Sadly, the 29th Edition of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival will be soon coming to a close (they finish out the festival this weekend in Long Beach), wrapping up with the Closing Night film Key of Life. Various awards were handed out before the closing night film in the narrative and documentary categories. Some big winners included Lee Issac Chung (for Abigail Harm), Kalyanee Mam (for A River Changes Course) and Tadashi Nakamura (for Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings). Click on for complete list of the winners!
We live in a society which pressures its women to look beautiful. We are surrounded with images of women who set unrealistic standards of beauty and make us question every inch of our body. Its strange then to think that we may actually have it easy compared to women elsewhere. Where can the pressure to be beautiful possibly be worse? How about a country that produces flawless celebrities- Korea.
In South Korea, the need to be beautiful is alarming. With the popularity of Kpop becoming national, the pressure to be attractive has people dishing out thousands of dollars to do so. People strive to be as beautiful as their favorite celebrity and turning to surgery has become normal. In fact, many students even receive surgery as a highschool graduation gift. When asked, students say that just about everyone gets at least one surgery done and celebrities get tons of procedures to look the way that they do. Has Kpop set the standards for beauty too high? Has it become a necessity and a normality to go under the knife? Watch The Kpop Effect- South Korea below and let us know what you think.
Named one of the best known ethnic pageants in the world, the Miss Los Angeles Chinatown pageant judges its contestants on their beauty, character, ability to answer questions concerning society, and their portrayal of Chinese women living in America. Yours Truly, Miss Chinatown dives deeply into the personal lives of two young women competing in the Miss Los Angeles Chinatown pageant as well as a Miss Chinatown “imposter”. While the pageant insists that it celebrates old Chinese traditions and embraces the modern Chinese woman, this is not necessarily the case in the lives of Celeste, Priscilla, and Kristina.
Although the film documents the pageant experience, it takes a more intimate turn into the much more difficult obstacles of self-acceptance, family traditions, and a lost identity. The film follows Celeste as she battles with the troubles of being both Chinese and Caucasian while never being fully accepted by either culture. Priscilla struggles through her father’s very strict and traditional Chinese views while living in a very modern world. Kristina, believing that she will never be cut out to be the picture-perfect Miss Chinatown, lives a life of performance (even portraying the character of an over-the-top, awkward Miss Chinatown) in an effort to hide her self esteem issues.
What begins as a mere pageant documentary turns into a very intimate look into the lives of Chinese women dealing with the pressures of their society. The film takes us behind the scenes of not only the pageant, but also of a girl competing simply to feel more Chinese, a family refusing to accept a daughters marriage because of the husbands race, and the pressure thrust upon Chinese women to be beautiful. The film gives audiences a more honest look into the modern Chinese woman- more honest than any pageant alone could have achieved.
“Yours Truly, Miss Chinatown” by Daisy Lin premiered at the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival and won the Fox Studio Diversity Award at the Downtown Film Fest LA. You can watch the entire documentary here.
What if you were wrongfully accused for a crime you did not commit, and you have exhausted every possible means to clear your name, but to no avail? This is the story that filmmakers Marty Syjunco and Michael Collins tell in their award-winning documentary, Give Up Tomorrow, based on the story of Paco Larrañaga.
A riveting tale (no matter whose “side” you find yourself on), Give Up Tomorrow is a gloriously produced film, bringing the relatively unknown story of Paco and the Chiong sisters to light. Receiving praise from numerous film festivals, including the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, Give Up Tomorrow is a must-see.
Get an insight into the makings behind the film in our interview with one of the film’s makers, Marty Syjuco.
What’s a Glamourbaby, you may ask? Well, it is much, much more than the implied wealth, clothes, jewels and superficial beauty. According to Ruby Veridiano, being Glamourbaby goes much further beyond these things.
The inspiring documentary Dressed showcases a deeper side to the often shallow world of fashion. The movie is a compelling story of a young Asian American fashion designer, Nary Manivong, who defied the odds of a broken childhood and homelessness to reach his ultimate dream, a show of his collection during New York Fashion Week. Check out the trailer after the jump.
