FREEWHEELING DIVERSITY: THE 23rd ANNUAL ASIAN AMERICAN SHOWCASE

10 April 2018

THE GENE SISKEL ANNUAL ASIAN AMERICAN SHOWCASE

Chicago has been stuck with a stubborn chill that has extended the long winter for our city’s residents. That didn’t prevent throngs of theatergoers from keeping warm on a Friday evening with conversation and excitement as they gathered for a showing of Pretty Woman at the Oriental Theatre. But just around the corner, up State Street, a smaller crowd gathered at the Gene Siskel Film Center for the opening of On/Off Grid, an exhibition of Asian American art, part of the larger 23rd Annual Asian American Showcase. The first film of the series, Fish Bones wouldn’t start for another hour but film buffs, academics and curious culturists came early to peruse the displays. The paintings and other images explore our current moment in history in which so much is defined by technology and being “on the grid.” In this warm, intimate environment, there were tasty treats including baozi, a Chinese-type bun steamed and filled with delectable goodness like slightly-sweet pork.

Curious culturists gather for "On/Off Grid" and Fish Bones by Joanne Mony Park
Curious culturists gather for “On/Off Grid” and Fish Bones (2018) by Joanne Mony Park

The main event kicked off when Tim Hugh, the program director for the Foundation for Asian American Independent Media, led the opening remarks. He spoke of how Hollywood continues to be challenged by depicting Asian characters on screen without stereotypical accents, who are complex or have nuanced histories, personalities and desires. After establishing the context that the Asian American Showcase works to disrupt, the lights dimmed and the screening of Fish Bones began.

One of many artworks by Asian American artists part of "On/Off Grid"
One of many artworks by Asian American artists part of “On/Off Grid”

Fish Bones (2018) is the debut feature by Joanne Mony Park, a talented New York-based filmmaker whose work explores personal themes and cultural clashes. The film follows Hana, who leads a double life, pursuing a secret modeling career while working at the family’s Korean restaurant and assisting her chronically-ill mother. The film is a dreamy, non-linear rollercoaster filled with long tracking shots and a hip soundtrack that includes music by Devendra Banhart, Nicolas Jaar and Dirty Beaches.

Fish Bones (2018) is a dreamy, non-linear psychological rollercoaster

In a Q&A session that followed the screening, Park explained that she began developing the film during her last year at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. The filming took place over a six-day period around Fire Island, Queens and Manhattan. The independent, renegade spirit of the production comes through in the final product of the film itself, with a defiance of simple stereotypes that strikes a chord with contemporary concerns in the Asian American community as well as in the larger American population today.

 

Check out the remaining films the Siskel and FAAIM have lined up for the showcase:

FIND ME

2018, TOM HUANG, USA, 104 MIN. WITH TOM HUAN, SARA AMINI.

Find Me (2018) by Tom Huang

Wednesday, April 11th, 8:00pm

One man’s transformation comes by way of a travel adventure in this tragicomedy featuring spectacular vistas of the American West. Joe, an unhappily divorced corporate drone, is the target of affectionate needling by Amelia (Amini), a sprightly co-worker who pokes fun at his stodginess and regales him with tales of her frequent travels. One day Amelia disappears, leaving Joe only a handwritten itinerary and a cryptic note with the words, “Find me.” Ditching obligations that include being a doormat to his ex and chore boy to his quarrelsome mom, he sets off for Amelia’s “amazing other world,” only to encounter a host of goofy accidents and pitfalls that await a couch potato in the great outdoors. Director Huang (WHY AM I DOING THIS?) brings a touching world-weary pathos to the role of Joe, which serves him well in the film’s unexpected finale. DCP digital. (BS)”

 

STAND UP MAN

2017, ARAM COLLIER, CANADA, 85 MIN. WITH DANIEL JUN, NATHALIE YOUNGLAI.

Stand Up Man (2017) by Aram Collier

Friday, April 13th, 8:00pm

“The dreams of one aspiring standup comic take a beating in this comedy that satirizes a few stereotypes (Korean, Canadian, Millennial) while leading its hero, beleaguered Moses Kim (Jun), to a happy and much-needed attitude adjustment. Surprised with the deed to his parents’ small family restaurant on his wedding day, Moses, who can’t cook worth a darn, sees his dream future taking wing as he settles down to a workday life of drudgery and, soon, fatherhood. Director Collier leads Moses through a set of trials, including being saddled with the guardianship of his punky and curious teenage cousin from Korea, that test his sense of self as well as his sense of humor, before the standup man discovers that there’s more than one way to become a showbiz sensation. DigiBeta video. (BS)”

 

PROOF OF LOYALTY: KAZUO YAMANE AND THE NISEI SOLDIERS OF HAWAII

2017, LUCY OSTRANDER AND DON SELLERS, USA 55 MIN.

Proof of Loyalty (2017) by Lucy Ostrander and Don Sellers

Saturday, April 14th, 8:00pm

“The WWII heroism and loyalty of Hawaiian Nisei, or second-generation Japanese Americans, is highlighted through one hero, Kazuo Yamane, whose little-known story is pertinent to today’s debates on immigration. While citizens of Japanese heritage on the U.S. mainland were rounded up and incarcerated in detention camps, relatively few among Hawaii’s 40% Japanese population were detained, and large numbers of men volunteered for military and other service. Drafted into the army prior to Pearl Harbor, Yamane was singled out for intelligence work due to his knowledge of the Japanese language and culture. The film details his substantial contributions to the war effort through work at the Pentagon and in Europe under Eisenhower.

Preceded by the short THE ORANGE STORY by Erika Street (2016, USA, 18 min.). Both in DCP digital. (BS)”

 

MINDING THE GAP

2018, BING LIU, USA, 100 MIN.

Minding the Gap (2018) by Bing Liu

Wednesday, April 18th, 8:15pm

“Three boys, Zack, Keire, and Bing, come of age on the wrong side of the tracks in Rockford, Illinois, sharing experiences and secrets, but also seeking to forget the bad things that happen at home behind closed doors. Over a period of years, self-taught filmmaker Bing’s deft and fluid camera tracks their hours of freedom at the skating park, shares their confidences, and creates a chronicle that addresses with remarkable intimacy the soaring exhilaration being alive. The boys become young adults before our eyes, struggling with the bewildering new demands of manhood. Zack becomes a father, Keire loses his, and Bing begins to come to terms with the past. Special advance screening courtesy of Kartemquin Films. DCP digital. (BS)”

 

// A full list of programming and tickets can be found HERE//