Where Are They Now? Part III, Shorts: SFIAAFF 2010

In a final look back at SFIAAFF 2010, we take this moment to catch up with the movers and shakers of this industry to recognize not only the work they have already done but to anticipate all of the exciting works to come.

By Liz Choi

A little over a year ago, the SFIAAFF staff relished in the opportunity to create a strong festival program from a selection of seminal films. In a final look back at SFIAAFF 2010, we take this moment to catch up with the movers and shakers of this industry to recognize not only the work they have already done but to anticipate all of the exciting works to come.


Directed by Mona Lisa Yuchengco
Since SFIAAFF 2010, 66 YEARS has proudly been screened at the Filipino American Film Festival in both Chicago and San Francisco. The film’s director, Mona Lisa Yuchengco, is beginning work on her second film that will be shot in Manila.


Directed by Brent Anbe
AJUMMA has enjoyed heavy rotation at festivals across the nation since SFIAAFF 2010. It was an official selection at the 11th Annual Washington DC APA Festival, the ID Film Festival in Los Angeles, and the Q! Film Festival, the 2010 Ohina Short Film Festival, and the 23rd Annual Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. The film was also featured in “KoreAm” magazine (July, 2010) as well as on KPFA 94.1 FM in Berkeley.

As for director Brent Anbe, while he is not currently working on any new films at the moment, he is staying busy in the casting department of a new ABC television series called OFF THE MAP, which premiered on January 12. Produced by the creators of “Grey’s Anatomy”, the series is shot on-location in Hawai’i.


Directed by Cynthia Wade
Director Cynthia Wade’s BORN SWEET has received 10 awards from over 45 national and international festivals including the Honorable Mention award from the 2010 Sundance Festival and the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Independent Film Festival of Boston.

A powerful documentary revealing the physical impact of arsenic contamination on a young Cambodian boy’s life, BORN SWEET has captured the attention of film critics around the globe, shedding light on an environmental issue that cannot go unnoticed. Among a growing list of accolades, BORN SWEET took the Best Short Documentary award at the 2010 Louisville International Film Festival and First Prize at the 2010 Festival Internacional de Cine Ambiental (FINCA) in Argentina.


Directed by Tanuj Chopra
Since SFIAAFF 2010, CLAP CLAP has been screened at several festivals including the Urbanworld Film Festival in New York, the Indian American Film Festival of Los Angeles, and the San Diego Asian Film Festival.

We had a chance to catch up with director Tanuj Chopra, who recounted many of his favorite SFIAAFF 2010 memories, including a late-night hangout with Aasif Mandvi and his team after the TODAY’S SPECIAL premiere and spending time with HP Mendoza at the Festival Forum. He also enjoyed “Up Close and Personal with the Asian American Film Industry,” a workshop presented by producer Karin Chien. SFIAAFF 2010 also offered Tanuj and the CLAP CLAP cast and crew some much needed rest and relaxation as they found time to go out for the first time since shooting the film. Tanuj’s involvement with SFIAAFF was particularly meaningful as it was then-director Chi-hui Yang’s last festival.

Currently, Tanuj is putting together ideas for future projects in addition to teaching film classes to young filmmakers. Most recently, he finished a promotional video for the Wold Children’s Initiative (WCI), an organization that seeks to bring catheter-based heart surgery to children with heart defects in Uganda, as well as a SFIAAFF King’s Speech parody.


Directed by Lesley Loksi Chan
Since SFIAAFF 2010, CURSE CURES has screened at numerous venues and festivals in both the US and Canada. Lesley has been actively working on new projects since CURSE CURES, including the award-winning REDRESS REMIX, a feature film about the Chinese Canadian Head Tax and Apology, which was recognized at Reel Asian, Canadian New Media Awards and the Applied Arts Interactive. She has also contributed to several short films and music videos as well.

This year, SFIAAFF was excited to present another work by Lesley in SUITE SUITE CHINATOWN. She was one of six co-directors to produce this compilation that displays what Chinatown means to each of the directors. The result was a collaboratively produced, multi-genre cinematic vision of Chinatown, where anything is possible and the unexpected is just the tip of the iceberg.

Lesley is currently doing a residency at Harbourfront Toronto with Looking Sea Collective. Their experimental interdisciplinary performance premieres this year.


Directed Chloe Zao
DAUGHTERS has traveled to many film festivals – nearly forty! – since SFIAAFF 2010, winning First Place Live Action Short 15 Minutes And Under at the 2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival & ShortFest and the Special Jury Prize at the 2010 Cinequest Film Festival.

Chloe is hard at work on her debut feature film “Lee”, a coming of age drama set on the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation. The film is a recipient of the 2010 Spike Lee Fellowship Award Yaddo Screenwriting Residency.


