The Asian Film Festival of Dallas offers big-screen representation to films from 11 countries, but it's also a showcase of different approaches to storytelling.
Teresa Nguyen, the festival's publicist, says Asian action movies are a Kill Bill-like splatter, the mysteries wholly unexpected. Whatever the genre, the films stand apart from more predictable mainstream English-language movies.
"You can watch a romantic comedy or a thriller or action or horror and never know what's going to happen," Nguyen says.
Starting July 13, the Asian Film Festival of Dallas will kick off its 16th year of celebrating Asian cinema. The weeklong event will include 69 feature and short films, the most shown at the festival to date.
Ten languages are represented, though all non-English films will include English subtitles. This year, there will be films from countries less frequently featured the festival, such as Singapore and Myanmar. On July 16, the festival will also present its first Women's Showcase, packing the day with four feature films and seven shorts directed or produced by women.
Not sure where to start? Here are five recommendations from the festival director of operations and programmer, David Gibson.
Soul on a String
Country: China | Language: Tibetan, with English subtitles | Running time: 2 hours 22 minutes | Director: Yang Zhang | Screening times: July 15 at 6:45 p.m., July 20 at 2:20 p.m.
Soul on a String follows a Tibetan cowboy as he wanders through the desert, delivering a package to monks living deep in the mountains and avoiding men on his tail. "The cinematography in this film is gorgeous," Gibson says. "You would think, 'How can you make a desert look good?' But the filmmaker really brought out the mounds and the landscape that's in the area. It's almost like you're looking at a puzzle piece that he's putting together himself between sand and mountain."
Country: Japan | Language: Japanese, with English subtitles | Running time: 2 hours 22 minutes | Director: Sang-il Lee | Screening times: July 15 at 9:30 p.m., July 17 at 10 p.m.
In Rage, several unconnected, kind people interact with strangers, any of whom may be a killer on the loose in their small town. The movie's cleverly connected — interweaving subplots are what make the film a favorite for Gibson. "It's not something you're going to get bored with, or you immediately know what's going to happen in the end," he says. "It's one of those you really have to watch. Because each subplot is going to connect eventually, and you want to make sure you don't miss it."
My Love Sinema
Country: Singapore | Language: Mandarin, with English subtitles | Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes | Director: Ai Leng Tan | Screening times: July 16 at 4:20 p.m., July 18 at 10:45 p.m.
My Love Sinema is like The Notebook of Singapore, according to Gibson. The film, which will be part of the festival's Women's Showcase, is set in 1950s Singapore, where an early projectionist is learning his craft and falling in love. Gibson says it's a sweet, nostalgic tearjerker. "It has a really, really good ending, and you might cry," he says.
And So We Put Goldfish in the Pool
Country: Japan | Language: Japanese, with English subtitles | Running time: 28 minutes | Director: Makoto Nagahisa | Screening time: July 14 at 2 p.m.
And So We Put Goldfish in the Pool, one of the festival's drama shorts, follows the true story of four 15-year-old girls who put 400 fish in their high school pool in Japan. Gibson says the short is really about the girls doing whatever they can to be heard in a town where adults silence and ignore them. Gibson says the film shows how young girls in Japan may not feel respected or like they have a voice, and how they should ultimately be heard.
Country: Japan | Language: Japanese, with English subtitles | Running time: 12 minutes | Director: Tomoya Takashima | Showtime: July 15 at 12:30 p.m.
Don't Cry is an animated short in the festival's experimental shorts block. In the film, mankind is ruled by artificial intelligence that has forbidden birth. Gibson says he is wary of giving anything away, but that the animation and plot are excellent and completely encapsulates the viewer despite its short run time. "You want it to keep going," Gibson says. "You want it to be a feature."
Plan your life
The Asian Film Festival of Dallas will run from July 13 to 20 at the Angelika Film Center, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane, Dallas. Its Women's Showcase series will be July 16 at the theater. Those interested can buy tickets to individual films or short film blocks on the festival's website for $8-$15, or get a pass to the whole festival by becoming a "Producer" level member. Find a complete schedule on the festival's site.