By Tiffany Ran
Northwest Asian Weekly
Few film festivals in the country can rival the diversity and caliber of films than our own Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), which has for the past 41 years also spotlighted a wide range of Asian and Asian American films. This year, the themes touched on by Asian films at SIFF ranged from action and romance to food, coming of age, and female empowerment, but the ever-pervasive theme of homecoming transcends borders and genres at this year’s SIFF.
In “Golden Hills”, college student Lhakpa returns from the big city to his rural village in the Nepalese mountains and confronts stark realities of the price of modernization and its effects on his people, and a portion of the proceeds from this film went to help with the earthquake relief efforts in Nepal. In “Where I am King”, we return to the slums in the Philippines with self-made millionaire Ricardo as he vies to rediscover his roots. In director Steve Liang’s debut narrative “Coming Home”, an obedient Chinese son embarks on a road trip in Taiwan with his rebellious foreign boyfriend only to discover the bittersweet meaning of home and family. Liang’s short is also the first gay themed film endorsed by the Taiwanese Tourism Board. Meanwhile, mother and daughter flee their tribal home through the mountains of northern Pakistan in “Dukhtar” to escape the young daughter’s fate as a child bride to a cruel tribal leader.
The balance of new and old is alive in Asian films with documentaries spanning hundreds of years’ worth of sake making in “The Birth of Sake” to following Cambodia’s newly reborn music scene in “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll.” Classics like the brilliantly restored “Apu Trilogy”, a renowned series by Satyajit Ray filmed in India in the 1950s, made its comeback on Seattle’s big screens while new animated feature “When Marnie Was There” by Miyozaki protégé Hiromasa Yonebayashi drew die-hard fans and took home SIFF’s Films4Families Youth Jury Awards. Crowd favorites included Japanese action epic “Snow on Blades” with its samurais versus assassins, and SIFF FutureWave Youth Jury Award winner “Seoul Searching”, a humorous homage to the John Hughes high school flicks of the 80s set in a Korean teen summer camp.
The growth of the Taiwanese film industry is also reflected in this year’s lineup, which featured four films that touch on Taiwan’s unique history, culture, and modern day slice of life on the fast growing island nation. Next year, it could easily be another country from which new films provide us an intimate inside look. In Seattle anyway, SIFF remains among the most expedient way to grasp and engage in the Asian experience that is continually shaped by the changing times with politics, war, arts, culture, and technology. All we need to do is tune in and enjoy. (end)
Tiffany Ran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.