Riding along the bumpy road to the DMZ border was perhaps the one of the most heart-wrenchingly surreal moments that I’ve ever experienced. I remember stepping out and looking over to the other side of the green mountain where North and South Korea is divided. I could see the small roofs and farms of North Korea…the watchmen, the soldiers, the DMZ meeting house that rests on the exact border. I felt a giant knot twisting in my gut thinking, “people actually pay money to see this? I couldn’t believe what a tourist site the DMZ had become. I remember one week after I had visited the quiet zone, news had broken out that a South Korean woman tourist got shot by a North Korean soldier due to her wild gesturing.
The stagnant war between North and South Korea has redefined the people of Korea. Deep, unchangeable rifts have been created and thousands of families torn apart.
My family is an example of one of them.
One of my grand-uncles may still reside in North Korea and two of my grand-aunts were shot for dating two “liberal” men in college. North Korea remains such a harrowing tale of the tragedies of war and the continuance of fear.
But organizations such as LiNK are changing things up. Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) is redefining the North Korea crisis through creative storytelling, while providing emergency relief to North Korean refugees and pursuing an end to the human rights crisis.
I first heard of LiNK a couple of years ago on campus at UCI as a sophomore. LiNK is one of the only U.S. based assistance organization that hosts national awareness tours that use film, stories of refugees and creative media to educate communities of the North Korea crisis, and provide opportunities to change the lives of North Koreans through their local chapters that continue to build awareness, advocacy and funds for their programs and rescue operations.
In fact, LiNK released their first documentary, “Hiding” on September 26, featuring their underground networks and refugee rescues and shelters. The documentary can be eligible to be screened all over the U.S., at high schools, colleges and places of worship. For more information on how to check out or host a screening, check out the link here. They are even doing an 8 week “webisode” series with the Ford Foundation to follow North Korean defector, Danny, as he resettles in Los Angeles.
Check out the trailer here:
The documentary shows a more personal and human side on the disaster that is North Korea. Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans continue to be enslaved in prison camps. Up to 300,000 have also escaped to China – seeking food, medicine, work, or freedom from political and religious oppression. Among the 300,000, 70 to 90% of North Korean women are sold into the sex trade, and more and more refugees are fleeing to Southeast Asia to escape imprisonment upon repatriation by China.
“Hiding” is a film about a group of North Korean refugees hiding in China today and exposes their struggles to survive. I can’t wait to watch the screening and hope all of you readers get a chance to watch the documentary. The future is looking brighter with much of your needed support.
To learn more about LiNK and how you can help the North Korean Crisis, you can support LiNK here.
Film: Where Are You Taking Me?
Playing: Los Angeles Film Festival, Thursday, June 24th, 5:15pm (1000 West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles 90015)
Director Kimi Takesue knows what it’s like to be an outsider. Raised by her Asian American father and Caucasian mother, Takesue split her childhood between the disparate cultural worlds of Hawai’i and Massachusetts. Other hapas can probably relate to the issues of identity and cultural belonging that being bi-racial entails, but Takesue chose to embrace these things in her work — what she calls “that meeting point where people from very different worlds come together and struggle for some form of communication.” When commissioned by the Rotterdam International Film Festival to make a film on Africa, Takesue, who had never before set foot in the country, jumped right in.
I saw her movie at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and it was unlike anything else there. For one thing, this movie employs neither narration nor translation; the camera simply wanders through Uganda, capturing daily life. The scenes are all somewhat familiar, but never completely. There’s the wedding ceremony where soap bubbles float towards the alter; elsewhere, children sit in a dark room watching an old Bruce Lee flick, while an attendant does a live voice-over.
“I intentionally wanted to construct the piece as an outsider,” Takesue explained, “so you’re constructing meaning through body language, through gesture.” While filming, her goal was to capture the little moments — or rather, to let them unfold in front of the camera. This is important, she says. “We’re inundated with images of Uganda that only relate to desperation and victimization. We only see images that relate to war and poverty and AIDs.” Her movie reminds us that it’s the little moments that show life’s beauty and vitality.
Oh the joys of motherhood. People wax poetic about that “glow,” about the life-changing, almost divine experience of giving birth, about looking into your perfect little one’s screaming red face for the first time.
