8th San Diego Asian Film Festival Breaks Attendance Records; Honors Top Films and Guests

8th San Diego Asian Film Festival Breaks Attendance Records; Honors Top Films and Guests

The San Diego Asian Film Festival wraps its eighth year at the Mission Valley UltraStar Cinema at Hazard Center which ended last week. During San Diego’s largest Pan Asian cultural event, a record 15,000 attendees experienced over 150 short and feature films from over 15 different countries.

“The festival has reached a new level in terms of size, scope, programs, and number of films,” said Lee Ann Kim, Executive Director and Founder of the film festival. “This demonstrates that the festival is affecting people, not only in San Diego, but in the Southern California region.”

James Kyson Lee and George Takei arriving at the gala awards. Photo by Daniel K. Lew

Winners of the competitive portion of the festival were announced during the star-studded annual Awards Gala on October 13 at the Doubletree Hotel in front of a sold out crowd of 550 special guests. The filmmakers were presented with awards by several Asian American celebrities such as James Kyson Lee, Joy Bisco, Dustin Nguyen and Roger Fan. Acting legend George Takei was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Of his festival experience, Takei described the festival as “a rich and enriching contribution to the cultural landscape of San Diego. I know it will continue to grow and attract increasing numbers of film aficionados to this beautiful city by the sea.”

New York-based filmmaker Linda Hattendorf took the Grand Jury Award, with her debut film CATS OF MIRIKITANI which documents homeless New York street artist Jimmy Mirikitani, a Japanese internment survivor. Best Narrative Feature went to Los Angeles-based filmmaker Stephane Gauger for OWL AND THE SPARROW and the Best Documentary Feature Award was given to Lisette Flanary for NA KAMALEI: MEN OF HULA. In the short film categories, Shyam Balse’s MONSOON took Best Short Narrative; Carolyn Goossen’s MOOKEY’S STORY, Gaelle Denis’s CITY PARADISE for Best Short Animation; and Patricio Ginelsa’s CHAMPION won for Best Music Video.

Hammer and Terry Matsuoka at the opening night party. Photo by Jose Bucud

This year’s record-breaking attendance lead to several sold out programs and panels, including Opening Film Finishing the Game, Closing Night film West 32nd, the romantic comedy Shanghai Kiss, the controversial documentary Nanking, and a one-on-one panel with award-recipient George Takei. Other festival highlights include MC Hammer, filmmaker Justin Lin and the Finishing the Game cast celebrating at the Airport Lounge Opening Night Party; the first-ever live coverage of the festival on TVU internet broadcasting where festival events were seen all over the world; “youth day,” a free afternoon film program for high school students; and an at-capacity audience at the festival’s live music event Blowfish featuring music videos, performances by TIMZ, The Upstarts, Far*East Movement, as well as a farewell jam by former Air Guitar Champion C-Diddy.

Lastly, well-deserved recognition came in the form of a special showcase of documentaries by eight San Diego high-school students, in SDAFF’s third annual Reel Voices Project. This internship provided local teens the opportunity to create their own short documentary films that were presented to a standing-room only crowd during the film festival. Each student also earned a $500 scholarship as part of the program.

“With the success of this year’s programs and events” said Associate Festival Director George Lin, “We will continue to develop innovative programming that will provide a unique film festival experience.