Directed by JP Chan
We anticipated JP’s latest short, DIGITAL ANTIQUITIES at SFIAAFF 2011 and were excited to learn I DON’T SLEEP I DREAM screened at several Asian American festivals after SFIAAFF 2010, including the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and the Asian Film Festival of Dallas. Prior to SFIAAFF 2010, this intriguing short won the Best Short Film award at the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival.

When asked to describe his most memorable SFIAAFF 2010 moment, he tells us about the great discussion he and Jo Mei, lead actress of I DON’T SLEEP I DREAM, were able to have with participants in the Student Delegate Program.

DIGITAL ANTIQUITIES is included in the FUTURE STATES shorts series, an exciting medley of experimental shorts that will attract all who embrace the Digital Age.


Directed by Visra Vichit-Vadakan
Last year, in addition to SFIAAFF 2010, Visra’s short film IN SPACE screened at both the Tribeca Film Festival and the Prague Short Film Festival. The short received a special jury mention at the Prague Short Film Festival. Visra recalls loving her time at SFIAAFF 2010, getting to know the festival programmers and festival staff. She also enjoyed interacting with the people who participated in the IN SPACE screening.

Earlier this year her film, KARMA POLICE, was selected amongst 29 titles to receive support from the Hubert Bals Fund of the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Her newest film, RISE, is an experimental film that was featured at Rotterdam. RISE was selected out of 5,418 works submitted for the 56th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen.


Directed by Gregg Helvey
The humanitarian narrative film KAVI has screened at nearly 80 festivals since SFIAAFF 2010. A compelling story about child slavery and trafficking in India, the film directed by Gregg Helvey has been taken by storm after it was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Live Action Short category in March of 2010.

Helvey hopes to finish a feature version of Kavi, among several other feature length projects he is working on.


Directed by M.O.B. (Mail Order Brides)
After playing as part of the Classic Filipino American Shorts program, this “neo-noir pseudo-silent karaoke horror film” — and social critique, all in one — has found a place in the lecture circuit of universities such as San Francsico State University and UC Santa Cruz. The film was screened for OAK PARK director Valerie Soe’s Asian American Photography Class at SFSU and at the Queer Pin@y Conference at UCSC.

M.O.B.o.F filmmakers Reanne Estrada and Eliza Barrios attended last year’s festival. Both share with us that they had a great time reconnecting with peer filmmakers, like Celine Parreñas Shimizu, in the retrospective Asian American era of the early 2000s. While Reanne was visiting from LA and Jenifer Wofferd lived in Prague at the time, Eliza was able to attend the SFIAAFF launch event as well as Closing Night and “had a wonderful time” at both. Overall, she says, the SFIAAFF programmers “created a really nice space for everyone (filmmakers, industry people, moviegoers) to mingle.” She also enjoyed being able to fit in a few great films for herself.

Since SFIAAFF 2010, Eliza, Reanne and Jenifer have worked together on what Eliza calls a “trans-pacific, video-based collaborative piece” with Carlos Villa for the Green Papaya Projects (Philippines) in November of 2010.

Personally, Eliza is working on few projects including video projections, drawings and sculptural objects. She is also the curator for the Luggage Store’s Projection Series where she is developing two new programs for the gallery (the Luggage Store Projection Space and the Mobile Projection Unit), which involves inviting media artists locally and abroad to project their pieces.

Stay tuned, advises Eliza. In the near future, M.O.B. does plan to create a fourth installation of their series. Until then, visit the M.O.B. Vimeo page to stay updated.


Directed by Asha Ghosh
Like so many SFIAAFF 2010 films, MR. SHANBAG’S SHOP circulated widely amongst festivals around the nation. It was shown at the Asian American International Film Festival in New York City, the 9th Annual Asian Film Festival of Dallas, 3rd i’s San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival and in Bangalore as part of the Creating Communities Series, screening at SUCHITRA this year.

Director Asha Ghosh attended last year’s festival with the film’s co-producer Kathleen Dargis, where she says they both “had a great time” meeting other filmmakers and being able to attend the Filmmaker’s Brunch. “Of course,” she says, her screening “was the highlight.” She really enjoyed getting the audience reaction and interacting with audience members during the Q&A.

Always keeping abreast with popular culture, Asha’s next endeavor involves creating a documentary portrait of a “San Francisco iconoclast,” as she describes him – a man who has developed a unique method of teaching music. Tentatively titled, WHAT I’M HEARING IN MY HEAD, the film will follow one man (affectionately deemed “Mr. Natural” for his uncanny resemblance to R. Crumb’s comic book character) as he expresses himself through unconventional modes of playing, teaching and composing music.


