by a hula halau.

Thursday, May 9, at 7:30 p.m. at Regal L.A. Live

Short Films

The festival will feature over 130 short films featuring brilliant talent both in front of and behind the camera.

“LAAPFF has a rich legacy of storytelling in our shorts programs,” states Senior Shorts Programmer Eseel Borlasa. “Over the years the festival has shown fantastic works, including ‘Sour Death Balls’ by Jessica Yu and ‘Grin’ by Tanuj Chopra. From the world premiere works in Armed with a Camera to the re-imagined presentations in the Re-Scored program, this year’s batch of shorts and episodics continue that legacy, with varied perspectives, forms, and visual style.”

HBO continues its celebration of Asian Pacific American storytellers this year with their HBO Asian Pacific American Visionaries showcase. In a unique filmmaker support initiative between VC and HBO, LAAPFF will present the winning entries from the HBO APA Visionaries Short Film Competition, in which APA artists bring to light their worlds, their visions, and their voices. This year’s winners are “Halwa,” directed by Nirav Bhakta, “Moonwalk with Me,” directed by So Young Shelly Yo, and “Zoetic,” directed by Julie Zhan. These films will have their world premiere on Friday, May 3, at the Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, and will be available exclusively on HBO platforms in May.

Three award-winning films join this year’s shorts as examples of excellence in filmmaking.

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