Fingerless Film Reviews

2 Mar

Lately, a lot of people have been asking me what my favorite films are at the festival where I work. Usually, I recommend films based on the person, but I wanted to take a moment to list some of my favorites.

This is a hard choice, because in film, I believe there is no such thing as thumbs up and thumbs down. It’s a horrible, horrible practice our friend Mr. Ebert has ingrained in the minds of the American public, b/c films are complex and can’t, and shouldn’t, be fated to be dumped in the “good film” or “bad film” bins. Films are like people, there’s one for everyone, and these are the ones that I have a bit of a crush on.

I saw this film at the Busan Film Film Festival and immediately emailed the distributor to beg for it for our own fest. Directed by a former North Korean defector, RYANG-KANG-DO is one of the strangest and most hilarious films I’ve seen this year. It starts off with a shabby, snot-nosed North Korean kid who discovers a care package, delivered via balloon from NK’s southern neighbors, full of Christmas gifts. From there, all the wonderful trappings of capitalism and consumerism ensue. It’s an incredibly smart take on the North Korean narrative—witty, endearing, and (I think), a big F.U. to all of the poverty porn films made about the country.

A lot has been made in Asian American circles about the intersection of Asians and whites. Far fewer have been made about Asians and other people of color. In A LOT LIKE YOU, Eliachi Kimaro is the daughter of a Tanzanian father and Korean mother, and the film unravels an important and shocking personal history when the director/subject travels back to Tanzania to her father’s hometown. Moving, and an enlightening piece for all mixed-race Asian Americans.


I saw this one at the San Diego Asian Film Festival, and I have to admit I was terribly jealous, because their curators had discovered an amazing talent and an amazing independent film. This is one of those rare gems film festivals drool over. It’s about a gay, Asian man who lives in Tennessee and finds himself in a custody battle for his son. And it’s 3 hours. One of the best indie films you’ll see, Asian American or otherwise. Period.

I think by now Takashi Miike can sell himself. But I gotta talk about one scene in this movie, in which two former ninjas, now cross-dressing hair stylists, are telling the story of their demise in a Kabuki-inspired, maraca-shaking, gong-banging, song-and-dance number. Days later, sitting at my desk, I giggle at this, sigh, and think about how wonderful the world is.

A lovely first film for a director who wanted to show what Burma is really like. Documentaries have been made about Burma, but in this narrative, you get a sense of someone who wants the world to feel the country, not just read about it in the news.

I often find filmmakers’ best work is their first. While I hope that’s not true for my friend and director Mye Hoang, I mention it b/c first films have a lot of guts and a lot of heart, and when you walk away from something this rife with emotion, you remember it.


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