Ben Wang’s BREATHIN’: THE EDDY ZHENG STORY, about the life of a teenage convict turned prison reform activist, to be festival centerpiece presentation.
AUSTIN, TX – The Austin Asian American Film Festival (AAAFF) announced today the complete film lineup for its 9th annual festival, taking place from Thursday, Nov. 3rd through Sunday, Nov. 6th, at the Blanton Auditorium. This year’s lineup includes 12 feature films and 22 short films that serve the festival’s mission of showcasing the work of Asian and Asian American filmmakers and reflecting Asian and Asian American cultures.
The centerpiece film, BREATHIN’: THE EDDY ZHENG STORY, an audience award winner at this year’s CAAMFest, tells the story of Eddy Zheng, who was tried and convicted as an adult for kidnapping and robbery at the age of 16. After twenty-plus years behind bars, Zheng is now a passionate advocate for juvenile justice and prison reform. BREATHIN’ filmmaker Ben Wang is among several filmmakers and special guests expected to attend the festival.
Other films include FINDING PHONG, a uniquely intimate documentary following its subject’s gender transition, indie comedy GRASS, following two women through an uneventful but ultimately transformational day in the park, CREEPY, the latest from Japanese horror hero Kiyoshi Kurosawa, UNBROKEN GLASS, which finds director Dinesh Sabu uncovering family secrets while trying to understand his own identity, and the Chinese arthouse hit KAILI BLUES. The festival closes on Sunday, November 6th with AFTER THE STORM, the latest from Japanese auteur Hirokazu Koreeda.
“This year’s lineup is an expression of both the breadth of Asian and Asian American cultures and the unique visions that spring from them,” says AAAFF Programming Director Anand Modi. “Every year, we seek out films with singular perspectives, films that advance the medium, and films that draw lines across cultures and through history. We’re excited to share a fantastic selection of movies with our audience this year.”
All films will be screened at the festival’s new Blanton Auditorium venue, centrally located on the South end of the UT campus at 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Austin, TX, 78701. Individual tickets ($10), film passes ($45), and festival badges ($65) are available for advanced purchase now, with student discounts available. New this year will be two short film programs that will be free and open to the general public.
In addition to priority admission to all screenings, festival badges provide access to exclusive festival events, where badge holders interact with visiting filmmakers and professionals in the film community. Please check www.aaafilmfest.com/attend for details or email [email protected].
AAAFF 2016 Feature Film Selection
AFTER THE STORM (Japan, Drama)
Hirokazu Koreeda follows last year’s OUR LITTLE SISTER with another sensitive take on a divided family, in which a typhoon forces a sudden reunion between a wastrel private eye, his elderly mother, his ex-wife, and his unfamiliar son. Starring Hiroshi Abe (STILL WALKING), Yōko Maki (LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON), and Kirin Kiki (OUR LITTLE SISTER).
BREATHIN’: THE EDDY ZHENG STORY (USA, Documentary)
Arrested at 16 and tried as an adult for kidnapping and robbery, Eddy Zheng served over 20 years in California prisons and jails. Ben Wang’s BREATHIN’: THE EDDY ZHENG STORY paints an intimate portrait of Eddy—the prisoner, the immigrant, the son, the activist—on his journey to freedom, rehabilitation and redemption, and explores what is wrong in our system.
CREEPY (Japan, Thriller)
Cannes-award-winning director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (PULSE, TOKYO SONATA) adapts a popular Japanese detective novel into an eerie, slow-burning thriller that takes cues from his 1997 crime thriller CURE. CREEPY follows a couple who moves in next door to a monster. The idea of the monster living next door is nothing new, but Kurosawa intricately dives deep into his characters’ psyches, asking his audience: what will it take to break a person?
FINDING PHONG (Vietnam, Documentary)
Directors Trần Phương Thảo and Swann Dubus create an intimate portrait of Phong, a charismatic young Vietnamese trans woman from a small town now living and studying in Hanoi, as she begins her transition and seeks to reconcile with her family. Combining video diary footage shot by Phong with a frank portrayal of gender identity and family dynamics by the directors, the documentary is an honest and emotional look into the year-long journey of Phong coming out of her shell and finding herself.
