Melissa Hung works tirelessly to debunk the myth that Asian film is relegated to anime, Hong Kong shoot-´em-ups and Crouching Tiger-style martial arts films. "The film festival fan knows it's more than that," she says, "but not necessarily the cineplex crowd."
As curator for the annual Slant Asian-American film festival, the West Coast-based editor (and former Houston Press writer) hunts for quirky, cutting-edge works that deftly -- and quickly -- relay intriguing narratives. That's the easy part of her job. What's not so easy is getting everyone to agree on how to define the term "Asian-American."
"The definition of Asian-American is a very political term," says Hung. "Originally, it was very Chinese and Japanese. But to me, Asian-American includes South Asian. So I always try to include South Asian filmmakers, even though there are less out there. That way, we build a pan-Asian-American experience."
So at this weekend's Slant: Bold Asian American Images festival -- now in its sixth year -- you'll find shorts from Asians, Southeast Asians and even a Hispanic director who uses Asian-American actors. Program 1 begins at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 3. Don't miss Rocky Jo's buzzworthy Bunny & Clydo, an Asian take on Bonnie and Clyde. Also noteworthy is Samuel Kiehoon Lee's 5x90: The Wake, which pieces together one man's story by using a single shot on a single frame. Through overheard conversations, the story of a deceased man unfolds.
Program 2, which begins at 3 p.m. today, has several highlights. In Christine Simpson's Flight Safety, a man watches planes in a parking lot, rain or shine, every Tuesday. In Samir Patel's Time and the Hour Run, a motel owner in rural America is haunted by the memory of his dead wife. Kwong Yin Brian Hung and Ka Ho Yue's Uptown/Downtown centers on a pickpocket in a New York subway who wonders about the woman whose wallet he stole. And Eugene Ramos's The Concoction, making its world premiere at the festival, is one man's journey through love when he discovers a magical drink.
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"There's more variety, and the quality has grown over the years," says Hung. It's all part of her mission to get Asian-American films from the festivals and art houses to the bigger screens. "Many of the directors in previous years' festivals have gone on to features. That's why we do this. We want these films to get picked up and distributed, so that they find their way to people who only go to the cineplex."
Sat., June 3, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 4, 3 p.m.