The Asian Film Festival of Dallas (AFFD) announced the film lineup for this year’s 21st edition of the film festival. Taking place July 21-24, AFFD’s Opening Night selection is Wenxiong Xing’s Too Cool to Kill, the Closing Night selection is Roshan Sethi’s 7 Days, Spotlight screenings include Park Hoon-Jung’s The Witch 2: The Other One, and Shô Miyake’s Small, Slow but Steady.
AFFD will screen 16 feature films (12 Narrative, 4 Documentary), and 11 short films as the popular film festival makes a big return to theaters and in-person events after a two-year hiatus aside from a couple special events due to the pandemic, screening at the Angelika Film Center Dallas (5321 E. Mockingbird Lane, #230), and the Texas Theatre (231 Jefferson Blvd.)
This year’s edition of the Asian Film Festival of Dallas also will mark the first with new leadership, including Executive Director Thomas Schubert, and Lead Programmer Paul Theiss. New innovations with this edition of the film festival are led by the inclusion of Special Guest Programmers Justina Walford (Programming Director, Oxford Film Festival and the Billy the Kid Film Festival) and Frank Yan (Co-Director of Programming, CineCina), and include a tighter, more condensed festival schedule, a Saturday evening Red Carpet event for filmmakers and press, a Sunday day-long celebration of female filmmakers, and a reinvigorated outreach to their base audiences throughout the DFW area as the film festival looks to reconnect with physical screenings and events.
New AFFD Executive Director Thomas Schubert, said, “Our board and staff are excited about the prospects of returning to our regular July timeslot and we are taking advantage of this edition of the film festival to look at what we do through a different lens and a fresh approach. AFFD has always been a signature event for Dallas film lovers, introducing exciting films and cinema to DFW, and this year we hope to shake up the event aspect of the film festival in our return, as well.”
New Lead Programmer Paul Theiss added, “We made no assumptions with our programming this year, prioritizing films and filmmakers that would inspire audiences to come back for that big screen experience. To that end, adding a handful of films from our guest programmers will also add surprises and new perspectives to the schedule.”
Opening Night at the Texas Theatre on Thursday, July 21 features Wenxiong Xing’s Chinese action comedy Too Cool to Kill. The Well Go USA release follows an aspiring comedian and actor who receives an invitation from a famous actress to play her leading man. However, the new gig soon lands him directly in the middle of a dangerous conspiracy.
As the film festival heads back to its traditional home location of the Angelika Film Center Dallas, Friday and Saturday’s Spotlight screenings again put forward the kind of films that AFFD has built its crowd-pleasing reputation on. Park Hoon-Jung’s The Witch 2: The Other One, another Well Go USA release, is the highly anticipated sequel to the popular Korean sci-fi action thriller The Witch: Subversion. This time, the story focuses on a mysterious girl who is the sole survivor of a bloody raid on the research facility behind the top-secret Witch Program. She and a pair of civilians try to stay one step ahead of assassins tasked with locating and silencing the girl. Saturday’s Spotlight selection is one of CineCina’s Frank Yan’s contributions to this year’s lineup. Shô Miyake’s Japanese drama Small, Slow but Steady is about a hearing-impaired woman whose dreams of becoming a professional boxer are threatened by the closure of her boxing club. The film has been described as a pandemic movie, a sports movie, and a mediation on the power of community—all rolled into one. The film premiered at the Berlin FF.
Sunday’s screenings will highlight and celebrate female filmmakers, culminating in a screening of Roshan Shethi’s Spirit Award nominee 7 Days. Produced by prolific Dallas filmmaker Liz Cardenas, the relationship comedy/drama looks at Ravi and Rita, who find their pre-arranged date, organized by their traditional Indian parents, turning into a never-ending experience together as they are forced to shelter in place due to the pandemic. The evening will conclude with Justina Walford’s contribution to AFFD’s programming: a late-night screening of Christine Chen’s mermaid revenge thriller, Erzulie. In the film, four besties reconnect at a backwater resort, but can’t shake their troubles until they summon a legendary mermaid goddess who is rumored to rule the local waters. After discovering the bloody aftermath from Erzulie “saving” them, not to mention the mermaid herself, the women race to cover their tracks and distance themselves from the creature they had summoned.
