Spring has finally arrived, and the Center for Asian American Media is celebrating 36 years of films created by and starring Asian Americans from May 10 to 24 in San Francisco and Oakland, California. The festival features short films, documentaries, and full-length features, with a few live performances mixed in. Here are a few of the short films showcased at this year’s CAAMFest, within the series entitled “Altered States”:
Call Her Ganda is a documentary that chooses to lead with Jennifer’s face, Jennifer’s smile, Jennifer’s impact on the lives of the people who loved her best. It’s a choice that prioritizes her life and what was lost on that October night. It’s also a choice that highlights how little lives like Jennifer’s have been truly valued in Filipino society, and how the fraught history of U.S.-Philippine relations plays into the presence and influence of America in the lives of Filipinos today.
In the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale, we learned how quickly a society could become something unrecognizable, and yet painfully familiar at the same time. The second season seems poised to poke at that wound, if the first two episodes are anything to go by, and it may not just be blood that emerges.
Murderous mermaids in a small town? It’s not quite what one expects from ABC Disney, land of the singing fish-friends, but it’s what we get in Siren, premiering this spring on Freeform.
On Thursday, February 15, I had the privilege of attending In Conversation with…Amandla Stenberg at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. It was a true conversation, facilitated by CBC host and columnist/activist Amanda Parris, one that elicited equal parts laughter and empowerment from both the people on stage and the rapt audience.
You learn to love media in spite of this, to find characters and plot lines to dissect. You learn not to get your hopes up, and to temper the sparks of excitement when an Asian actor is cast—there are no guarantees of nuanced portrayals. You learn to speak the language of film and television, even when it has failed over and over again to learn yours.
Then: Rose Tico.
Who stokes the destructive flames of a long-standing feud? Is it the men of the family, fighting with whatever means they have to save “honour” and “reputation?” Is it the children, for whom ostensibly the feud is fought for, to ensure their survival and success? Or is it a fire that burns indiscriminately, destroying everything in its path, but for the few souls that might choose to throw what water they can onto the pyre? Difficult questions, to be sure, but they are the questions that Sheron R. Dayoc chooses to grapple with in his newest film Women of the Weeping River.
It’s in the cloying smoke puffing up from barbecued fish that we learn of Jesus’s death, and his wife Iyay (Jaclyn Jose) is just as confused and stunned as we are. Jesus (pronounced Heh-soos) has been out of Iyay’s life for years, but his death still resonates for her and their children. Nevertheless, Iyay packs her reluctant family into a mini-minivan, driving alongside their grief in a madcap road trip comedy across the Visayas to Jesus’s funeral.
After 400 years of colonization, dictatorship, and rebellion, resistance has been written into every page of Filipino history. Spanish/American/Japanese occupations have had an impact in ways still being unpacked today, ways that have manifested in the Filipino people’s own governance of the country. This fall, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Bell Lightbox is bringing a series called People Have the Power: Resistance in Filipino Cinema to Canadian audiences.
While You Were Sleeping
Oh Choong-hwan (director and writer), Park Hye-ryun (writer)
Lee Jong-suk, Bae Suzy, Lee Sang-yeob, Ko Sung-hee, Jung Hae-in (cast)
Released September 27, 2017 (VIKI international premiere)
It’s said that the faces of people we see in our dreams aren’t products of our imagination, but real faces we’ve passed. Maybe we don’t remember them right away. Maybe we never do, and they remain just figures in dreams. In SBS’s new supernatural romance drama While You Were Sleepin...
The Shape of Water is a film that doesn’t shy away from ugliness, exploring it just as deftly as it does beauty.
Nikita and Alex are forged together by their experiences before, during and after Division. While it would have been easy and predictable for the writers to pit them against each other in shallow ways after the first season, they chose to go another route.
New Frontiers: The Many Worlds of George Takei invites readers, new and old alike, to get to know Takei and the life he’s led so far, alongside short comics from a diverse set of writers and artists. It’s an invitation worth taking up, and a collection that carries Takei’s legacy forward into the future.
In The Handmaid’s Tale, Toronto is revised and redone as Gilead, and it is harder to hear the call of home. Hard not because it is strange, but because it isn’t, not so much, not really.