The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) announced the complete lineup over 139 films for the 37th edition of the Festival, which is set to take place September 23 to October 2, 2021.
“The Festival returns to connect our artists and communities in person,” says Francis Cullado, Executive Director of Visual Communications. “We are excited about our lineup of filmmakers whose work have the capacity to influence change in the world, as well as truly represent us. With our incredible narrative features, our non-fiction slate, and our live action, documentary, and animated shorts, this year’s LAAPFF will be one of our most exciting editions. We are all living in a time where anti-Asian hate crimes have risen. It is our hope that this year’s Festival will bring together not only our Asian & Pacific Islander communities, but all of our communities. We invite everyone to come experience art as entertainment, healing, and bridge building.”
Feature film highlights include the World Premiere of Silent River, from director Chris Chan Lee (Yellow). Starring West Liang and Amy Tsang, this film takes you into a strange world, where one man’s struggle to reconcile with his wife becomes a journey for three strangers to return home.
Other feature films include The Los Angeles Premieres of Jeff Mizushima’s Who Is Lun*na Menoh?, Patricio Ginelsa’s Lumpia with a Vengeance, and Oscar® winning filmmakers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s latest film The Rescue.
Fresh from winning the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary and the Albert Maysles Award for Best First Documentary Feature at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, Jessica Kingdon’s Ascension will make its Los Angeles Premiere at LAAPFF; and following its screening at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, Evan Jackson Leong’s narrative debut Snakehead will make its Los Angeles Premiere ahead of a nationwide release.
On October 1, LAAPFF kicks off Filipinx American History Month with a curated selection of films by Filipinx filmmakers, including Mallorie Ortega’s The Girl Who Left Home, the World Premiere of Randal Kamradt’s No Dogs, the Los Angeles Premiere of Dante Basco’s directorial debut The Fabulous Filipino Brothers; and the West Coast Premiere of Islands, the SXSW award-winning film by Martin Edralin.
The largest festival of its kind in Southern California, LAAPFF is also an Academy Award® -qualifying film festival for the Short Film Awards.
From the short film lineup, select highlights include:
F1-100, directed by Emory Chao Johnson, combines video, illustration, and animation into an intimate portrait of an international art student studying abroad in the United States. Drawing on artist profile and gender journey films, F1-100 is a transnational meditation through time and space of a young artist carrying a heavy burden. The film received the Loni Ding Award in Social Issue Documentary at CAAMFest. F1-100 will screen in the “Point of Entry” shorts program.
The Los Angeles Premiere of ʻĀina Paikai’s Hawaiian Soul, based on the true story of Hawaiian hero George Jarrett Helm Jr., a musician who gained the support of elders to protect the island of Kahoʻolawe from military bombing. This film is a tribute to the legacy of a leader and artist who used his voice to inspire a revolution of consciousness. Hawaiian Soul will screen as part of the “Pacific Cinewaves Shorts” program, which represents LAAPFF’s commitment to amplify Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities from Hawaiʻi, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Guåhan (Guam), Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Samoa, and throughout the Pacific region.
The World Premiere of Sharmila Ray’s Devotee, a textured drama that follows a man as he encounters a guru and her group of devotees. The film features powerful performances from Kausar Mohammed and David Huynh, and will screen as part of the “Taking Space” shorts program.
The Los Angeles Premiere of the animated short Blush, from Emmy winning director Joe Mateo. The film had its world premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, and is the inaugural short film from Apple Original Films and Skydance Animation.
2021 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Lineup
Narrative Features include:
A SHOT THROUGH THE WALL (dir. Aimee Long)
A Chinese American police officer’s life unravels after he accidentally shoots an innocent Black man. Facing trial, he wades through his guilt as he navigates the complicated worlds of media, justice, racial politics, and his own morality.
AMERICANISH (dir. Iman Zawahry) – Los Angeles Premiere
Career-driven sisters and their newly-immigrated cousin must navigate the conflicting demands of romance, culture, work, and family. Serving both as a lighthearted reimagination of a classic romantic comedy, AMERICANISH tackles and celebrates the complex intersectionalities of womanhood.
DEFINITION PLEASE (dir. Sujata Day) – Los Angeles Premiere
In 2005, eight-year-old Monica Chowdry was on top of the world as champion of the Scribbs National Spelling Bee. In present day, an adult Monica is still living at home in Pennsylvania with her ailing mom, and things get complicated when her estranged brother returns.
I WAS A SIMPLE MAN (dir. Christopher Makoto Yogi) – West Coast Premiere
A ghost story set in the pastoral countryside of the north shore of O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. Told in four chapters, this film is a story of an elderly man facing the end of his life, who is visited by the ghosts of his past.