Additional highlights include Tom Huang’s festival favorite dysfunctional family comedy Dealing With Dad about an Alpha mom/corporate manager tasked with going home to deal with her overbearing dad, who is now despondent and won’t leave the house. What she and her siblings discover is that their dad is actually, much more pleasant in his depressed state, so they wrestle with the decision to “fix” him or not. Mye Hoang’s popular documentary Cat Daddies will also make an encore DFW screening at the film festival. The film features portraits of “cat dads” from all over the country, including some who struggle to navigate the unprecedented events of 2020 with their little furry friends. Both filmmakers are expected to come to Dallas to attend their screenings. Sakamoto Yugo’s Japanese action horror thriller Yellow Dragon’s Village focuses on some college students who find themselves stranded in a strange village on the way to a summer camp. After being persuaded to stay overnight, they soon must figure out a way not to fall victim to the brutal killings that start occurring the next morning. Qiu Jiongjiong’s fantasy A New Old Play focuses on a man who was a leading clown-role actor in 20th-century Sichuan opera, as he reluctantly is escorted to the Ghost City. Throughout his trip, earthly scenes from the past creep into the mists of the Netherworld. The film won a Special Jury Prize at Locarno.
2022 Asian Film Festival of Dallas Film Festival Official Selections
OPENING NIGHT SELECTION
Too Cool to Kill
Director: Wenxiong Xing
Country: China; Running Time: 109 minutes
In order to fully realize his dream of being a comedian, Wei Chenggong (Wei Xiang) accidentally broke into a dangerous scam under the “persuasion” of actress Milan (Li Ma). But Wei Chenggong didn’t know he was already involved in another real and ridiculous plot.
FRIDAY SPOTLIGHT SCREENING
The Witch 2: The Other One
Director: Park Hoon-Jung
Country: South Korea; Running Time: 97 minutes
In this sequel to the popular Korean sci-fi action thriller The Witch: Subversion, the story moves away from a confined secret lab and out into the real world. After a mysterious girl emerges as the sole survivor of a bloody raid on the research facility behind the top-secret Witch Program, she is rescued by a pair of civilians who soon realize the girl is both very powerful and in very grave danger. However, as the assassins tasked with locating and silencing the girl move ever closer, the lives of everyone around her fall under increasingly great peril.
SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT SCREENING
Small, Slow but Steady
Director: Shô Miyake
Country: Japan/France; Running Time: 99 minutes
A hearing-impaired woman with dreams of becoming a professional boxer due to the pandemic is threatened closure of her boxing club and the illness of its aging president, who has been her biggest supporter, pushing her to the limit.
CLOSING NIGHT SELECTION
Director: Roshan Shethi
Country: United States; Running Time: 86 minutes
As if their pre-arranged date, organized by their traditional Indian parents, wasn’t uncomfortable enough, Ravi and Rita are forced to shelter in place together as COVID-19’s reach intensifies.
ADDITIONAL NARRATIVE FEATURES
A New Old Play
Director: Qiu Jiongjiong
Country: Hong Kong; Running Time: 179 minutes
The leading clown role in a renowned theatre troupe passes and is welcomed into the Underworld. As he relives his vivid memories one last time before entering the afterlife, 50 years of art, struggle, and love play out against the background of 20th century China’s tumultuous history.
Director: Yugo Sakamoto
Country: Japan; Running Time: 95 minutes
Chisato and Mahilo are two high school girls who are about to graduate. They also happen to both be highly skilled assassins. When the organization they work for orders them to share a room, the relationship between them turns sour.
