So the 14th annual Vancouver Asian Film Festival is coming up in a few days (Nov. 4-Nov.7) and it’s promising to be a festival of extraordinary documentaries and feature films.
The documentaries in this year’s festival include Aoki, a biopic about Japanese American activist Richard Aoki who became one of the founding members of the Black Panthers movement. Sing! China by Academy Award-winning director Freida Lee Mock (who will be present for the screening) follows the renowned L.A. Children’s Chorus and their first concert tour of China, just before the Beijing Olympics. Mock shows modern China through the eyes of American children, and how cultural differences can be overcome by music.
The festival has a light-hearted side as well: Ajumma! Are you Krazy??? is a gut-busting comedy revolving around three middle-aged women and their antics to meet a Korean drama heartthrob — power of love, or the power of stalking? Mad, Sad, Bad is a UK comedy based on a dysfunctional South Asian family with a range of problems, none of them stereotypical: the mother is an alcoholic, her eldest son is a psychiatrist who can’t solve his own problems.
Here’s a quick preview of some of the top highlights:
WO AI NI MOMMY
Nov. 6 (Saturday) 3:30pm
Wo Ai Ni Mommy is a monumental documentary about international adoption. Unlike most films on this subject, filmmaker Stephanie Wang-Breal follows the adoptive mother and adoptee in real-time, showing us the mix of nervousness, joy and anxiety on both sides as they begin their journey to become a family. Whereas most adopted children are infants and adjust with relative ease to the U.S. environment, Fang (Faith) Sui Yong is approximately eight years old when she meets the Sadowskys, a Jewish-American family on Long Island. Faith is vocal about her frustrations on leaving China, while her new mother Donna tries her best to be nurturing without indulging her new daughter’s difficult behavior. Filled with raw emotions, this documentary is an unfiltered look at the adoption process that makes viewers question traditional notions of family, race, and home.
ONE BIG HAPA FAMILY
Nov. 7 (Sunday) 7pm
The first feature documentary by Japanese Canadian filmmaker/animator Jeff Chiba Stearns, One Big Hapa Family is a riveting story about interracial marriage among Japanese Canadians, told through the frame of Chiba Stearns’ family history. With its colourful mix of family interviews, colorful animation, and historical documents and footage, the documentary is as thoroughly entertaining as it is informative, and puts an important spotlight on mixed-race Asians, who are currently among Canada’s fastest-growing demographics. With its treatment of sensitive topics such as the internment and about anti-Japanese racism, the film could have easily fallen into the pattern of navel-gazing angst, but Chiba Stearns deftly avoids this by injecting humour where necessary, and keeping the tone objective throughout. A must-see film for anyone who is curious about mixed-race identity and what the future of Canada’s population will look like.