ISLANDS (dir. Martin Edralin) – West Coast Premiere
Joshua, a shy middle-aged Filipino immigrant, has lived in the comfort of his parents’ home his entire life. As their health declines, he longs for a partner, terrified of being alone after they pass.
LISA MANIA (dir. Shaun Vivaris) – World Premiere
Dom, a real estate businessman going through a mid-life crisis, sees his therapist about suspicions he has about his wife Lisa. With what looks like mounting evidence of Lisa’s infidelity, a bad mix of drugs, and hell being raised by a succubus demon, Dom’s problems seem to only worsen.
LIST OF A LIFETIME (dir. Roxy Shih)
When a woman is diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, she becomes determined to track down the daughter she gave up for adoption as an infant.
LUMPIA WITH A VENGEANCE (dir. Patricio Ginelsa) – Los Angeles Premiere
In this action comedy, the lumpia-armed avenger returns to Fogtown! Teenager Rachel finds herself tangled up with a crime syndicate selling drugs masked as food. She teams up with the crime fighter to prevent a mysterious crime boss from destroying her town and her parents’ dream wedding.
MARVELOUS AND THE BLACK HOLE (dir. Kate Tsang) – Los Angeles Premiere
A teenage delinquent befriends a surly magician who helps her navigate her inner demons and dysfunctional family with sleight of hand magic. A coming of age comedy that touches on unlikely friendships, grief, and finding hope in the darkest moments.
SILENT RIVER (dir. Chris Chan Lee) – World Premiere
Desperate to reconcile with his estranged wife, Elliot stops at a desert motel to await her call. He encounters Greta, an uncanny woman on the run from a mysterious past. Compelled to help, Elliot soon discovers her secret — and faces a choice between her longing or his own survival.
SNAKEHEAD (dir. Evan Jackson Leong) – Los Angeles Premiere
Sister Tse’s brought to New York by a snakehead, a human smuggler. Her survival instincts gain her favor with the matriarch and she rises the ranks. Soon, Tse must reconcile her success with her real reason for coming to America, drawing on the strength she’s found, transforming victimhood into power.
THE BADGER (dir. Kazem Mollaie) – West Coast Premiere
Right before Soodeh Sharifzadegan’s second marriage, her 11-year-old son Matiar is kidnapped. Soodeh is forced to ask for the ransom money from her ex-husband Peyman. After Matiar’s release, Soodeh realizes that it was all her son’s plan to provide the grounds for his father’s return.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MRS. WU (dir. Anna Chi) – West Coast Premiere
Eager to repair the strained relationship with her adult daughter and help her shy granddaughter Emma find her voice, irascible Wu family matriarch Lily persuades longtime friend Charlotte, Emma, and Emma’s best friend to go on a wild road trip with her – without telling the girls’ parents.
THE FABULOUS FILIPINO BROTHERS (dir. Dante Basco) – Los Angeles Premiere
Told in four unique vignettes, this film is a romantic comedy following four Filipino American brothers and their lovers in the events leading up to a controversial Filipino wedding.
THE GIRL WHO LEFT HOME (dir. Mallorie Ortega)
In the wake of her father’s sudden passing, Christine must put her career on pause to return to her childhood home. Met with her past and the possibility of losing the family restaurant, Christine must decide to stay and support her family, or leave to pursue her lifelong dreams.
THE MONSTERS WITHOUT (dir. Randal Kamradt) – World Premiere
When a rogue monster threatens existence, only the scrappy multi-national team P.H.A.S.E. can stop him. But their newest recruit holds a stunning secret. Against impossible odds, this lonely, conflicted, difficult, and altogether human team must band together to save the world.
TIONG BAHRU SOCIAL CLUB (dir. Bee Thiam Tan) – West Coast Premiere
Ah Bee goes on a comedic odyssey through Tiong Bahru Social Club, a data-driven project to create the happiest neighborhood in the world. Little by little, Ah Bee’s encounters with the neighborhood’s residents reveal the absurdity of life.
WATER LIKE FIRE (dir. Mitchel Viernes) – Los Angeles Premiere
While surfing helps mend the emotional wounds of her parent’s death, Chanel still struggles to connect with her drug-addicted brother, Caleb. When Caleb is injured in a hit-and-run accident, Chanel vows to help her brother heal his physical injuries and his drug problem.
Documentary Features include:
ACCEPTED (dir. Dan Chen) – West Coast Premiere
Four high school seniors in rural Louisiana attend T.M. Landry, a controversial school made famous for sending its graduates to elite universities. Each senior is forced to contend with uncomfortable truths about their school and the college admissions system, and decide what they are willing to do to be accepted.
ASCENSION (dir. Jessica Kingdon) – Los Angeles Premiere
ASCENSION examines the contemporary “Chinese Dream” through staggering observations of labor, consumerism and wealth. In cinematically exploring the aspiration that drives today’s People’s Republic of China, the film plunges into universal paradoxes of economic progress.
CANE FIRE (dir. Anthony Banua-Simon) – Los Angeles Premiere
An examination of the past and present of the Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi, interweaving four generations of family history, numerous Hollywood productions, and troves of found footage. This film is a kaleidoscopic portrait of the economic and cultural forces that have cast indigenous and working-class residents as “extras” in their own story.
FACELESS (dir. Jennifer Ngo) – U.S. Premiere
Following characters simply known as the Daughter, the Believer, the Student, and the Artist, FACELESS documents the stories of the individuals whose lives are upended as protests against a controversial extradition bill engulf Hong Kong.
FANNY: THE RIGHT TO ROCK (dir. Bobbi Jo Hart)
The untold story of a self-founded, 1960s garage band — which included Filipina American and queer bandmates — that morphed into the ferocious rock group Fanny, the first band of women to release an LP with a major record label (Warner/Reprise, 1970).
LIKE A ROLLING STONE: THE LIFE & TIMES OF BEN FONG-TORRES (dir. Suzanne Joe Kai) – West Coast Premiere
LIKE A ROLLING STONE is a documentary of journalist, broadcaster, and author Ben Fong-Torres, the legendary writer and original editor in charge of Rolling Stone magazine’s music coverage. At the tiny San Francisco start-up with barely room for four desks, Ben helped propel its meteoric rise into popular culture.
MANZANAR, DIVERTED: WHEN WATER BECOMES DUST (dir. Ann Kaneko) – Los Angeles Premiere
From the majestic peaks of the snow-capped Sierras to the parched valley of Payahuunadü, “the land of flowing water,” MANZANAR, DIVERTED: WHEN WATER BECOMES DUST poetically weaves memories of Native Americans, Japanese American WWII incarcerees, and environmentalists, who form an unexpected alliance to defend their land and water from Los Angeles.
OPHIR (dir. Alexandre Berman, Olivier Pollet)
A poetic yet dramatic ode to the indelible thirst for freedom, culture, and sovereignty, OPHIR sheds light on the biggest conflict of the Pacific since WWII, revealing the visible and invisible chains of colonisation and its enduring cycles of physical and psychological warfare in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.
THE CELINE ARCHIVE (dir. Celine Parreñas Shimizu)
In 1932, Celine Navarro was buried alive by her own community of Filipino Americans in Northern California. Grief-stricken filmmaker Celine Parreñas Shimizu, finding kinship with Navarro’s long-lost story, exhumes her tragic life while trying to unravel the mystery of her murder.
THE RESCUE (dirs. E. Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin) – Los Angeles Premiere
THE RESCUE chronicles the dramatic 2018 rescue of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach, trapped deep inside a flooded cave. Oscar®-winning directors/producers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin reveal the perilous world of cave diving, the bravery of the rescuers, and the dedication of an entire community that made great sacrifices to save these young boys.
TRY HARDER! (dir. Debbie Lum) – Los Angeles Premiere
With humor and heart, TRY HARDER! takes us to the reality of the American college application process and the intersection of class, race, and educational opportunity at the top public high school in San Francisco, where a majority of the student body is Asian American.
WE ARE FROM THERE (dir. Wissam Tanios)
Two Syrian brothers in their mid 20’s take a leap of faith and start their lives from scratch in new cities. They leave everything behind except their passion for life, determination, sense of humor, and hope for a better future.
WHO IS LUN*NA MENOH? (dir. Jeff Mizushima) – Los Angeles Premiere
This film follows the life and work of the extraordinary Japanese artist, Lun*na Menoh. From her early career in Japan to the underground music scene in LA, from fashion show runways featuring her sculptural designs to art galleries showing her fantastical work, Lun*na’s edgy, witty, and beautiful creations are explored.
WUHAN WUHAN (dir. Yung Chang) – Los Angeles Premiere
Documenting life at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic during the lockdown in Wuhan, China, WUHAN WUHAN includes portraits of a couple expecting a baby, quarantined families in a byzantine shelter, dedicated medical workers, and a psychologist facing her own family crisis while helping patients with the unknown threat.
