The can't-miss events of the 2019 Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival

5 minute read
'When We Walk' will screen at this year's festival. (Image courtesy of PAAFF)
'When We Walk' will screen at this year's festival. (Image courtesy of PAAFF)

The Philadelphia Asian American film festival is a ten-day event held each year in November that hosts discussions, performances, food tastings, art exhibits, and of course, film screenings out of several venues across the city. The nonprofit organization was founded in 2008 with the sole purpose of bringing Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) content to Philadelphia, celebrating and spotlighting the AAPI experience. This representation is especially relevant to Philly locals, as we not only have one of the largest Asian American populations in the country, ranking tenth in the nation according to the 2010 census, but the highest percentage of immigrants in the city (nearly 40%) come from Asia too. All of this is to say; the creative works PAAFF curates are now, more than ever, relevant to our communities. Here are a few you shouldn’t miss.

Geographies of Kinship
When: 3:00pm Saturday, November 9 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, 118 South 36th Street
Runtime: 80 mins

This film explores South Korea’s adoption boom and the lives of Korean adoptees. Attributed in large part to the massive casualties of the Korean War coupled with intense stigma and discrimination unmarried mothers faced and widespread international media attention (among many other reasons), the foreign adoption boom began in the mid-50s and peaked in the 1980s. Here we follow four adoptees who return to Korea as they share stories about their experiences, explore this part of their personal history and cultural identity, and reflect on the policies that led to their adoptions. A discussion panel with four local Korean adoptees on their reactions and experiences will follow the screening.

Free tickets can be reserved here.

Native Hawaiian Resistance Shorts
3:20pm Sunday, November 10 at the UPenn Irvine Building, 3401 Spruce Street.
Runtime: 55 mins

Hae HawaiʻI (directed by Ty Sanga) is the story of a thief who is recruited to steal the Hawaiian flag in order to preserve the symbol of the Hawaiian people’s unity after the Hawaiian monarchy is overthrown.

In Last Taxi Dance (directed by Brayden Yoder), Mahea is a club singer in post-WWII Hawaii filled with contempt for the mostly-white American soldiers buying time with dancers. When a soldier returns with unused tickets after hours, she agrees to dance to speak out about the injustices of the American government, but questions her opinions when she hears his story.

Inspired by the posthumously published works by poet Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, Down on the Sidewalk in Waikīkī (directed by Ah Chong) is a commentary on the colonial history of Hawaii and its continuing effects. The displacement of Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) and their struggle to reclaim land stolen from them is explored through the lens of a janitor in Waikīkī tired of picking up after uncaring tourists.

Free tickets can be reserved here.

Queer Asian Voices: Intimacy and Isolation
12:10pm Saturday, November 16 at Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine Street.
Runtime: 58 mins

Each of the four short films in this set explores varying aspects of queerness and queer identity through the lens of secrecy and isolation. Rosemary (directed by Navi Matulaian), reveals the secrets behind a drag queen Rosemary’s sparkle.

In Halwa (directed by Gayatri Bajpai and Nirav Bhakta), Sujata Chopra re-initiates contact after 30 years, offering support to a childhood friend whose husband has died. Her husband finds out, and their reconnection causes additional tension in her already troubled marriage.

Safe Among Stars (directed by Jess X. Snow), details the story of a woman who dissociates and develops superpowers she must learn to control as she attempts to explain to her mother why she left school.

Last but not least is Engaged (directed by David Scala), where Darren realizes his failed proposals to his boyfriend Elliot may be coming from a place of insecurity about his sexuality.

Free tickets can be reserved here.

When We Walk
12:45pm Sunday, November 17 at Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine Street.
Runtime: 78 mins

Director Jason DaSilva first created the AXS (pronounced “access”) map because he realized how many experiences he couldn’t have with his son because businesses were inaccessible to motorized chair users like him. AXS map utilizes user input and ratings to create a map highlighting businesses with features like ramps, wider doorways, or wheelchair-accessible bathrooms for those needing accessibility accommodations. However, as his son moves 1700 miles away to Austin and he attempts to do the same, he realizes that due to the broken Medicaid system his care would be so drastically reduced to the point of being heartbreakingly impossible. When We Walk is a story of love and hope that persists even when the entire world is working against you.

General admission tickets are $10 while student and senior tickets are $8 and can be purchased here.

Venue accessibility information:

The ICA is wheelchair accessible through the main entrance and has an elevator with access to all levels. Read more online.

The Irvine building is wheelchair accessible with sloped entrances on the west side of the building off Spruce Street, two slightly sloped entrances at the northeast corner and near Lot 9, and a level accessible entrance at the northwest corner. “The main seating area is sloped with the seats fixed to the floor. There is no designated accessible seating, however, people using wheelchairs could sit in the aisle or in the front.” Read more online.

AAI’s website states that “Asian Arts Initiative is designed as a mobility accessible facility, with access to all public floors and spaces, and seating accommodations for programmed events. Both non-gendered and individually isolating restrooms are available on each floor, all equipped with changing stations. If contacted in advance, we will make every attempt to fulfill requests for reasonable accommodations such as vision/hearing auxiliary aids and cognitive disability guides. Please note: Due to most events being attended by the general public, we cannot guarantee accommodations for those with fragrance sensitivities.”

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