Friday, April 3, 2009

Don't Miss DisOrient Asian American Film Festival, April 17 -19

DisOrient Asian American Film Festival ( will be April 17 - April 19 at the Bijou Art Cinema in Eugene on 13th and Ferry. It is a jewel of a festival! Jason Mak, "daddy" of the Festival was inspired by the big ones he experienced down in LA while he was an ethnic studies graduate student and falling in love with independant filmmaking.

DisOrient is in its fourth year now and has graduated from a small room in the corner of the Asian American Film Festival, to a quiet little theater in neighboring Springfield with an angry antique dealer next door who didn't want any cars parking on "his street" to the Bijou. We love the Bijou, friendly staff, pop corn with nutritional yeast and real butter (a Eugene addiction), and their mi casa tu casa welcome to our festival. During the festival, the Bijou allows us to turn their own little space for relaxing into our Green Room where local Asian restaurants donate food for the presenters and VIP guests. They turn a blind eye to the fact that 100 DisOrient filmgoers are not buying their special popcorn, and instead, join as we all dig into samosas, or chowmein or Steve Mah's special barbecue pork. You get the picture.

I'm saying our festival because this will be my second I'm on the committee.

I call it a jewel of a festival because like the big Asian American film festivals, the producers, directors and filmmakers often come with their films with great Q & A's afterwards. These guests, like the artists of our community who have preceded them are generous and open people -- as grassroots as the people who put on these efforts or come to see the independent films. It's the closest to the phenomena many of us experienced during the beginnings of the Asian American youth movements when people wrote their own books, made their own music, learned to taiko and went up and down I-5, even into Canada, from Seattle to LA carrying their stories, their ancestor's stories with them. It was like a justice underground, stopping in Eugene or Ashland or Mt. Shasta -- all the little towns w/Asian population in between the metro areas. Everytime someone came through they would be the event. In Eugene, it meant all the students of color and communities would show up and there would be this massive party at my lucky house afterwards, people spilling out into the yard, front and back. I-5 dropped into my street and I had hardly any furniture. Every room could be turned into a place to crash and whenever necessary cleared away for a party crowd.

Like the artists, poets, political activists, taiko drummers, musicians of that time independant filmmakers have that same spirit, at least the ones I've met. They bring their passion for film, their varied philosophy of their life and art, traveling up and down I-5 and beyond, and are willing to share all of it with us. When Curtis Choy was 22 back in '73, beginning to recognize injustice in its many forms, he picked up a camera instead of a shotgun. He will most certainly still be shooting as long as he has life in him and tell those true stories which wake up our humanity -- for as long as we still have it. DisOrient I showed Choy's "What's Wrong with Frank Chin," DisOrient 3 showed his film on Lt. Ehren Watada and Frank Emi and this year we will show "Manilatown is in the Heart" through the POV of the biggest heart, Al Robles, poet. These emotionally powerful films prove why documentary filmmakers are a breed to themselves -- THEY WERE THERE! And Choy was there getting to know the icons during critical times, getting to know the heart of all the stories and the people we would want to be passed on to the next generation. Justin Lin refuses to be boxed as an Asian American filmmaker and acts out his belief that an Asian filmmaker can make any kind of film and proves it with his "Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift" series with fast cars, Hollywood actors, and the Asian "buddy" even dies before the end. The spectrum of what makes a person pick up that camera is that broad.

But one thing all have in common -- they will answer every question anyone who comes to see their films will ask, they will mentor the next generation, they will accept homestays knowing we're grassroots and on a shoestring budget and appreciate the opportunity to connect, they will stand with us, small as we may be, and encourage other filmmakers to send their film to DisOrient. What they all have in common is that they will do whatever it takes as indendent filmmakers to make films, show film, and to promote indie film. It's the opposite of the ego thing. They promote indie film by mentoring the young. They expand the audience by expanding their own personal community. They show their films AND themselves. I'm sold. I have become an avid independant film goer and festival patron as much as it is possible to be.

So come to DisOrient! This year's program is on the website The festival is shorter by a day because some of our filmmakers could not finish their film when things turned crazy economically. One of the first to feel economic crisis is always the artist -- and the independent filmmaker, even more than others.

Curtis Choy will be our family's guest this year. He is coming with his documentary "Manilatown is in the Heart." I've blogged about it much earlier when we were previewing films and advocated with all my heart to anyone who would listen -- and as it turned out I probably didn't have to. His reputation, of course, is solid.

I did not sit on the program committee this year so I don't know about the other films. I do believe the excitement each has generated with the work of Rose Pergament whom Jason Mak describes as irreplaceable and the best programmer he has ever known. Check out the program she has put together as well as a workshop by JP Chan, filmmaker of the "Uses for a Knife" trilogy (the third playing at the festival.) The youngest filmmaker of this program is 15, our students from the Rites of Passage program mentored by Jason Mak and filmmaker Will Lu who flew to Eugene just to be with our summer program after meeting us at DisOrient III. There are films by about and for a diversity of Asian Pacific experience. Some tell the truth. Some mess with your mind. Some will offend. Some will inspire you to do something you wouldn't have it you didn't go to DisOrient. Last year, Steve Wake brought his documentary "Under the Same Moon" about Japanese Americans going to Cuba to do a joint oral history project and cultural exchange with Japanese Cubans. Inspired, my husband Will and I are going this summer with the Tsukimikai III group! We do homework (lots of reading and writing and sharing) and meet through Skype every other Sunday for hours to prepare for the trip. When I look at the moon nowadays, I feel anticipation for "our family" in Cuba!

Don't miss DisOrient IV! Check out the Nolan's website. Get a VIP pass and receive Dana Valdez' festival t-shirt and Laura Fong's souvenier festival program. You'll be able to go to the parties arranged by hospitality chair Marvy Schuman with a lot of effort from Pam Quan, MiMi Nolledo and Mike Takahashi. Enjoy conversing with presenters in the Green Room staffed by Jeannie Mah and others. If there is a festival it is because of Jo Kingman, Joe Jiang and the tech crew. Joe also did our trailer. If you need a ride back to your hotel, just ask Remie Calalang and Anselmo Villanueva and they'll find someone for you or do it themselves. If you're flying in, probably Linda Liu got you your ticket. You'll meet her taking your ticket and can tell her about your flight. And please don't throw your popcorn box on the floor in the theater (we recycle) because Paloma and I are pushing the broom between programs.

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.