By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
The Seattle Asian American Film Festival (SAAF) starts on Feb. 22 at the Broadway Performance Hall with the film “Signature Move.” The film festival highlights Asian American films and filmmakers in feature-length and short format films.
According to the organization’s website, SAAF is the only film festival in Seattle to provide a space for Asian American voices, perspectives, and histories by screening independent films that reflect the diversity and richness of the city’s Asian American community. This year’s showcase include a variety of local filmmakers, as well as those from as far away as France.
“The film festival features independent films by and about Asian Americans,” explained SAAF’s co-director Martin Tran. A volunteer staff of 17 goes through hundreds of submissions for the film festival. They give scores on the films and make recommendations as to what would work for the festival. Since there are only a few slots for the film festival, getting in is competitive. Tran explained that a programming committee takes the scores and works out the format for the weekend. He stated that the committee tries to get a decent representation of subjects relevant to Asian Americans. “We try to get as broad and as beautiful a representation for the film festival.”
There is not a general theme that the committee looks for in reviewing submissions.
The themes tend to show up organically. “We try to get films that have the highest quality.” Tran notes that this year, the committee saw more animated submissions than ever before. There were 6 shorts and 1 feature animated film. It is also the first year that sports will be featured — there will be an afternoon dedicated to sports-themed short films.
In addition, there will be several-themed programs, featuring shorts on the power of women, stories of extraordinary people, and shorts featuring locals about Seattle.
Themes of immigration, racism, human trafficking, and sex are at the forefront of some of the shorts and feature films. There are also comedies and off-beat films to round out the festival.
Of the 75 films that will be shown during the weekend, 40 of the filmmakers will be in attendance to take questions from audiences. The opportunity allows filmmakers to receive input about their films and meet others within the film festival circuit.
The feature film, “Signature Move,” is a romantic comedy about a lesbian Pakistani Muslim who falls for a Mexican woman. The two meet through the Mexican form of pro wrestling, known as Lucha Libre. The issues of gender identity, LGBTQ, love, and the intersection of similar experiences all come together in the movie. Tran notes that few recognize the Pakistani community as Asian American, but there is an intersection of the same experience.
In addition, the opening night party will feature indie-rock/hip-hop fusion band, Lions Ambition, performing at the Broadway Performance Hall after the showing of “Signature Moves.”
There will be a closing night party, on Feb. 25 at 8 p.m., at Rhein Haus on Capitol Hill to celebrate.
Tran first became involved with SAAF by running one of the projectors for the films. He then advanced to grant writing and overseeing the programs for the festival. As a volunteer-run organization, SAAF relies on devoted filmgoers to donate their time and efforts.
For more information on the schedule of events and films, visit www.seattleaaff.org.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.