The 22nd annual Asian American Showcase ran from March 31 to April 12 at Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center and the Foundation for Asian American Independent Media. Read our “Best of the Fest” list below, ranked from highest to lowest.
Number 1: The Tiger Hunter. USA. Lena Khan writes and directs a light-hearted and witty comedy about delightfully quirky Sami Malik (Danny Pudi) in the 1970s. Working as an engineer, he moves from India to the United States in search of success and determined to make his deceased father (his hometown’s tiger hunter) proud. In the midst of a series of events gone awry, he meets new friends and lives in a cramped apartment with 13 roommates. He lies about being successful to everyone back home, including his crush and childhood friend, Ruby (Karen David). Sami faces each problem head-on with determination. With each scene, I was certainly rooting for the protagonist. If you’re looking for a feel-good movie, this is one that I highly favor. (SAT: 4.5/5)
Number 2: Wexford Plaza. Canada. Joyce Wong writes and directs a deliciously dramatic movie. Betty (Reid Asselstine) is a security guard, smittened (and perhaps misled) by an unemployed bartender named Danny (Darrel Gamotin). The movie is split into two parts, one from Betty’s point of view and the other from Danny’s. Both points of view tell the same story, from different perspectives. It provides viewers with more backstory for each character and gives a glimpse into their life circumstances. In Betty’s mind, Danny is leading her on. But in his, he’s clearly disinterested. The mix ups, including a sexy selfie that causes Betty to quit her job, lead to an ending left to interpretation. The lack of closure may be frustrating to viewers. (SAT: 3/5)
Number 3: Motherland. USA/Philippines. English subtitles. Ramona S. Diaz directs a documentary that takes place at a hectic maternity hospital in the Philippines. The movie begins with women being admitted to the hospital and giving their basic information, full of discomfort on a very smoldering day. I felt like I was outside looking in, witnessing mothers giving birth, bonding with their babies and each other. While this isn’t considered a comedy, there were some amusing moments from a whimsical mother reflecting on her life in a comical matter to a funny nurse encouraging the women wash up because they smelled like sour milk. Aside from these brief moments, the film feels dragged-out. But, if you like raw, real and natural documentaries, you might like this one. (SAT: 1.5/5)
© Stephanie A. Taylor (4/14/17) FF2 Media
Photos: Lena Khan directs The Tiger Hunter; Wexford Plaza; Motherland
Photo Credits: Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles; CineDiaz