From Asia With Love


Two Film Festivals Showcase Cinematic Talent from Diaspora

Two major film festivals in the nation’s capital this month showcase cinematic talent from the Asian Diaspora.

The eighth annual DC Asian Pacific American (APA) Film Festival (, boasting the Canadian Embassy as a Silver Sponsor, continues through Oct. 6. An upcoming highlight is certainly the centerpiece presentation: “Dark Matter.”

At the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, “Dark Matter” won the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize for best film relating to science or technology. In the daring debut film from Chinese opera director Shi-Zheng Chen, a brilliant Chinese cosmology graduate student’s (Liu Ye) career is on the rise, supported by a wealthy university donor (Meryl Streep). But his life collapses when his revolutionary findings threaten the reputation of his esteemed mentor (Aidan Quinn).

Billy Shebar’s script is inspired by real-life happenings at the University of Iowa in 1991, eerily covering somewhat similar subject matter behind this year’s shootings at Virginia Tech. (Landmark’s E Street Cinema; Thu., Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m.)

As part of the APA Festival, filmmakers are also scheduled to be present at several screenings. For “Tre,” filmmaker Chris Byler, whose family is in Northern Virginia, presents the third “most provocative” segment of his “anti-romance” trilogy—the other two parts being “Charlotte Sometimes” and “Americanese.” (George Washington University’s Jack Morton Auditorium; Wed., Oct. 3, 7 p.m.)

Director Lisette Marie Flanary introduces her documentary, “Na Kamalei: Men of Hula,” about resurrecting the art of men’s hula in Hawaii. (Her film won Audience Awards at the 2006 Hawaii International Film Festival and the 2007 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, plus the Special Jury Prize, Emerging Director in Documentary at the 2007 VC FilmFest). Afterward, catch a hula performance by Halau O’Aulani, a Maryland dance school. (National Museum of the American Indian; Fri., Oct. 5, 7 p.m.)

Director Stephane Gauger attends the closing-night screening of “Owl and the Sparrow,” set in modern-day Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), where a 10-year-old street urchin tries to make her own family by bringing together an independent flight attendant and a lonesome zookeeper. (U.S. Navy Memorial; Sat., Oct. 6, 7 p.m.)

Meanwhile, at the Freer Gallery of Art, the 2007 US ASEAN Film Festival ( titled “With Love: New Films from Southeast Asia,” celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as 30 years of U.S.-ASEAN relations. Building on the anniversary theme of “one ASEAN at the heart of dynamic Asia,” the film festival is sponsored by the Grace Heritage Foundation and supported by the ASEAN Secretariat, the embassies of Indonesia and Singapore, and the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong remarked: “It is the first time for Smithsonian to have an ASEAN film series in Washington, D.C. What better way to highlight ASEAN on the world stage as ASEAN celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2007.”

Three selections represent the rapidly rising Malaysian movie industry: “Love Conquers All,” Tan Chui-mui’s tale of a woman who falls for an enigmatic suitor, won awards at the Pusan, Hong Kong and Rotterdam film festivals. With innovative use of digital video (DV), the film is at the leading edge of the budding Malaysian independent cinema movement. (Freer; Fri., Oct. 12, 7 p.m.)

In James Lee’s intimate DV film, “Before We Fall in Love Again,” a woman mysteriously vanishes—and her husband and secret lover become unlikely allies in searching for her. (Freer; Sun., Oct. 14, 2 p.m.)

And in Amir Muhammad’s documentary “Village People Radio Show,” Malaysian communist guerillas are outlaws exiled to living in the jungle of Thailand. Their interviews are interspersed with clips from a Malay radio production of Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale,” which represents the historical power dynamic between the Malay government and the communist party. (Freer; Fri., Oct. 26, 7 p.m.)

The festival’s closing film “Singapore Dreaming” is a smash comedy drama about capitalism, which will be discussed by writer-directors Woo Yen Yen and Colin Goh, a husband-and-wife team. Their script won the Montblanc New Screenwriters Award at the 54th San Sebastian International Film Festival. (Freer; Sun., Oct. 28, 2 p.m.)

About the Author

Ky N. Nguyen is the film reviewer for The Washington Diplomat.