In the entertainment and film capital of the West, a young film festival aims to highlight the talent and craft of Asian filmmakers across the continent.
On 24 October, the 2nd Annual Asian World Film Festival opened up to an enthusiastic crowd of filmmakers, actors, producers and others from the community to support in Culver City, CA. A star-studded affair — of the dignitary sort — featured many talented people ready to share their craft with the world. Within the opening ceremony for the week-long festival, three people were honored with awards and the LA premiere screening of Ali and Nino. Throughout the week, screenings of films from 28 different countries telling stories pertaining to the Asian experience across cultures and time periods along with industry panels.
The panels featured talks about key things like financing a film, PR & marketing, cross-cultural collaboration with the growing Chinese film market, and Asian women represented in Hollywood.
The attendees and filmmakers were excited to share their films with the LA film community, noting that they hope they can share the spotlight with Oscar contenders. They want to share their storytelling styles and film making approaches with others. The cultural exchange and recognition in the community is the key goal for these filmmakers.
Humanitarian Award: Dr. Tae Yun Kim
Awarded the Humanitarian Award for 2016 is the accomplished Dr. Tae Yun Kim. The formidable woman defeated adversity from birth (as a first born girl in her family) and throughout her life in order to help others. After immigrating to the United States with her family, she rose up to start her own successful tech business, become a martial arts Grandmaster, and a philanthropist. She lives by her life motto “He Can Do, She Can Do, Why Not Me”.
Rising Star Award: Justin Chon
For the Rising Star Award, the young actor, producer and director Justin Chon was awarded. He is recognizable from the Twilight series of movies, or from 21 and Over, but he currently has had a hand in producing and directing his own material. Currently he is working on his film Gook which takes place in Los Angeles during the 1992 Rodney King riots. It shows the Korean-American perspective of the tumultuous time and the relationship between the Korean-American and African-American communities then. The film has a Kickstarter closing soon, where the funding will allow for the movie to close post-production. Below is a trailer of the first feature film he directed, Man Up, a buddy comedy.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Tyrus Wong
Receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award this year was Tyrus Wong, the 106 year-old animator and artist who’s legacy of work broke through barriers and influenced contemporary art in Los Angeles thus after. He is probably best known for his work on Walt Disney’s Bambi, where he was the lead art director for the film and creating the ethereal and soft landscapes influenced by his study of Song Dynasty art. This was unlike any other Disney film prior. He also had contributed to concept art for Warner Brothers films like Rebel Without A Cause and many westerns. Among his illustrative work, he also is an avid kite builder, ceramist, and greeting card creator.
His grandson graciously accepted the award on his behalf. Tyrus’ life story can be seen in the 2015 documentary Tyrus.
Opening Screening: Ali and Nino (UK)
This beautifully told and shot story is a dramatic love story between a Muslim Azerbaijani prince and a Christian Georgian princess during WWI. The couple struggle to be together through family disputes, the onset of World War I, and the fledgling independence of Azerbaijan.
Within the film, the audience felt the true emotional highs and lows for this young couple: their escapades together and shy glances among their family, the complications of war and one’s commitment to their motherland, and the strife of watching your children struggle to find happiness. Of course, the movie had it’s laughs as well, often from the Georgian patriarch played by Mandy Patakin. The cross-cultural love story ages well as it relates to our current cultural climate.
The film was co-presented by the Consulate General of Azerbaijan as well as IFC films. The British director, Asif Kapadia, is well known for his beautiful landscape shots within his storytelling. He is also known for directing the film Amy, the biopic about Amy Winehouse’s life, which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature last year. The story is adapted from a novel by the same name by Kurban Said.