Dealing With Dad
Director: Tom Huang
Country: United States; Running Time: 106 minutes
Margaret Chang (Ally Maki) reluctantly returns to her hometown along with her hapless brothers (Hayden Szeto, Peter S. Kim) to deal with the sudden depression of their complete-jerk father (Dana Lee). It turns out Dad is nicer depressed than well, and the siblings wonder if they should even get him better as they struggle to find a solution in this comedic drama.
Director: Christine W Chen
Country: United States; Running Time: 86 minutes
Four women accidentally summon a water goddess while reconnecting at a camp in south Louisiana, and a local decides to capture the goddess for himself.
Jalsaghar (The Music Room)
Director: Satyajit Ray
Country: India; Running Time: 95 minutes
Huzur Biswamghar Roy is a rich landowner who lives in a palace with his wife and son and his many servants. His passion – his wife would call it his addiction – is music and he spends a great deal of his fortune on concerts held for the locals in his magnificent music room. His wealth is in decline, however. His lands are being eroded by the local river and he pays for the concert he arranges for his son’s coming of age party by selling some of the family jewels. When his neighbor Ganguli invites him to a party at his house, Roy decides to one up him and organizes a lavish party for the same day – costing him the last of the jewels. After his wife and son are killed in a storm, Roy becomes something of a recluse, closing the music room. Now, many years later he decides to have one final concert, spending the last of his money to again outdo – and spite – Ganguli.
Director: Keitaro Sakon
Country: Japan; Running Time: 82 minutes
Haruka, a young recognized female entrepreneur, was forced to retire from her company due to the abuse of her authority. For her pride, she attempts to sell her family home and starts her new business, despite her two brothers and a sister living and running a small restaurant at the house.
Director: Randolph Zaini
Country: Indonesia; Running Time: 92 minutes
A deaf criminal with a traumatic past and his son must fight their way out of their small Indonesian village after witnessing a horrible murder, pitting the gangster against the mob outfit that employed him.
Yellow Dragon’s Village
Director: Sakamoto Yugo
Country: Japan; Running Time: 66 minutes
A group of eight college-age kids drives into the countryside for a day of fun and a night of what promises to be erotic frolics as their minivan drives deeper into the mountains. Two guys sitting in the back, Kento and Keisaku — are quieter, as are the weak-seeming Mutsuo and his sister Makoto. Their van gets a flat tire and, when they search online for help, they realize their phones can’t pick up a signal. Crossing a rickety bridge over a deep ravine they see a sign for the village of Tatsukiri — and a creepy scarecrow with a knife in its head. Soon after, they encounter a leathery old man on a horse, who introduces himself as Shinjiro and invites them to his house. There they find a lavish meal already prepared and futons laid out. When Shinjiro, who seems to be a local grandee, invites the group to stay the night, they accept, though something about the setup disturbs them, even the hard-partying quartet. What happened to the previous guests whose jackets are still hanging on the coat rack? Why did Shinjiro and his staff — three strangely robotic women — seem to have anticipated their arrival?
Director: Jessica Kingdon
Country: United States; Running Time: 97 minutes
The absorbingly cinematic Ascension explores the pursuit of the “Chinese Dream.” This observational documentary presents a contemporary vision of China that prioritizes productivity and innovation above all.
Director: Mye Hoang
Country: United States; Running Time: 90 minutes
David Giovanni is living on the streets of New York, determined to stay together with his beloved cat Lucky. When he’s finally granted a spot in a transitional housing facility that accepts cats, the COVID-19 pandemic and a devastating medical diagnosis puts his future together with Lucky in doubt. David’s journey is interspersed with portraits of other “cat dads” from all over the country and some who struggle to navigate the unprecedented events of 2020 with their little furry friends. They include a group of firefighters, a stunt man, a truck driver, a Bay Area tech worker, a schoolteacher whose cat becomes a viral sensation, and an actor/Instagram influencer. These men couldn’t be more different, but they share an unconditional love of their beloved pets.
