A preview of the Seattle Asian American Film Festival, showcasing dozens of films, at Northwest Film Forum on Capitol Hill, Feb. 19-21.
This weekend’s Seattle Asian American Film Festival is shaping up to be the biggest one yet. The festival will showcase around 50 films at Capitol Hill’s Northwest Film Forum — as opposed to the 36 last year — by and about Asian Americans across North America.
Films range from features and documentaries to short films and narratives. Co-director Martin Tran said he is especially looking forward to Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn’s “In Football We Trust,” about young Polynesian football players in Salt Lake City, with dreams of making it to the NFL, and Viet Nguyen’s horror comedy, “Crush the Skull.”
“(‘In Football We Trust’) is just about an ethnic community that places a lot of hope and dreams on an almost unattainable goal, which is making it to the NFL, and the pressures they have to deal with,” Tran said. “(‘Crush the Skull’) is just fun.”
Seattle Asian American Film Festival
Friday-Sunday (Feb. 19-21), Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., Seattle; full festival pass is $75; tickets to individual screenings are also available, (http://seattleaaff.org/2016/).
The festival will kick off at 4 p.m. Friday (Feb. 19) with a free retrospective program pairing the oldest Asian-American film, the 1916 “The Curse of Quon Gwon: When the Far East Mingles with the West,” with the 1985 film, “Beacon Hill Boys,” set in 1970s Seattle. The opening night will feature documentary “TOP SPIN,” about three teenagers trying to make it to the Olympics for competitive pingpong, followed by a party — with live music — at Velocity Dance Center.
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Throughout the weekend, the audience will have the opportunity to mingle with directors during Q&A sessions, as well as participate in panel discussions after “In Football We Trust,” and Greg Chaney’s “The Empty Chair,” about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
On Saturday afternoon, local youth involved with the Asian Counseling and Referral Service’s Southeast Asian Young Men’s Group will debut the films “Chanthadeth,” about UW student Chanthadeth Chanthalangsy’s struggles to embrace his name and bicultural identity, and Seattle Central College student Minhkennedy Pham’s “Model Minority Stereotypes,” about the harmful truths behind the ‘model minority’ stereotype often associated with Asian Americans.
Originally the Northwest Asian American Film Festival, which ran from 2003-07, the Seattle Asian American Film Festival was revived in 2013 with a new name, leadership, and desire to fill a void in the city’s film community. Tran said the festival shut down in 2007 due to lack of volunteers.
“We are a really big film city, and it just felt like a huge gap there that we didn’t have a show by and about Asian Americans,” said co-director and co-founder Vanessa Au, who began organizing the festival in 2012. “We wanted to make sure to fill that gap, and there was definitely a need for it, because when we kicked off people were really happy.”
Au said that organizers changed the name for accuracy; similar festivals exist in the Pacific Northwest, and SAAFF was created specifically for Seattle. In total, the festival received around 170 submissions for this weekend’s event.
Despite the increase in screenings, however, Au said they intend to keep the festival fairly small and intimate.
“A lot of festivals get bigger and have multiple locations, and the benefits of keeping it small is it has a community network feel,” she said. “Filmmakers come and they know each other, it allows our community groups and sponsors to mix with the audience.”
“The thing about Seattle is that we are a very engaged community, especially the Asian-American community,” added Tran. “It’s a very activist community so our documentaries always do very well, and everyone here is not only interested in the stories that are presented in the films, but the act of going to an Asian-American film festival. That’s a statement that we are here, we matter, and we have amazing stories to tell.”