What is the deal with me and rainstorms huh? First it was this year's Oak Cliff Film Festival in which I spent the last day walking around in ruined Fila sneakers and now on the last day of AFFD, I spent the day watching films wearing... soaked sneakers. All in all, the last day was a bit of an encore session in which those who came with badges and tickets came to watch AFFD's best films of the festival leading up to closing night showing of "As The Light Goes Out" and an after-party at The Dram in Uptown Dallas.
Before the premier of the closing night film, the audience got a glimpse of the majority of the board of directors behind AFFD, the non-profit organization responsible for its mainstream success these past thirteen years. As DVD's and swag bags were handed out to random film goers we were given some insight on some of the hurdles the AFFD had to overcome such as, securing the films to showcase, the marketing that was done to promote the festival, researching the film genres, sponsorship, and the dreaded 3rd year curse that end many film festivals. To sum up, the chat with the board provided to those who came to the closing film was very tongue in cheek that though the film festival is a labor of love, it continues on simply because of its support of the audience who come year after year.
The 14th Annual AFFD won't be until next year and already, they were selling VIP Badges outside the screening room and on their website for $88! (tax included-online) They have a start date, but not a location. It could be the Angelika Film Center at Mockingbird Station again or The Magnolia at West Village. But with some minor complaints from some festival goers about the freeway traffic and parking problems at Mockingbird Station, AFFD could be more inclined to do a different location next year.
Or not. You never can tell.
I can admit that I did enjoy myself at AFFD and spilling $88 bucks seems like a good deal. Now that AFFD is over and done with. I can speak a little more freely about the highs, the lows. The winners and losers. The stuff that AFFD did so very well and the other stuff that could be improved upon.
And The Award Goes To...
Here is the list of the big winners of AFFD thanks to selected jury of this year's festival:
It's Not All Fun And Games
In the previous article, I did mention that AFFD has made significant strides to stand out from other Asian Film Festivals in North America and for good reason. Clearly the most talked-about films that AFFD showcased where the films that involved action, gun violence, martial-arts, and of course explosions. And then there were the films that stood in a class by itself. One film for instance, "The Attorney" is based on the life of Roh Moo-Hyun, South Korea's 9th President in his early days as a lawyer turned human-rights activist. Then there's "Kuma Hina", AFFD's only feature length documentary about the life of Hina Wong-Kalu, a transgender teacher and cultural practitioner in Oahu, Hawaii. We also have "A Leading Man" a drama about a struggling Chinese-American actor in Hollywood who seduces a casting director in exchange for acting roles. The most polarizing film at AFFD by far is "Kept" directed by Maki Muzui. Which deals with violence against women and rape culture in Japan. Each of the films offers a different perspective on how the Asian community deals with rising above stereotypes, fighting for equal rights, and overcoming adversity while facing certain fears and personal prejudices.
Even with the amount of success that AFFD has made so far, it is hard to admit that there is more that the film festival can do to provide representation of the Asian community in film and the ability to market itself in North Texas. I spoke with a festival goer, Mr. Doan who brought along his wife to AFFD; Both of them are Vietnamese. Mr. Doan made a lot of interesting observations about the content of the festival that someone like myself takes for granted. When he heard about the festival, he did what he could to promote the film his way which is word of mouth advertising. When "Funny Money" premiered at the festival, he was ecstatic that his method of advertising the festival reached people in Dallas' Vietnamese community. When I asked Mr. Doan as to why he needed to promote the festival as opposed to letting AFFD market it, his responded stating that sometimes you can't assume that everyone uses the internet or a smartphone to get their information. If he didn't step in, no one from his social circle would have came to AFFD to watch the film.
I also had a chat with another festival goer, a mother or two named Eva, who is Half-Japanese, brought her kids to see "Samurai Hustle". We talked about the festival, and about the biggest motivators for her to come to the festival. She was candor about being bi-racial, which gave an impression that she had trouble fitting in with the Asian community growing up, but she's proud of her heritage and wanted her young sons to take advantage of events like AFFD. Of 39 feature films, only a small handful of films came from the South Pacific, such as Vietnam, and Bangladesh.