I may not be so sure about all that, but after having spent that last two years watching my niece progress from puffy-faced mewling to bona fide little girl obsessed with hide-and-seek and “mama shoe,” I can understand a little bit more about the joys of babyhood.
Award-winning filmmaker Thomas Balmès took a shot at giving us all a unique perspective into the joys of babyhood with his new documentary film Babies, out in theaters nationwide tomorrow.
Babies follows four babies from around the word, from birth to first steps. The adorably feisty Ponijao lives with her parents and eight brothers and sisters near Opuwo, Namibia; intrepid Bayarjargal is from the vast desert of Mongolia; curious Hattie lives with her very ecologically-minded parents in San Francisco; and temperamental Mari is from the tony Shibuya district of the hustling capital of Tokyo.
Now I’m not one of those who coo at every baby she sees — quite the opposite actually. But when I first saw the trailer for Babies back in November (which is also the hilarious opening scene in the film), I couldn’t wait to watch it. Like watching puppies and kittens on YouTube, something about watching the antics of wide-eyed, drooling babies can make the most cynical among us laugh. Balmès does an excellent job giving us a baby’s eye view of the world (he did most of the shooting alone, and at their “level”), and it’s the universality of a baby’s first interactions with the world around her that really hits home.
Like Mari’s frustrated tantrums when she can’t get the stick into the right hole. Or Ponijao’s discovery that she doesn’t possess what her brother does. Or Bayar’s obsession with unraveling the toilet paper roll.
Of course, given the widely varying locales, it’s also a fascinating look into the differences of raising children worldwide. In lands where water is scarce, mothers clean their children by sucking dirt off their faces, or squirting breast milk on them. Some babies witness the everyday chore of animal slaughters taking place right in front of them. And while Mari plays with CDs in a cramped Tokyo apartment and Ponijao keeps busy helping her mother crush red ochre with a rare agility, Bayar finds all the entertainment he needs in his parents’ yurt (a circular thatch hut) while tethered to the bed.
Indeed, the most charismatic baby was Bayar from Mongolia. Saucer-eyed, chubbier-cheeked than most, and seemingly unfazed by anything (including a troublemaking older brother, a too-curious goat, a herd of calves casually stepping over him), Bayar often had to fend for himself, resulting in the most fascinating interactions and learning experiences.
As herders, Bayar’s parents were always busy but nearby. “We trusted [the filmmakers] because we can’t always be staying [at home],” said Purev, Bayar’s father. “We have so many things to do — make sure that the stove be warm and kids be fed, take care of the cattle.” Adds Mandakh, Bayar’s mother, “We are nomads. We can’t always be inside and taking care of our baby.”
But Bayar’s parents got a chance to catch up once they watched the finished product. Their favorite part? Bayar taking his first steps on the vast plains of Mongolia, seemingly alone and on top of the world. “He’s the real Mongolian,” says Purev, “standing against the wind. And smiling.”
Oddly enough, I found that I related the most to the lifestyle of Mari’s Japanese fashion-industry parents. Mother-baby classes with Japanese versions of American children’s songs, trendy striped legwarmers, McLaren strollers.
Based on an original idea by producer Alain Chabat, Babies was originally pitched as a “wildlife film on human babies.” And indeed, that is the feel of the film, which has no commentary, just music. You’re drawn to and invested in the babies and their families because you get to see the mothers while still pregnant and, in some cases, the actual births. Indeed, when Balmès was looking for babies to shoot, he was “casting” pregnant mothers, long before their babies were due. “We hired our little stars without knowing their faces or even genders,” said Balmès.
“I dreamt of a movie theater audience that would applaud because a baby would stand on their own two feet,” said Balmès. “These tiny things are huge adventures for them – and we’ve all been through that. I felt we could show the commonalities as well as the differences among these babies.
“I hope Babies shows that no matter what their conditions are, wherever they live, these babies grow up happy as long as they are loved, and that is universal,” added Balmès.
Just in time for Mother’s Day, Babies, a Focus Features film, opens tomorrow in theaters nationwide. Find out more at Babiesthemovie.com.
And now four lucky readers will get a Babies onesie just for their own little adventurer. Just comment below and tell us whether you need a 12 mos. or 24 mos. size onesie!
Happy Mother’s Day!
Photos courtesy of Focus Features.