AAIFF delivers eclectic indie films to Queens crowds
by Jennifer Khedaroo
Aug 06, 2015 | 6836 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Seoul Searching
Seoul Searching
After screening in Queens for over 15 years, staff at the Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) noticed that the general Asian audience, especially those who just immigrated to the United States, did not have a cinematic culture. Films, like other cultural aspects such as music, literature and dance, are vital to one’s creativity and general life, and so the AAIFF expanded to Flushing so that people from all walks on life can experience Asian films for free.

The festival ran from July 28 to August 1. While there were also screenings in other Queens locations, such as the Queens Botanical Garden and the Museum of the Moving Image, it was the first time that the festival had screened at Flushing Town Hall. John Woo, executive director at the AAIFF, wanted to bring the festival to Flushing for two reasons: firstly, to introduce people to unique the melting pot of Flushing, and secondly, to introduce high quality films to residents who might not have ever viewed cinema outside of their home or local library.

“There’s nothing that compares to watching a movie in the cinema with a community,” Woo said.

Out of the 60 films screened at the festival this year, the four shown at Flushing Town Hall were hits with the audience.

The festival kicked off with a surprise screening of the 2015 Sundance selected film 'Seoul Searching,' a romantic teen comedy set in a 1980s Korean government camp where a group of friends go on wild adventures to ultimately find themselves.

The following night featured the heartwarming drama 'A Simple Life,' where a film producer, played by Andy Lau, ends up taking care of his family’s servant, played by Deanie Ip, after she suffers from a stroke. The Hong Kong movie, which first premiered in 2011, was based on the true story of the relationship between producer Roger Lee and his family’s servant.

Switching gears yet again, the AAIFF also broadcasted the film Revenge of the Green Dragons, which was based off of a New York Chinese-American gang. Inspired by a New Yorker article that explored Chinese street gang life in the 80s and 90s, the film follows the protagonist as he starts gang life young and rises through the ranks of the gang quickly. It all comes crashing down and he must deal with the consequences of his actions.

The film opened in 2014, but Woo explained that hardly anyone had seen it. Even production assistants and interns who worked on the film did not see it because it wasn’t so readily available for audiences.

“The films that we show are never going to get a theatrical release in the United States, there are just too many 'Batman,' 'Avengers,' 'Hunger Games' and 'Twilight' films out there,” Woo said. “Theater owners know that they have to take the studios’ money in order to stay in business.

We believe that a festival circuit has really replaced the theatrical release for Asian American independent films.”

The last piece shown at Flushing Town Hall was the documentary 'Eat Well.' Funded by the Corporation of Public Broadcasting and heading to PBS soon, director Grace Lee travels around the United States to see how the relationship between food and Asian Pacific Americans has evolved with the changes in culture and community. She visits a Sikh temple, a family-run tofu factory and an 800-year-old fish pond among other interesting yet overlooked places.

Woo stated that while you may have a lot of choices to spend your entertainment dollar on in New York City, the AAIFF wants to give you an experience that you can share with your friends and family so that life is a little bit better at the end of the day.

“We joke amongst our staff that we are changing the world, one movie at a time,” he said.

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