Directed by Valerie Soe and Russell Jeung
After THE OAK PARK STORY world premiere at SFIAAFF 2010, the film took flight across the nation, screening at universities, colleges and festivals throughout the year. Directors Valerie Soe and Russell Jeung won the 2010 Bay Area Video Coalition (BVAC) Media Maker Award for their work on OAK PARK, using the award to fund the film’s website and database of curated clips, as well as develop an interactive curriculum to accompany the film.

“As usual,” Valerie said, “I attended the festival and had an incredible time.” She was diligent enough to blog about the festival and the film’s world premiere here and here.

Valerie is working on preproduction for a new experimental documentary called THE CHINESE GARDENS, a film that chronicles anti-Chinese violence in the Pacific Northwest in the 1880s.


Directed by Jason Ho
With screenings at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival, New York Asian American Film Festival (Cinevision), UC Davis Asian Film Festival and the D.C. Asian Pacific Islander Film Festival, director Jason Ho’s PUNCTURE WOUND has received a warm embrace from the film festival circuit here and abroad.

Jason remembers being severely star struck at SFIAAFF 2010 while standing in the registration line: “As I waited I was just looking around to see if I knew anyone. A woman approached from behind to also stand in line. My eyes naturally went to see who it was – Tamlyn Tomita.” A self-proclaimed fan, having seen her in FOUR ROOMS, JOY LUCK CLUB and Star Trek, Jason proceeded to plot “how I could say hello without sounding like a creeper or a nerd.” In the end, he found himself too weak in the knees to do so but mustered up enough courage to remain calm and collected. “That was a super cool moment,” he says, “except the part [about] me wimping out.”

With several new endeavors lined up, wimping out during a celebrity sighting should be least of his worries. Jason is working on two films with more festival coverage in mind. “My latest project is another short called THE PONY COLLECTOR. It’s about a kid trying to find a My Little Pony figure that he received from his father, whom he never knew, in hopes of rekindling a connection with him.”

Ever the comics and toy enthusiast, Jason recently released a film online called THE TOY COLLECTORS. A documentary series about different people who collect toys, Jason has always been curious as to why people collect and how they collect. The latest episode is available here, where he documents his trip to Tokyo and records the story of a Star Wars shop owner.


Directed by Shambhavi Kaul
It should come as no surprise that SCENE 32 has screened at over fifteen domestic and international film festivals and screenings. With independent cinema from India more popular than ever, director Shambhavi Kaul and her film join this impressive niche of cinema that has us asking for more.

Following SCENE 32, Shambhavi’s most recent film is titled PLACE FOR LANDING. The film premiered at the New York Film Festival, Views from the Avant Garde in October of 2010. She also has two short films in the works.


Directed by Buthina Canaan Khoury
Staying within the vein of creating crucial films about Palestinian issues, award-winning director Buthina Canaan Khoury’s third film TASTE THE REVOLUTION was screened for opening of the Palestinian – British Short Film Week right before it played at SFIAAFF 2010. The film is currently available on pay-per-view via Comcast. Buthina continues to produce films under her production company, Majd, which focuses on films that cover crucial Palestinian issues.


Directed by Andy Pang
WORKS OF ART lives up to its title with nearly twenty film festival screenings and three festival awards. Winner of the Best Narrative Short at the San Diego Asian Film Festival, the Best Romantic Comedy at the Chicago International Reel Shorts Film Festival and the Best Narrative Short at the Asian Film Festival of Dallas, the film has not shied away from the spotlight.

Last January, to the joy of many the film’s fans, WORKS OF ART was part of COMCAST’s Video on Demand Cinema Asian America Series.

“We were fortunate enough to have a great festival season with the film,” Director Andy Pang writes, “and SFIAAFF was definitely one of our favorites.”


Directed by Mar Elepano
Mar Elepano, director of the short WINTER, compares his film to a “legacy film” – it has no website and it is only three minutes long. Made on 16mm film, WINTER is as, Mar explains, “a visual music piece.” Though the film has not been screened at any festivals post-SFIAAFF 2010, he expressed how excited and “groovy” it was that WINTER could be screened at the festival.

For now, Mar has left the world of independent film, opting to teach young people in workshops where they learn to create digital stories. Most of the students he works with do not have a background in film but their experiences bring a plethora of material from which their films can draw from. Most recently he has worked in a two-month program helping teens dealing with drug recovery to express their ideas and stories in film form. His work with these youth renewed his sense of fascination with filmmaking.

Liz Choi was the Publications and Administration intern for the 29th SFIAAFF in 2011.

Related Links:

AJUMMA! are you krazy??? on Facebook


Eliza Barrios

Jenifer Wofford

Mr. Shanbag’s Shop Facebook page

WORKS OF ART Facebook page



CAAM ON THE CLOCK Interview with Valerie Soe