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Asian American Showcase

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The eighth annual Asian American Showcase, presented by the Foundation for Asian American Independent Media and the Gene Siskel Film Center, continues Friday through Sunday, April 11 through 13. Screenings will be at the Film Center. Tickets are $8, $4 for Film Center members; for more information call 312-846-2600. Films marked with an * are highly recommended.

FRIDAY, APRIL 11

What's Love Got to Do With It

A mediocre program of recent shorts about the ups and downs of relationships. Best of the bunch is Lee Isaac Chung's Love's Philosophy, in which a young unemployed schoolteacher (Steve Chung) fights with his wife, hangs out with friends, and wallows in a funk. Chung makes good use of the looseness and intimacy of the video format to explore a personal crisis. Pedro & Tony by Don Thomas is a warm and fuzzy clay animation about a gay couple (a rooster and a dog) who quarrel and reconcile. Malcolm Lam's 206 is a pointless and tasteless film-school exercise in horror in which a woman attains liberation by hacking her boyfriend to pieces. Also on the program: films by Haruko Tanaka, Anne Marie Jacir, and Yiuwing Lam. 91 min. (TS) (6:00)

* Not a Day Goes By

Joe C.M. Chan directed this clever 2002 video about a caustic young Chinese-American bookshop proprietor in New York's Chinatown. Bicultural confusion drives his diatribes on TABs ("trendy Asian babes"), funeral rites, and James Clavell, a novelist he excoriates for exoticizing Asian women. The hero dogs everyone he encounters--his mother, his white pals, his Chinese former girlfriend, his current black girlfriend--by debating issues of ethnic identity. With mannered dialogue and deft wide-format lensing, Chan embraces the vocabulary of 90s indie cinema. In English and Mandarin with subtitles. 71 min. Also on the program: Canadian director Julia Kwan's acidic 16-millimeter film Three Sisters on Moon Lake (2001, 22 min.), a tale of three siblings who concoct a legend about a virtuous trio of sisters and their personal goddess, a poisoned rat they name Isobella. (Bill Stamets) (8:00)

Kung Phooey!

Darryl Fong's 2002 send-up of the martial arts genre and Hong Kong movies in general is a great deal of fun but only for those with a high tolerance for slapstick and puns. Art Chew ("Gesundheit!"), an orphan schooled in the ancient discipline of kung-phooey by the priests of the Shur-Li Temple, must battle dragon lady Helen Hu and her henchmen, One Ton and Lo Fat, for possession of a peach that promises eternal youth. Michael Chow is properly stoic as Chew; the rest of the cast gleefully chews the scenery in a manner that should play well on the midnight circuit. 87 min. Also on the program: Dominic Mah and Jennifer Phang's The Matrices (25 min.), an over-the-top satire of the movie industry that references The Matrix. (TS) Fong will attend the screening. (10:00)

SATURDAY, APRIL 12

* Cambodia After the Killing Fields

Two Cambodian-Americans visit their homeland in these documentaries. Jocelyn Glatzer's wrenching The Flute Player focuses on Arn Chorn-Pond, who as a boy was forced to play propaganda songs for the Khmer Rouge and help them carry out murders. Chorn-Pond, who's haunted by guilt, seeks out others who suffered, and their varied stories remind us that there are no good choices in a time of mass murder, though one hopeful sign is Chorn-Pond's current work with Cambodian and Latino gangs. Spencer Nakasako's Refugee follows Mike Siv, a boy who came here with his mother when he was three. His disappointment over his father's self-serving explanation for the family breakup is affecting, but the storytelling style is reminiscent of a home-movie travelogue. In English and Cambodian with subtitles. 112 min. (FC) Siv and Glatzer will attend the screening. (4:00)

The Food Network: Eat, Drink, Man, Woman

A program of shorts about the centrality of food in Asian life. In Sandi Tan's wicked Gourmet Baby a middle-aged Singaporean bachelor escorts his nymphet niece to gourmet restaurants, only to have her reject him and haute cuisine in favor of burgers. Yung Chang's Earth to Mouth documents the daily life of an old Cantonese woman who immigrated to Ontario to live with her son, a vegetable farmer. The frequent digressions concerning Mexican migrant laborers are distracting, but the old woman's account of her past life and present loneliness is touching. Shawn Chou's enjoyable Tomato & Eggs features veteran actress Lisa Lu as an overly solicitous mother whose cooking is unappreciated by her family. Also on the program: works by Max Chan, David Magliocco, Yuan Zhang, and Alice Wu. 97 min. (TS) (6:00)

Kung Phooey!

See listing for Friday, April 11. (6:15)

Charlotte Sometimes

There's much to like about Eric Byler's 2002 debut feature, an idiosyncratic take on emotional commitment in laid-back LA: an attractive cast, a determination to surmount Asian-American stereotypes, and some moody sound-track ballads sung by smoky-voiced Cody Chestnutt. Michael (Michael Idemoto) is a car mechanic in love with his downstairs neighbor (Eugenia Yuan), who uses him as an emotional crutch but has sex only with her boyfriend (Matt Westmore). Frustrated, Michael picks up the enigmatic Charlotte (Jacqueline Kim) at a bar, at which point the screenplay becomes annoyingly vague--Byler tries to conjure heavy weather out of Charlotte's mysterious past, but the details are confusing and the ending bewilderingly abrupt. 85 min. (TS) Also on the program: Idemoto's four-minute video V. Byler and Idemoto will attend the screening. (8:45)

SUNDAY, APRIL 13

Charlotte Sometimes

See listing for Saturday, April 12. Filmmakers Michael Idemoto and Eric Byler will attend the screening. (4:00)

Register This!

A multimedia project by the Asian American Artists' Collective-Chicago, focusing on the U.S. government's National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. (7:00)

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