Around the World: Seven of the Best at Austin Asian American Film Festival
From Hawaii to Kasmir, documentaries to dramas at this year's virtual and drive-in fest
D: Antoinette Jadaone. Philippines, 2020, 100 min. Opening night film.
Filipino idol Paulo Avelino stars as a twisted version of himself in this unique look at celebrity and the teens who worship their flawed icons. (Drive-in screening, June 4, 7:30pm, Community First! Village Drive-In Cinema: Virtual access June 4-6)
D: Stanley Kwan. Hong Kong, 1991, 126 min.
Glowing 4K restoration of Stanley Kwan's critically lauded 1991 semi-documentary, semi-biopic of Ruan Lingyu, "the Chinese Garbo," with Maggie Cheung as the groundbreaking actress from Shanghai whose tragic fate gave a warning about 20th-century celebrity tabloid journalism. (Virtual access June 4- 8)
D: Anthony Banua-Simon. USA, 2020, 90 min.
Hawaii spent much of its history as a state as Hollywood's backdrop and a tourist photo op. Banua-Simon's documentary wrests its history and identity back into the hands of residents often relegated to extras in their own story. (Virtual access June 4-8)
D: Yung Chang. USA, 2021, 94 min.
The city of Wuhan has become known as ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic, but what was it like to be there? A companion piece of sorts to 76 Days, Wuhan Wuhan focuses on five stories of front-line health workers, captured at the height of the lockdown. (Virtual access June 9-13)
The Shepherdess and the Seven Songs
D: Pushpendra Singh. India, 2020, 96 min.
Rajasthani folk tales and the poems of 14th century Kashmiri mystic Lalleshwari come to cinematic life in this allegorical tale of a woman whose fight against unwanted suitors becomes a metaphor for the contested region. (Virtual access June 10-14)
D: Bassam Tariq. UK, 2020, 99 min.
Berlinale award-winning drama about the complexities of identity as British Pakistani rapper Zed (Riz Ahmed, hot off another musical drama smash in Sound of Metal) faces a sudden illness that could end his career. (Virtual access June 13-17)
D: Sujata Day. USA, 1991, 91 min. Closing Night Film.
Multihyphenate Day writes, directs, and stars in this closing night comedy-drama about a former teen spelling bee champ facing grown up challenges that can't be fixed with a few letters in the right order. (Drive-in screening, June 18, 7:30pm, Pioneer Farms; Virtual access, June 18 noon to midnight)
Austin Asian American Film Festival June 4-18. Streaming passes and drive-in tickets available at aaafilmfest.org.