GRASS (USA, Comedy)
A smart and sassy comedy from Tanuj Chopra (PUNCHING AT THE SUN). Ph.D candidate Cam (Emily C. Chang) is struggling to complete a favor for her drug-dealing fiancé: deliver a large bag of weed to an unknown buyer. On one hand, she feels a sense of loyalty to her partner, but she doesn’t want to feel like a mule. She processes her decision in a park with her lifelong stoner best friend Jinky (Pia Shah). They embark on a day they will not soon forget.
KAILI BLUES (China, Drama)
In the city of Kaili in the southwestern province of Guizhou, small-town doctor and ex-con Chen Sheng decides to fulfill his dead mother’s wish and embarks on a journey to try to find his brother’s abandoned son. Through the rain and fog, filmmaker Bi Gan presents a dreamy, poetic landscape with carefully orchestrated direction and striking cinematography. Shot in Bi’s hometown with a cast of local villagers and relatives, the film is a tour-de-force debut that weaves together past and present.
KISSING COUSIN (S. Korea, Drama)
Instantly close as children, cousins Tae-ik and Ah-ri go twelve years without seeing each other. Reunited when Tae-ik comes home on leave from military service, the two must navigate their reawakened feelings as adults who had only known each other as children. Occasionally intense but never salacious, KISSING COUSIN captures feelings that should be familiar to anyone with an extended family— from the manic energy of large family gatherings to the sense of closeness that returns, almost immediately, even after long separations.
MELE MURALS (USA, Dramedy)
A documentary on the transformative power of modern graffiti art and ancient Hawaiian culture for a new generation of Native Hawaiians. At the center of this story are the artists Estria Miyashiro (aka Estria) and John Hina (aka Prime), a group of Native Hawaiian charter-school youth, and the rural community of Waimea. Through the personal stories of these two renowned graffiti artists and their joint quest to uphold Hawaiian culture through mural-making, MELE MURALS shows how public art rooted in underground graffiti combines with Native Hawaiian traditions and contemporary life to impact the students, the town of Waimea, and most of all, the artists.
NOSTRUM (USA, Comedy)
While having her long-time boyfriend dump her, her mom romance a new girlfriend, and her best friend away at the school of her dreams, Rex is forced to fight her own battles with the occasional help of her ferret, Lucifer. The debut feature from director Stephanie Lou Hauge, NOSTRUM is low-fi, unapologetically idiosyncratic, and unusually charming.
TYRUS (USA, Documentary)
Director Pamela Tom’s feature debut tells the true story of 105-year-old pioneering Chinese American artist and Disney Legend Tyrus Wong, set against a backdrop of immigration, poverty, and racial prejudice. Although his design work was crucial to the animated classic BAMBI and over 100 live-action movies, including THE MUSIC MAN, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, and THE WILD BUNCH, the name Tyrus Wong remains largely unknown—until now.
UNBROKEN GLASS (USA/India, Documentary)
Raised by his siblings after his mother and father passed away in quick succession, director Dinesh Sabu sets out to understand who his parents were in this personal documentary. UNBROKEN GLASS is remarkable in its candor, both in its investigation of how an immigrant couple dealt with the challenges of cultural assimilation and family expectations, and in its frank conversations about mental illness in a culture where such subjects are often taboo.
THE WOLF MASK (S. Korea, Documentary)
“Man of Korea” is South Korea’s most prominent “men’s rights” organization. Marshalling the resentment of his followers—mostly young men with troubled pasts and uncertain futures—founder Sung Jae-gi leads them in a series of quixotic stunts that irritate some and persuade virtually no one, all to roll back the advance of feminism in South Korean society. Sung stubbornly presses on in the face of public apathy—until a confluence of events, including the impending election of Korea’s first woman president, shatters his aura of supreme confidence.
Austin Asian American Film Festival (AAAFF)
Thursday to Sunday, November 3-6, 2016
Blanton Auditorium, 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Austin, TX, 78701
A selection of Asian and Asian American films from established masters and exciting newcomers alike, including the documentary TYRUS (about famed ex-Disney artist Tyrus Wong) and Hirokazu Koreeda’s AFTER THE STORM. Festival badges, film passes, and single tickets available now, with student discounts available. For details and tickets, visit aaafilmfest.com.
The Austin Asian American Film Festival (AAAFF) promotes Asian and Asian American cultures and experiences through the media arts by showcasing top quality cinema and supporting the creative talents of Asian American artists. www.aaafilmfest.com
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