San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival's youth revolution: now with breakdancing, party-rocking, and pint-sized ninja stars. Plus, film critic Cheryl Eddy's SFIAAFF picks
Other docs worth checking out include Mr. Cao Goes to Washington, an insightful look at the American political system via Joseph Cao, who was the first Vietnamese American elected to Congress. But that wasn't the most unique thing about him: he was a Republican, elected amid post-Katrina disarray in one of New Orleans' traditionally African American and staunchly Democratic districts. S. Leo Chiang's film follows Cao as he makes hard choices in the year leading up to his battle for re-election, including voting first for, then against, President Obama's health care reform bill. (Reason for the switch: he's passionately anti-abortion.) Even if you don't agree with his views, Cao puts a human (and surprisingly honest) face on the great divide between the political parties in this country.
More hopeful is No Look Pass, Melissa Johnson's quite enjoyable documentary about first-generation Burmese American Emily Tay, a basketball superstar who turns pro after graduating Harvard (eat your heart out, Jeremy Lin), and, oh yeah — happens to be a lesbian. No Look Pass also screened at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival, and it's not hard to see why it appeals to a wide range of audiences: Tay is an inspiring figure on the court, and endearingly awkward off it, especially when trying to relate to her deeply traditional parents.
Even more uplifting, and perfectly compressed at 39 minutes, is Lucy Walker's Oscar-nominated The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, which examines the "beauty and terror" of nature, as perceived by Japanese survivors of the recent earthquake and tsunami — and the spiritual significance of the cherry blossom, which is shown to be a key element in the country's healing process.
Genre fans! I Am a Ghost, the world-premiere latest from prolific local H.P. Mendoza (2006's Colma: The Musical), starts slowly but — holy ghost! — stick with it, and you'll be shriekingly rewarded. And another recent IndieFest selection, Marlon N. Rivera's satirical The Woman in the Septic Tank, returns to delight another wave of crowds with its tale of three ambitious filmmakers (and a hell of a leading lady) determined to make the most popular Filipino movie of all time. Best line: "Fuck Cannes, bro! We're talking Oscars!" (Cheryl Eddy)