By Masashi Niwano (SFIAAFF Festival & Exhibitions Director)

When I reminisce about all of the wonderful times that I had in my previous home of Austin, Texas, I often think of The Alamo Drafthouse. With its quirky pre-show entertainment and impressive food and beverage menu, the Alamo offers a unique experience of art and community. My previous festival, the Austin Asian American Film Festival (AAAFF) found a home at the Alamo, which was only too happy to support AAAFF and its mission: to bring Asian American cinema to the broadest possible audience.

They even created a menu specifically for us, which included samosas, ban mi sandwiches and sushi. The Alamo Drafthouse is one of the hot spots in Austin, where you can sit back and luxuriate in the knowledge that you will be viewing some of the most innovative and challenging films out there while being exposed to an inspiring array of communities and voices.

In 2010, I moved to San Francisco to be the new Festival Director of the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF). I was happy (and relieved) to discover so many exciting theaters and venues in the Bay Area. Theaters and venues that all posses a unique and irresistible charm: from The Viz’s contemporary cool, to The Castro Theater’s historic elegance, and from The Bridge’s cozy comfort, to the Pacific Film Archive’s sophisticated cinephilia (to name just a few of the fantastic screening spots in town).


Recently, there has been a lot of talk about The Roxie Theater in the Mission. A few months ago, Richard Wong (Director of COLMA: THE MUSICAL, OPTION 3) shot some scenes for his next Asian American feature, YES, WE’RE OPEN at The Roxie. Dave Boyle also used The Roxie to film part of the sequel to SURROGATE VALENTINE, DAYLIGHT SAVINGS.

I have always heard glowing reviews of The Roxie and their support for artists and filmmakers. And, after meeting with Mike Keegan and Rachel Hart, The Roxie’s programmers, it became very clear why: With a mission to “present the best and most important neglected cinema of the past, present and future,” it is no surprise that many film festivals (Indiefest, Docfest, Frameline, etc.) call The Roxie home.

On September 2nd, The Roxie begins a two and a half weeks of an amazing line-up of films that showcase the breadth of inventive and visionary Asian American and Asian cinema. As a mini-retrospective, The Roxie is screening two remarkably intense films from controversial Japanese auteur Sion Sono.


LOVE EXPOSURE is an epic four hour, wholly original film about a young Catholic teen, who tries to gain his father’s love by stealing, fighting and snapping naughty pictures of unsuspecting women.

And, did I mention his father’s a priest?

One of the best parts is that if you’re a CAAM member, your ticket is only $6.50. Now that’s a deal.


The second film, COLD FISH, which opens on Sept 16th,was one of the most visceral and provocative films that I saw on the festival circuit last year. It centers on a down and out fish store owner, who tries to better himself and his company by working with a successful proprietor.

But unfortunately for him, the proprietor turns out to be an insane serial killer, who loves nothing more than to torture anyone who gets in his way.


In between the two Sono films, Mike Ott’s indie jem, LITTLE ROCK opens on Sept 9th.

A road-tripping Japanese brother and sister spend several lost days discovering the less-enticing flipside of “California dreaming” in this sweet and scruffy tale of misfits, heartbreak and small-town restlessness. This enchanting film found success during its festival run and I am thrilled that it has made its way to San Francisco.

Related links:


LITTLE ROCK – Sept 9-15

COLD FISH – Sept 16-21

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