Dark Red Forest
Director: Huaqing Jin
Country: China; Running Time: 85 minutes
A work of visual awe and matter-of-fact spiritual inquiry, Dark Red Forest is a majestic documentary portrait that details the annual retreat of thousands of Tibetan nuns to small wooden houses on the vast Tibetan Plateau. With extraordinary intimacy, the camera nestles in with the women of the Yarchen Monastery, who, during the 100 coldest days of the year, learn about-and in some cases experience-profound matters of life and death, suffering and healing, karma, and consequence. A document of the experiences of a group of increasingly politically embattled people, Jin Huaqing’s film is also a clarifying work of faith and philosophical inquiry, set against a forbidding landscape.
Singing In the Wilderness
Director: Dongnan Chen
Country: China; Running Time: 94 minutes
After hiding in the mountains for a century, a Miao Christian choir is discovered by an official and becomes a national sensation. Two young Miaos must reconcile their faith, identity, and love with the real world of China.
An Island Drifts
Director: Vivian Ip
Country: Singapore; Running Time: 18 minutes
Set in Singapore, a young teacher presses for the truth from a maladjusted student, the act leads to devastating results, and they suffer the ignominy of losing everything that matters to them. The story holds a mirror up to society, where a mistake can derail a life in an overly pressurized world.
Director: Nikita Hattangady
Country: United States; Running Time: 19 min
Two young professionals having an awful morning suddenly meet at a cafe in London. A day that starts out terrible does not have to end that way. The Internationally award-winning film plays like a mini feature, with action, music, romance, moments of humor, and a touch of Bollywood. Falafel is a story about dreams coming true.
Director: Kate Feldt
Country: United States; Running Time: 8 minutes
A fearful cat in need of a foster home is reluctantly taken in by a busy woman.
The Han Flows
Director: Park Seung Chan
Country: Korea; Running Time: 10 minutes
A woman who broke up with her boyfriend, a man who was scammed by a friend. They have gathered in the Han River to end their lives.
I want to hear the word on the street
Director: Yuki Takashima
Country: Japan; Running Time: 15 minutes
A director for a television program conducts on-the-street interviews in Shibuya that has lost its liveliness because of the coronavirus. However, the people on the street are not really giving him the “comments he is looking for.” The director in turn gets anxious as he is driven into a corner.
The Man of the Terms of Service
Director: Yuki Takashima
Country: Japan; Running Time: 13 minutes
New editor Onoda is summoned by her higher-up to the house of the novelist Hoshi whom she admires. But what he was writing there was not a novel.
Director: Jaehyeok Kwak
Country: Korea; Running Time: 10 minutes
Hee-joo goes out to find the wrong address before moving. Her daily life is cracked.
Directors: Hsiu Hsiu Lin, Minori Uemura
Country: United States; Running Time: 6 minutes
A Chinese grandmother suffers an emotional trauma during her childhood and develops a severe hatred toward the Japanese. One day, her granddaughter introduces her Japanese fiancé.
Director: Yuan Yang
Country: United States; Running Time: 6 min
A homesick international student learns to find her own sense of home after a last meeting with her grandmother in a dream.
Director: Minami Goto
Country: Japan; Running Time: 8 minutes
A young woman descends onto a household seeking revenge for her sister’s attack and is presented with two possible targets – both protesting their innocence once a battle commences.
Director: Erika Nakayama
Country: Japan; Running Time: 17 minutes
Ayumi Tani, an owner of a small bookstore, and Sayaka Murakami, a call center worker, are a lesbian couple living together. While they feel somewhat stifled by the fact that they are part of the LGBTQ community, they are looking forward to having a wedding-style photo shoot to celebrate their five-year anniversary. Sayaka finds a site for searching photo salons advertising “LGBTQ available” and enthusiastically makes an inquiry, but one photo salon’s disappointing response angers them. Ayumi decides to go confront the photo salon in person, even though Sayaka tries to stop her.