Tales of global, local and internal struggle

Thoroughly grounded: Tenzing Rigdol and the 20 tons of native soil he smuggled. “Bringing Home Tibet” screens on July 31.  Courtesy of the filmmakers and AAIFF

Thoroughly grounded: Tenzing Rigdol and the 20 tons of native soil he smuggled. “Bringing Home Tibet” screens on July 31. Courtesy of the filmmakers and AAIFF

BY SCOTT STIFFLER  |  Themes of social justice and stories of personal growth dominate the narrative and documentary selections in this year’s Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) — which, in its 37th year, can claim the distinction of being one of the nation’s longest-running showcases for independent film and video.

Fest delivers deeply personal Asian independent films

Nearly every one of the 18 features are having their east coast or world premieres, with many directors in attendance for post-screening Q&A sessions. The work of artists from over 21 countries and regions are represented — including China, the U.S., Japan, Iran, Nepal, India, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Produced by Asian CineVision
July 24 – Aug. 2
At Asia Society (725 Park Ave.)
City Cinemas Village East (189 Second Ave.)
Made in NY Media Center by IFP (30 John St.)
The Museum of Chinese in America (215 Centre St.)
Tickets: $13 ($11 for students/seniors/disabled)
Visit aaiff.org/2014/schedule

Films made in response to urbanization and globalization, as well as labor and displacement issues, comprise the social justice element of the festival — among them, the opening night’s screening of “Sold.” Executive-produced by Emma Thompson, it’s an adaptation of Patricia McCormick’s fictional account of human trafficking in India. From the Philippines, “Transit” has foreign workers in Israel resisting the deportation of their children. The documentary “Bringing Home Tibet” follows artist Tenzing Rigdol, as he attempts to smuggle 20 tons of Tibetan soil across three countries that border the Himalayas, so that exiles in Dharamsala, India can set foot on their native land. NYU Tisch Professor Christine Choy’s “Ghina” investigates Chinese construction in Africa, by speaking with migrant workers and investors about their experiences. A farmer’s imaginative reaction to Taiwan’s membership in the World Trade Organization is the basis for “The Rice Bomber.” See Sean Egan’s review of the film, elsewhere in this issue.

Also reviewed by this publication, the personal growth sagas “Chu and Blossom” and “Pretty Rosebud” concern, respectively, a Korean exchange student’s artistic awakening and a young woman’s determination to leave an unhappy marriage. Two entries from Taiwan also have lead characters coming to realizations under forced circumstances. In “100 Days,” a callous telecom exec returns to the Matsu Islands for a burial, and is given the titular deadline to find a bride in order for his mother’s spirit to depart peacefully. In “A Time in Quchi,” a young boy tethered to his electronic gadgets is forced to log off and slow down — after being sent to the countryside, for a summer with his grandfather.

For the tenth consecutive year, filmmaking teams from around the world will take the challenge posed by AAIFF’s “72-Hour Shootout” — the length of time during which they have to write, shoot and edit a film. This year’s mandatory theme: “The Color of My Hair!” The top 10 films will screen at 1 p.m. on Sun., July 27, at City Cinemas Village East.

If those efforts inspire you to make your own film, AAIFF has an outlet — with patience and attention to detail the only requirements (well, besides pre-registration). From July 25-29, Taiwanese stop motion artist Hui-ching Tseng will lead two workshops: one for young people (ages 10-15), and another for the general public. To participate, contact@mandarinink.org and info@asiancinevision.org for, respectively, the youth and general public workshops. 

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