O.C.’s Asian Pacific Film Festival sets out to share diverse stories
Growing up Korean American, Douglas Seok felt disconnected from popular Hollywood films because none of the actors looked like him.
“I watched these American films and I wasn’t relating to them because they’re not about me,” he said. “But then I watched Korean films, and while they weren’t about me because I didn’t grow up in Korea, just seeing Korean faces, seeing Asian faces, I felt like I could relate to them more. These were Asian stories.”
Now, Seok makes his own films and is one of the featured directors at the first Asian Pacific Film Festival in Buena Park, an event organizers say will elevate many of the diverse faces and stories Seok missed during his early movie-going years.
“There’s still a sense of Asian Americans as ‘the other’ when it comes to mainstream cinema,” said festival co-director Anderson Le.
“The mainstream culture doesn’t really know how to place or interact with what Asian Americans do. Asian Americans are the model minority, but when it comes to arts, entertainment and culture, there’s always this sense of foreign-ness. So showing Asian American films shows that we are American,” Le said.
The festival, an extension of the 33-year-old Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, will run May 5 through May 11 at CGV Cinemas in Buena Park.
It will feature more than a dozen films by Asian and Asian American directors, including encore screenings from the Los Angeles festival plus a special showcase of Vietnamese cinema.
Bookending the festival are films by two Orange County natives: “She’s the Boss,” a romantic comedy by Ham Tran, and “Fanatic,” by Charlie Nguyen, which tells the story of a rock ‘n’ roll fan who travels back in time.
Also included in the lineup are “Resistance at Tule Lake” by Konrad Aderer and “Relocation, Arkansas – Aftermath of Incarceration” by Vivienne Schiffer, documentaries about the Japanese American internment during World War II.
“Lipstick Under My Burkha” by Alankrita Shrivastava is set in present-day India and shows four women—two Muslim, two Hindu—as they challenge their community’s sexual and social norms, and “Who Is Arthur Chu?” by Yu Gu and Scott Drucker follows the 11-time “Jeopardy” winner.
The program includes English, Khmer, Mandarin, Hindi, Japanese, Cantonese, and Vietnamese-language films. All foreign-language films include English subtitles.
“We’re not only presenting Asian American films, but their own unique voices are showing the diversity within the Asian American community,” Le said.
“We have films from Korean Americans, films from Pacific Islanders, from Indian Americans. It’s a great way for Asian Americans to experience other communities within the umbrella of what Asian America is.”
For Seok, who now is based in Seoul, South Korea, the Asian Pacific Film Festival is a unique platform in the United States to showcase the diverse storytelling he is interested in which is often difficult to get into the mainstream, he said.
His film, “Turn Left Turn Right,” tells the story of a young woman in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and her dying father. As Seok explained, the film is “experimental” and “composed as an album” with classic rock ‘n’ roll tracks from the 1960s.
“Because there’s this type of fest, I know that there’s a chance for my work to be seen,” Seok said. “The fact that I can get exposure — it’s really motivating.”
But for Le, the Asian Pacific Film Festival also is an opportunity for dialogue with the broader community.
“For a week, we want to reflect, revisit and also look at the future of what Asian America is all about,” Le said. “We want to start a conversation about what our place is — especially in this current political climate — and to show how powerful we are as a voice.”
If You Go
What: Asian Pacific Film Festival, Orange County
When: Various show times May 5 through May 11
Where: CGV Cinemas, 6988 Beach Blvd., Buena Park
Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil is a contributor to Times Community News.