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10 Films and Events Not to Miss at the San Diego Asian Film Festival

The largest platform of Asian cinema on the West Coast returns to San Diego November 9-18 for its 18th year


From Taiwan's most popular novelist-turned-director comes a savage comedy of adolescence run amuck in 'Mon Mon Mon Monsters.' | Photo courtesy of SDAFF.

Where in San Diego can you find Cannes Film Festival selections, support local filmmakers, and be a part of some of the most prominent Asian-American podcasts? At the 18th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival, that’s where!

November 9-18, the Pacific Arts Movement will feature the largest platform of Asian cinema on the West Coast, with more than 150 films from 20 countries in 30 languages.

Here is our top 10 list of shows and events not to miss, in order of first showing.

1. Opening Night

This year’s festival tips off with the West Coast premiere of Oh Lucy! at the San Diego Natural History Museum on Thursday, November 9 at 7 p.m. The film follows a middle-aged woman in Tokyo who escapes her dull office life when she discovers an English class taught by a charming American. Soon she’s renamed Lucy, develops a fondness for hug-hellos, and follows a postcard from San Diego to find love, adventure, and her spunky niece in Southern California. A Q&A with director Atsuko Hirayanagi is scheduled.


2. The Day After (West Coast Premiere)

The film starts with Areum's first day of work at a small publisher. Her boss, Bongwan, recently broke up with the woman he loved, who previously worked there. The memories of the woman who left weigh down on him. That day, Bongwan's wife finds a love note, bursts into the office, and mistakes Areum for the woman who left.

The Day After was an official selection at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. It will be showing on Friday, November 10 at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, November 11 at 5 p.m., both at the Ultrastar Mission Valley.


3. Potluck Podcast Panels

Last year, some of the most prominent Asian-American podcasters joined forces to form the Voltron of pop culture critics, comedians, and journalists. The idea was to bring different voices and perspectives to the table, and the result is the Potluck Podcast Collective. Be a part of the conversation and join the Saturday School podcasters, the Fresh Creatives podcast, and the They Call Us Bruce podcast, as they record their shows live at the festival. The three Potluck Podcast Panels will take place at the Marriott Mission Valley on Saturday November 11, starting at 1 p.m.


My Enemy, My Brother tells the true story of two unlikely friends. | Photo courtesy of SDAFF.

4. My Enemy, My Brother (International Premiere)

Two former enemies in the Iran-Iraq War are now good friends living in Vancouver. But decades after they left their homelands they return; one for family, the other for love. My Enemy, My Brother tells the true story of shared fates, friendship, and life-long promises. The documentary will debut at the UltraStar Mission Valley on Saturday, November 11 at 1:30 p.m. Filmmaker Ann Shin is slated to be in attendance.


5. Classic Films Restored

This year’s festival is showcasing three classic Asian films, which have been digitally restored.

Shopping for Fangs (1997) features a flirtatious waitress in a blonde wig who receives mysterious but alluring phone calls, and a man who thinks he’s turning into a werewolf. The cult classic features a young John Cho and an iconic Jeanne Chinn, and airs at Ultrastar Mission Valley on Saturday, November 11 at 2:40 p.m.

The will also be a showing to two Chinese classic animation films that have been digitally restored: Pigsy Eats Watermelon (1958) and The Little Sisters of the Grassland (1965). This feature starts at 4 p.m. on Saturday, November 11 at Ultrastar Mission Valley.


6. Awards Gala

The red carpet event brings together more than 500 entertainment, business, and community leaders to celebrate the festival’s top independent films and meet celebrity guests. Grammy Award-winning artist and actress Tia Carrere will perform. The gala will take place Saturday, November 11 starting at 5 p.m. at the Marriott Mission Valley


7. Reel Voices

Eleven high school students from San Diego’s Monarch School for the homeless will showcase their documentaries based on subjects in their own lives. Reel Voices is a 10-week documentary program, funded by the Pacific Arts Movement. It trains high school students to become socially conscious digital storytellers. This free showing will start at Ultrastar Mission Valley on Sunday, November 12 at 12 p.m.


8. Mon Mon Mon Monsters (Centerpiece Film)

In high school there are victims and victimizers, enablers and bystanders. But there are monsters too; monsters that feed on trouble and literal ones that feed on human flesh. When some of the former inadvertently capture one of the latter, the real monstrosity begins. From Taiwan’s most popular novelist-turned-director comes a savage comedy of adolescence run amuck in Mon Mon Mon Monsters (West Coast premiere). Director Giddens Ko is scheduled to appear. The film will be showing at the UCSD Price Center Theater on Sunday, Nov 12 at 6:30 p.m.


9. Free Movies

Throughout the festival, all weekday films starting at 4 p.m. are free. We recommend catching the Monday, November 13 showing of Where The Light Don’t Shine, a collection of eight short films at Ultrastar Mission Valley. One of the shorts will be Plaza Blvd, a local movie about family members who remember their Lola (grandmother) through the food of San Diego.  


10. Closing Night

The last night of the festival showcases A Better Man, a contemporary personal documentary from director Attiya Khan, who is slated to appear in person. In the film, Khan confronts Steve, an ex-boyfriend who used to abuse her every day. With Steve’s permission, Khan films them in conversation as they acknowledge a painful past and lay out a path for healing 20 years after they were together. This will air at the San Diego Natural History Museum on Friday, November 17 at 7 p.m. Following the movie, there will be an after-party hosted by Executive Chef Saransh Oberoi of Masala Street, Stella Artois, and DJ Kanoya.

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