Filmfest, Part 2

Am munching on Chicken Waldorf Salad as I’m writing this. Leftover bits of chicken meat has contributed all its flavor in the making of stock, leaving it stringy and tasteless. Reluctant to throw it out as waste, I chopped up some Fuji apples (it’s still apple season, which I define as “whenever the Palomino’s are still selling apples at their stand at Farmer’s Market”. This year it’s been unusually long: they had a bumper crop); added walnuts, a huge dollop of mayonnaise and pinch of salt and pepper, mixed it all up. Yum. Mayonnaise makes anything taste good. So does deep frying.

Survived 11 more movies at the Asian American Film Fest since my last posting on the subject. 4 last Saturday and my mom joined us for 4 last Sunday.

It’s odd that almost all the movies we saw were not frothy-happy-feel-good movies. With the rainy, gloomy weather outside the movie theatre, in some ways it was a downer.

But most of these made by independent, limited funded filmmakers, there’s patience and effort to develop characters and plot, which made for a better story overall. In comparison, I don’t like Hollywood movies anymore, tired, formula driven, half-assed plot and character development that relies primarily on the celebrityhood of its performers to draw viewers.

With foreign movies (there’s both Asian-American and Asian-from-Asia movies), there’s the added bonus of traveling without leaving your stadium seat and cup-holder (Kazahkstan in ‘Schizo’, the Philippines in ‘Cavite’ (but there are large garbage dump sites where slums house the scavengers who pick through thetrash for a living like that in Thailand also.)

If you’ve read Steamed Rice, you know that Victor is a big Parminder fan (from ‘Bend It Like Beckham’). We got to see Archie Panjabi (who played the ‘prettier’ older sister in that movie) in ‘Yasmin’ and another short film, both British-Indian characters, complete with Yorkshire and Scottish accents that were almost unintelligible to our California ears. (‘These movies should have subtitles also,’ I muttered.).

By the way why is that Aishwarya Rai (‘Bride and Prejudice’, ‘Devdas’) is always mentioned as the “most beautiful woman in the world”? My vote for the prettiest Indian filmi actress currently goes to Kareena Kapoor (‘Khabhi Kushi Khabi Gham’).

‘Schizo’: Set in Kazahkstan, Schizo shows you the material poverty of the post-Soviet ‘stans (doctor’s visits are paid for in fresh-laid eggs and home-made sour cream), but the realism (the way people live, the mélange of races) and the sly plot garners two thumbs up.

‘Chinese Restaurants: Three Continents’ (CR2) (the second in a “Chinese Restaurants” trilogy by Canadian-HK filmmaker Cheuk Kwan) was sold out early, based on the popularity of last year’s ‘Song of the Exile’ (CR1), which featured what else but Chinese restaurants in South Africa, Israel and Turkey. The concept is based on the fact that you can find a Chinese restaurant anywhere in the world (as opposed to say, Peruvian or Burmese restaurants). (Isn’t the universal prerequisite for being Chinese is (a) to have worked in a Chinese restaurant, or (b) has a family member who’s worked in a Chinese restaurant before?) This year’s film went to Madagascar, Norway (‘What is a shrimp cocktail? Will it get me drunk?’) and prairie Canada. I can’t wait for next year’s installment.

‘The Year of the Yao’: as could be expected, this was sold out. It was interesting to watch, but this was produced not by some indie filmmaker, but NBA Entertainment (so that’s why they even got footage of Yao leaving his Shanghai flat for the move to Houston), so you’ve got to wonder how ‘whitewashed’ it is (it lightly touched on Shaq’s pidgin Chinese taunts). Yao remains reserved (shyly or slyly so), yet enigmatic. I admire that self-preservation, maybe the only recourse he has under so much scrutiny and pressure. Most of the movie is seen more through Colin Pine (Yao’s translator.) (Crass name dropping: we had dinner with my cousin and Colin Pine in Houston, but we didn’t know about the movie, otherwise, I guess we would have peppered him with questions. But perhaps Colin Pine would have tired of that topic. . . We didn’t know Yao was opening a restaurant (Chinese, of course!) either, otherwise maybe we could have timed our trip until after the restaurant opened.)
Of course, this film has been picked up for wide release, so the rest of you can see it in your neighbourhood multiplex later this year.

To be continued. . .

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