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Asian American Showcase

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The sixth annual Asian American Showcase, presented by the Foundation for Asian American Independent Media and the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute, continues Friday and Saturday, April 20 and 21. Screenings will be at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson. Tickets are $7, $3 for Film Center members; for more information call 773-562-6265. Films marked with a 4 are highly recommended.

FRIDAY, APRIL 20

Chinese Fire Drill

In The Uncertainty Principle (2000) director Ted Kim and cinematographer Milton Kam adroitly choreograph the talk and actions of a group of people whose paths intersect in a diner: a couple about to break up, a bumbling hit man looking for his victim, an older man wondering if he should hand over a bag of cash to a woman to take to China. Almost as engrossing is Gavin Wynn's The Debt Collector (2000), in which a charismatic Dennis Tang plays a coolly efficient assassin who videotapes his victims before killing them. In Kuang Lee's haunting but self-consciously arty Hae Lu (2000), a filmmaker remembers a childhood tale in which an immigrant in San Francisco's Chinatown sees the ghost of his wife awaiting his return to Hong Kong, the parallel between that story and the filmmaker's life prompting a remorseful reflection. Also included in this potpourri, films by Siu Ta, OMZ, Ted Vadakan, Marcus Young, Nobu Adilman, Eleana Kim, and Jennifer Bae, and animations by Jae-Suk So, Hiroshi Mori, and John Wilson Yoon. 97 min. (TS) Lee will attend the screening. (6:00)

Woman Soup

Four Taiwanese women approaching middle age commiserate over their man troubles at a communal bath. Director Emily Liu packs a variety of topical dilemmas into this pleasant if synthetic 1999 comedy: a TV host gets married and finds that her husband is jealous of her career; a sculptor has an affair with a married man; a housewife finds out her husband is gay; and an academic tries to lose her virginity. The girl talk is intelligent and risque, and the middlebrow seduction scenes are titillating enough to make up for the characters' luxurious disillusionment. With May Chin (The Wedding Banquet). 95 min. (TS) (8:00)

SATURDAY, APRIL 21

Their Little Eyes See All

Short works from the perspective of children. Joy Dietrich's bleak video Surplus (2000) is a heartrending reminder that poor farm families in Korea once reduced the number of mouths to feed by getting rid of their young daughters (hide-and-seek has seldom seemed so ominous). In Erika Surat Andersen's tasteful film Turbans (1999) a Sikh woman recalls the pressure to conform that her family experienced after arriving in Oregon in 1918. TV actress Lily Mariye (ER) sets a preachy tone in her film Shangri-La Cafe, based on an incident from her childhood in Las Vegas when her parents were unable to serve a black preacher in their restaurant. On the same program, work by Selena Chang, Juli Jiyoung Kang, Victor Vu, and Michelle J. Wong. 126 min. (TS) Vu and Mariye will attend the screening. (1:30)

The Mirror Tells Her Lies

Ann Shin's rambling but ultimately powerful video Western Eyes (2000, 40 min.) examines the phenomenon of Asian women pursuing cosmetic surgery to "westernize" their features. "It gave me confidence," says one. "I'm re-creating myself, balancing East and West together," says another. Yet all the justifications are swept away by the woman who reveals through her tears that she's reacting to the racist hatred she suffered in childhood. Shin includes too many arty effects and eye close-ups; the material would have been even stronger if played straight. Jessica Hagedorn and John Woo's animated film The Pink Palace (2000, 27 min.), about the adventures of a 16-year-old girl, touches on the same topic--one girl visits a cosmetic doctor who hands her a brochure on "Cultural Erasure"--but its limited animation is flat and uninspired. On the same program, which totals 107 minutes, work by Jane Kim, Augustine Ma, and Charmaine Cruz. (FC) Kim and Shin will attend the screening. (4:00)

The Anti-model Minority

Short works about aliens, not all of them extraterrestrial. In James Sang Cho's Ocularis (1999) images of a bloodred landscape with an instrument panel superimposed prove far more effective than a literal narrative, as printed titles describe space invaders hunting humans like animals. Matthew J. Abaya deploys actual voyeurs, vampires, cannibals, and psychopaths in his choppy, Hollywood-derived Embrace Madness (1999) and [f(x)] (2000), and Helder K. Sun's animated Lint People (2000) is an uneasy mix of Quay Brothers weirdness and kiddie TV. The one genuine original is Julie Gaw's half-hour video Shit--The Movie (2000), an exhaustively diverse set of interviews with people who discuss and demonstrate their bowl postures and wiping techniques, rhapsodize on the orgasmic potential of diarrhea, document their feces with photographs, or publish zines such as We Like Poo. On the same program, films by Elaine F. Crisostomo, Ellie Lee, and Juri Morioka. 108 min. (FC) Gaw and Morioka will attend the screening. (6:00)

Roads and Bridges

See Critic's Choice. (7:30)

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