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Asian American Showcase

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The seventh 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 through Sunday, April 12 through 14. Screenings will be at the Film Center, 164 N. State. Tickets are $8, $4 for Film Center members; for more information call 312-846-2800. Films marked with an * are highly recommended.

FRIDAY, APRIL 12

Fried Rice

The best of these miscellaneous shorts is Cuong Simon Phan's Mother Vietnam (2001, 18 min.), a memory play in which the narrator, a successful California businessman, recalls his mother in Vietnam singing him a lullaby, his escape on a refugee boat, and the news of his mother's death. Fleeting but lyrical images, most of them tight close-ups, are juxtaposed with a dancer gracefully undulating to Vietnamese folk music, while the soft-spoken voice-over has a Proustian flavor, evoking the textures of the past. In Out of Exile (2001, 28 min.), David Jemerson Young profiles Shen Tong, a student leader during the Tiananmen Square standoff who's trying to adjust to life in the U.S. Some of the scenes are poignant, but the film's politics are obscure. Percy Fuentes's Sand is a competent charcoal-drawing animation of Edvard Munch-like figures who materialize from the sand and then dissolve again, sometimes to the music of Motley Crue. On the same program: works by Rima Anousa, Kikuko Morimoto, and Ya-nan Chou. 95 min. (TS) (6:15)

Lolo's Child

Writer-director-actor-singer Romero Candido commandeers this coming-of-age drama about a young Filipino-American reuniting with his extended family in suburban Toronto after his father's sudden death. Each relative triggers memories, some of them hilarious and ironic (his Elvis-impersonating uncle, his early infatuation with Bruce Lee), others unpleasant (his violent macho cousin, a rival for a girl's affections). Candido communicates his ambivalence toward the male-dominated Pinoy subculture, but his penchant for split screens, optical effects, and other obtrusive video-editing techniques reduces the story to a series of snapshots, denying us a clear sense of the protagonist's upbringing. 82 min. (TS) (8:15)

* We So Horny, Too

Short works about love and sex from filmmakers in Australia, Canada, and the U.S. In Grace Lee's Barrier Device (27 min.) a sociologist doing a study on birth control (Sandra Oh) learns that her ex-boyfriend is sleeping with one of her research subjects (Suzy Nakamura) and becomes obsessed with prying every detail from the woman. The direction is functional at best, but Oh is terrific. In A True Story About Love (2001, 26 min.), Korean-American director Melissa Kyu-jung Lee documents her affairs with actor Marc Hayashi and fellow documentarian Richard Kim during a Bay Area film festival. Clearly the center of her own universe, she pontificates on her lovers' good and bad points, her resentment toward Korean men, and American dating ("trying out before you buy"). The men are allowed to respond, but Lee invariably gets the upper hand; she's as frightening as she is amusing, but her sexual frankness shatters the stereotype of the shy Asian flower. On the same program: works by Greg Pak, Debbie Lum, Gavin Wynn, Yiuwing Lam, Mun Chee Yong, and Nobu Adilman. 109 min. (TS) (10:00)

SATURDAY, APRIL 13

China 21

Ruby Yang (Citizen Hong Kong) interviewed families in Shanghai and the neighboring countryside for this video documentary (2001, 92 min.) probing the future of her homeland. The older folk blame the Cultural Revolution and Hong Kong government policy for their dashed hopes, while the younger people focus on getting an education, finding work in factories, and emigrating to the U.S. The video is talky and its voice-over bland, but it captures the people's frustration and their belief in a better tomorrow. In English with subtitled Chinese. On the same program, Pin Pin Tan's Moving House (22 min.) shows how the housing crisis in Singapore has infringed on ancient Confucian burial traditions, as an extended family is forced to exhume the remains of parents who died 20 years ago and transport them to a columbarium that houses over 65,000 boxes. Tan is respectful toward the families but also exposes the dark humor in this ghoulish spectacle. (TS) (4:00)

Toyo Miyatake: Infinite Shades of Gray

Miyatake, a pictorial photographer in Los Angeles, was part of a group that exhibited Edward Weston's work during the 1920s; in this documentary by Robert A. Nakamura, the photographer's son describes how Miyatake would vanish during family outings to take pictures of nature. Interned as a Japanese-American during World War II, Miyatake pieced together a functional camera, insisting that someone should document the camp. After the war, when pictorialism had gone out of vogue, he concentrated on documenting his community, though in the video's moving finale the son develops his father's final photograph, and it shows leaves against the sky. The painter posthumously profiled in John Esaki's Harsh Canvas: The Art and Life of Henry Sugimoto (2001) enjoyed some success on the west coast during the 1930s but was also interned during the war. No gallery would buy his paintings of life in the camp; he continued to work, but from the snippets shown here his art doesn't seem very original. Also showing but unavailable for preview: Luci Kwak's The Theater of Martin Lim (2001). 84 min. (FC) (6:00)

Lolo's Child

See listing for Friday, April 12. (6:15, 8:15)

* Green Dragon

See Critic's Choice. (8:00)

SUNDAY, APRIL 14

Mai's America

An exchange student from Hanoi completes her senior year at a Mississippi high school and her freshman year at Tulane University in this documentary by Marlo Poras. Mai, daughter of a hotel manager, is cheerful, talkative, inquisitive, and fearless, and she adapts quickly, moving from a host family in a trailer park to the home of a young black couple and befriending a gay transvestite. Poras seems to have staged many scenes, apparently in hopes of documenting racial tolerance in the south, and her disingenuousness becomes as grating as Mai's perpetual smile. Yet the girl's lucky break and the pressure from her parents to finish college in the U.S. make for a compelling story. 72 min. (TS) On the same program, Pomegranate (2001, 14 min.) by Ham Tran. (4:15)

Lolo's Child

See listing for Friday, April 12. (6:15)

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