So Far, So Good At Asian Film Festival of Dallas (Part 2)

What is the deal with me and rainstorms huh? First it was this year's Sweet AlibisOak 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 andLast Spring 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:

Feature Length Films
Best Asian Narrative Film / Late Spring / Directed by Keun-Hyun Cho
Best Asian-American Narrative / Man From Reno / Directed by Dave Boyle
Best Art Direction / Funny Money / Directed by Thien Do
Special Jury Mention for Acting / Lance Lim for "Innocent Blood"
Best Cinematography /Late Spring
Short Films
Best animated short / The Legend of the Flying Tomato /Directed by Sharon Huang, Aurry Tan, Michael Yates
Best drama short / Forever in Hiatus / Directed by Andy Nguyen
Best late night short / Usagi-San / Directed by Patrick Dickinson
Best documentary short / Spilled Water / Directed by May May Tchao
There's one more film category that is worth mentioning, the audience film award, which is voted by the people who came to see the films at AFFD and returned a ballot at the end of each screening. They will not have any announcements on who won that award until all the votes have been counted. So it could take some time. Be sure to check the AFFD website for the complete results.

It's Not All Fun And Games

Hina-HemaIn 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.

The King's Wrath

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.

Of the 14 male filmmakers that did show up to attend AFFD, the sole female director of a feature film was unavailable. Though there were some films that did include LGBT characters, the film that did star a LGBT lead was a documentary. AFFD does showcase films that can be purchased online or queued on Netflix, but many of those films are made by big budget studios overseas, which leave many Indie Asian Filmmakers in the USA on the outs, simply because of what would be a bigger draw to attract a lot of people.
A Walking Contradiction
I can admit that I am splitting hairs. There is a lot that AFFD can provide. For instance, the director of "Funny Money",  Thien Do, stated that overseas, piracy is so commonplace that it very tough to even distribute a film, let alone make one. In the past five years there has been a boon of film theaters in foreign countries, thanks to globalization. Even though many of the Asian filmmakers like Thien Do can be able to capitalize on marketing the films in their own countries, it is still a long way in which film companies overseas will be able to continue to make and distribute films without the risk of losing their profits down the line. AFFD did do an impressive job with how the festival was marketed, but it could have done more to capitalize the use of other social networking sites in order to bring in more film goers.
Why Don't You Play in Hell
For instance, I bumped into a festival goer on the second night of the festival. Her name was Beeta Akhavi and she's into Asian film and Anime like myself. When I asked her as to how she heard about AFFD, she explained to me about a social networking site called "" that promotes events that happen all over the country and encourages people if they want to participate in the events with a group. I glanced on the site a few times, and the site offers a lot of potential as an alternative to twitter and facebook. Another benefit that AFFD offers is an opportunity to network with businesses in North Texas. When I came to one of their booths, some of the sponsors for AFFD where offering special deals in which you can take advantage of discounted coupons. If you ever wanted to learn how to be a film extra or write for an upscale magazine or maybe expand your education, coming to AFFD to network with the sponsors may be your bet to put yourself out there. The festival may be over, but I would suggest to keep track on the current site for any recent developments or changes for the following year.
For more details about AFFD, go to: