SAAFF organizers share what they are most excited about
Every year, the Seattle Asian American Film Festival brings exciting and moving stories to Seattle to inspire dialogue and reflection on the Asian American experience. This year’s festival is taking place February 22-25 and will bring a long list of films. The International Examiner has a great guide to everything SAAFF has to offer.
Ethnic Seattle reached out to the organizers to find out what they’re personally excited for and here’s what they have to say:
Cartoons man. I like cartoons. But when it’s a beautifully told animated feature film that weaves art and history and poetry and identity? I’m hooked. That’s why Window Horses, directed by Ann Marie Fleming, is my pick for this year’s SAAFF. Starring Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy), Shohreh Aghdashloo (The Expanse), and Ellen Page (Juno), the film tells the story of Canadian poet Rosie Ming, who travels to a poetry festival in Shiraz, Iran. Rosie isn’t stoked to go to Iran, but she’s glad to finally be recognized for her art. And once in Iran, she finds herself in the company of poets and Persians who force her to confront her past and find her own voice. The animation and poetry flow together like a dancer to music, and the film tells a truly heartfelt and whimsical story. I’m so glad to be able to bring Window Horses to Seattle.
In recent years, women have become more vocal against sexual harassment, rape culture, and sexual slavery. In Hollywood, there’s the Time’s Up movement and #MeToo campaign. However, during WWII, 200,000 young women were kidnapped and forced into military sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army, but many remained silent and ashamed about their past. The Apology follows the personal journeys of three former “comfort women” —Grandma Gil in South Korea, Grandma Cao in China, and Grandma Adela in the Philippines—as they tell their first hand accounts of the truth to ensure that this horrific chapter of history is not forgotten. Their support for others like them and their resolve to set future generations on a course for reconciliation, healing and justice makes this documentary truly inspirational for those who are fighting a similar fight.
As someone who is constantly craving content that appeals to my intersectional identity, Signature Move really hit the spot. It’s one of my favorite films to have come out of 2017, hands down. Directed by Jennifer Reeder, this queer, interracial, intergenerational immigrant film is one that will make you root for its protagonist, a Muslim lesbian named Zaynab (Fawzia Mirza) who lives at home with her TV-obsessed, hermit mother, Parveen (Shabana Azmi). When she meets Alma (Sari Sanchez) at a bar, Zaynab finds herself ready to jump into the ring for love. For me it’s a deeply relatable story about being queer and not knowing how to navigate that around family, and all the while trying to find love and pursue happiness. This film will have you walking away with a good feeling in your chest, something we all desperately need in these dire times.
Island Soldier is a story that isn’t discussed enough in the US: the after-effects of American Imperialism in the Pacific Islands, and how former American Imperial subjects, i.e. the men of Kosrae, Micronesia, through a system of economic dependency, are encouraged to enlist in the US military and further expand the American reach elsewhere in the world. Beautifully shot and crafted, with a heartfelt and touching story, it is a documentary that raises big questions about nationalism, militarism, and neocolonialism.
It would be impossible to homogenize the experiences of all Asian American women into a single narrative, which is why SAAFF’s “Her Resistance” program takes the right approach in showcasing a variegated collection of stories. It’s my staff pick because as a Chinese American woman, I’m thrilled to see my own experiences represented on screen in shorts like Tough and Every Grain of Rice. But I also appreciate how each of these short films articulate notions of femininity, cross-cultural life, and resilience in artistically inventive ways. Amidst the flat portrayals in contemporary Hollywood films, this program is like a breath of fresh air. It pushes back against societally imposed boundaries placed on women of color and conventional ideas of Asian American kinship. Don’t miss it!