8 films to watch at the 38th L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival

Cold Tea Collective shares 8 picks for the LAPFF.

Film Picks for the 38th LAAPFF

This May marks the 38th edition of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF). The celebration of cinematic art will once again highlight the breadth of experiences lived by the Asian and Pacific Island diasporas.

Running from May 5-13, the festival features various programs ranging from animated shorts about indigenous strife, to full-length action thrillers. Although the mediums of the films are diverse, the characteristic bridging them together remains universal: authenticity.

Interested in catching a flick or two? With so many amazing pieces this year, here are some of our recommendations on where to start!

1. Free Chol Soo Lee

Free Chol Soo Lee LAAPFF
Image Credit: LAAPFF; Still from Free Chol Soo Lee

Free Chol Soo Lee marks the directorial debut for filmmakers Eugene Yi and Julie Ha. The documentary primarily explores Korean American Chol Soo Lee’s life, who finds himself wrongfully convicted of murder in 1970s San Francisco. 

Along with Lee’s life, the film also details the intergenerational movement between social activists and the Asian American community.

Perhaps where it shines most is in its seamless utilization of contemporary interviews and archive footage. It is through these means that the filmmakers make evident Lee’s inspiration unto others to pursue careers in social justice. 

2. Waterman

Waterman LAAPFF
Image Credit: LAAPFF; Still from Waterman

Narrated by Jason Momoa, this documentary focuses on the life of five-time Olympic medalist, Duke Kahanamoku. Widely considered the father of modern-day surfing, Waterman also examines Kahanamoku’s indigenous activism and stories of humanitarianism.

Director Isaac Halasima combines never-before-seen footage with concise interviews to help tell the story of ultimate aloha.

3. Dealing With Dad

Dealing with Dad LAAPFF
Image Credit: LAAPFF; Still from Dealing with Dad

This film centres around the lives of three siblings who must return to their childhood home to care for their ailing father. Busy in their own right, the family must now also balance “dealing with Dad.”

Sure to be a rollercoaster of emotions, this comedy stars our friend, Chinese Canadian actor Hayden Szeto, Ally Maki, and Peter Kim. Dealing With Dad is directed by Tom Huang.

4. Istikhaara, New York

Istikhaara, New York LAAPFF
Image Credit: LAAPFF; Still from Istikhaara, New York

Istikhaara, New York follows the story of Reza, an aspiring broadway actor who’s just trying to make ends meet. Whilst navigating his personal relationships, Reza is also faced with fits of introspection and the realities of New York City.

Produced and directed by Yasir Masood, this coming-of-age film is sure to hit close to home for any diasporic immigrant.

5. Bad Axe

Bad Axe
Image credit: LAAPFF; Still from Bad Axe

What does it mean to be American? This documentary attempts to answer the question and follows the lives of a Cambodian American family living in rural America. 

Director David Siev delivers a masterful yet heart-breaking film that explores the realities many Asian Americans faced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Extreme adversity is only magnified in this predominantly conservative community of Bad Axe, Michigan.

6. Delikado

Image Credit: LAAPFF; Still from Delikado

The island of Palawan may seem like a tropical paradise, though Delikado highlights the importance of combating intrusive tourism. To director Karl Malakunas, fighting the displacement of native peoples far outweighs corporatization. 

Ten years in the making, this film perfectly presents the stories of three land defenders. Despite bouts of murder, lies, and betrayal, nothing will stand between them and protecting their ancestral lands.

7. Every Day in KaimukĪ

Every Day in KaimukI
Image Credit: LAAPFF; Still from Every Day in KaimukĪ

Every Day in KaimukĪ focuses on the docu-narrative story of Naz. A radio host by trade, Naz must pick between remaining in his hometown, or moving his life to New York City.

A debut feature for director Alika Tengan, this film evokes pure catharsis through its indie execution and stellar soundtrack. With ease, Tengan perfectly encapsulates what it means to be a twenty-something year old who’s just trying to find themself.

8. Maika

Image Credit: LAAPFF; Still from Maika

When a mysterious meteor lands nearby, eight year old Hung finds himself befriending an alien girl from the planet Maika. As she helps him process the loss of his late mother, an inevitable danger lurks on the horizon. 

Veteran director Ham Tran recruits younger cast members Phu Truong Lai and Diep Anh Chu to tell this family-friendly story about the many forms of grief.

Learn more about LAAPFF and get your tickets at: https://festival.vcmedia.org/2022/

See Also: Chinese Canadian actress Kelly Yu on pandemic filming and falling moons

Feature Credit: LAAPFF

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