Shorts and episodics include:
ANYTHING FOR YOU (dir. Matt Ferrucci), BEAU (dir. Constance Tsang), JOURNEY TO THE EAST (dir. Eve Liu), KIDS ON FIRE (dir. Kyle Nieva), KOREATOWN GHOST STORY (dirs. Minsun Park, Teddy Tenenbaum), MAKE A WISH (dir. Dinh Thai), THE COCKTAIL PARTY (dir. Jessica Sanders), A HERO’S HERO (dir. Robert Shoji), DEAR SALLY, (dir. Patty Fong), FRANCIS WONG: CHINATOWN REVOLUTIONARY (dir. Jeff Chop), JAPANESE AMERICAN NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL (dir. George Wada), KATANA (dir. Don Bannai), MAKE IT SPARKLE! (dir. Steve Nagano), MOTHER DAUGHTER JOURNEY (dir. Fran Ito), WE WILL NOT FORGET YOU (dir. Barbara Kagawa Shore), ASIAN IN PUBLIC (dirs. SJ Son, Woody Fu), FLUID (dir. Sharon Park), OH MYH DATING HELL (dir. Nikki Flinn), SIDEWAYS SMILE (dir. Hang Nguyen), MOMENTUM (dir. Juliana Victoria), MOUNTAIN LODGE (dir. Jordan Wong), NOSTALGIA (dir. McFloyd Nguyen), STILL ROLLING (dir. Liang-Chun Lin), STRANDED ON THE MAINLAND (dir. Alexis Si’i), THE DAYS AFTER YOU (dir. Apoorva Gavarraju), AND THEN (dir. Jenn Ravenna Tran), FROM HERE (dir. Samantha Futerman), NOOR & LAYLA (dir. Fawzia Mirza), PINK & BLUE (dir. Carmen LoBue), RED HOUSE (dir. Gerard Elmore), RIVER (dir. David Liu), SOFT SOUNDS OF PEELING FRUIT (dir. So Young Shelly Yo), THINGS WE CARRY (dir. Bo Yoon Ha), FINE CHINA (dir. Tiffany So), LONELY BLUE NIGHT (dir. Johnson Cheng), SI (dir. Thomas Kim), LITTLE SKY (dir. Jess X. Snow), NEH (dir. Jesse Gi), UNMOTHERED (dir. Urvashi Pathania), CHASING CLOUDS (dir. Candace Ho), NIGHT & DAY (dir. Paolo Bitanga), RASPBERRY (dir. Julian Doan), RUWATAN (dir. Ernest Lesmana), SOAK (dir. Hannah Bang), SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE (dir. Jane Chow), ZONA (dir. Masami Kawai), EVERYTHING STAYS (dir. Cole Bacani), EXCUSE ME, MISS, MISS, MISS (dir. Sonny Calvento), LEARNING TAGALOG WITH KAYLA (dir. Kayla Abuda Galang), THE ROSE OF MANILA (dir. Alex Westfall), YOU AND I (dir. Melanie Lim), FANA’GUYAN (dir. Dakota Camacho), HOW TO CATCH A TAOTAOMONA (dir. Neil Tinkham), LONGING FOR HAWAIʻI (dir. Katia Barricklow), MAHÅLANG (dirs. Elliot deBruyn, Nathaniel Brown, Caili Quan), RIVER OF SMALL GODS (dir. Bradley Tangonan), HOMEGOING (dir. Yeon Park), KEEP SARAY HOME (dir. Brian Redondo), SUNDAY (dir. Sean Wang), THE LEAF (dir. William J. Zang), ANITA (dir. Sushma Khadepaun), BLOOD MOON (dir. Shruti Parekh), HIDE AND SEEK (dir. Ragini Bhasin), LATA (dir. Alisha Tejpal), WINNING IN AMERICA (dir. Amrita Singh), BACON AND THE BOYS RAISE A FLAG (dir. Yuka Murakami), CLOSING ANNISA (dir. Sophie Luo), CULTIVATING RESILIENCE IN A PANDEMIC (dir. Corinne Chin), FUGETSU-DO (dir. Kaia Rose), FUJIN (dir. Rachel Makana’aloha O Kauikeolani Nakawatase), H.A.G.S. (HAVE A GOOD SUMMER) (dir. Sean Wang), TO KNOW HER (dir. Natalie A. Chao), A SIP OF WATER (dir. Hyuna Cho), HILUM (dir. Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan), HINGA (dir. Sammay Dizon), MOUNTAIN CAT (dir. Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir), THE EYES OF SUMMER (dir. Rajee Samarasinghe), THE FOURFOLD (dir. Alisi Telengut), and GOLD (dir. Leslie Alejandro).