Future Stars of SFIAAFF

Jennifer Young March 17, 2006

A quick flip through the indices of the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival nets you names like Gregg Araki, Gurinder Chadha, Fruit Chan, Chen Kaige, Stephen Chow, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Shohei Imamura, Justin Lin, Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair, Nonzee Nimbutr, Park Chan-wook, Takashi Miike, Wayne Wang, Wong Kar Wai, Edward Yang, Zhang Yimou, and Jia Zhang-ke. Who’s next to join the canon? SF360.org checked in with the festival’s Taro Goto to get his take on who we better pay attention to now, before superstardom snatches them away.

1) Mora Mi-Ok Stephens (“Conventioneers”). Goto says Stephens just won the John Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards, and she’s got a feature project lined up with Yun-jin Kim (“Lost”) and Billy Bob Thornton attached to it.

2) Julia Kwan (“Eve & the Fire”) Kwan’s film premiered at Toronto, won the Audience Award at Vancouver, and picked up a Special Jury Award at Sundance. According to Goto, “she’s a very very talented filmmaker from Canada,” whose short film “Three Sisters on Moon Lake” was his favorite short film from the 2002 program.

3) Tanuj Chopra (“Punching at the Sun”) – Chopra’s short film Butterfly was a favorite here in 2003, and he’s come back with a very intense New York story about a South Asian teen, explains Goto. He’s a Palo Alto native, and “Punching at the Sun” was the first South Asian American feature selected for a world premiere at Sundance.

4) Wisit Sasanatieng (“Citizen Dog”) Sasanatieng’s first feature, “Tears of the Black Tiger,” was picked up by Miramax and then shelved, but his distinctive style is in full bloom in “Citizen Dog,” says Goto. Tears was the first Thai film to screen in official selection at Cannes.

5) Zhang Lu (“Grain in Ear”) Zhang’s first feature, “Tang Poetry,” got a little bit of play at festivals, but “Grain in Ear,” Goto writes “is a minimalist masterpiece that’s getting accolades everywhere.”