The award winning short, “Diwa” will make a world premiere at the 21st Dances with Films screening on Saturday, June 9th at 5pm, at the historic TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood. Dances with Films is an annual Academy Awards qualifying festival.
Filipina actress and filmmaker Aina Dumlao stars in the award winning short film, “Diwa” which centers around a young undocumented immigrant by the same name. Diwa comes to America in search of a better life and to help her family in the Philippines, the most popular way, sending money back home.
As is most often the case, life isn’t always greener on the other side and Diwa faces the harsh reality of living in America as an immigrant who becomes exploited by her employer and then falls victim to a broken immigration system.
Aina Dumlao and her business partner (Undercurrent Films) and husband, Bru Muller both share directing, writing and producing credits for this beautifully told film. Dumlao was initially inspired to write “Diwa” by her uncle who spent over 3 decades as an overseas worker and barely saw his own family. When his wife passes away from cancer, he is out at sea, working to pay for their mounting medical bills. Aina hopes that “Diwa” will “give voice to the hopes, dreams and struggles of the millions of undocumented immigrants who come to America, desperate to carve out better lives for themselves and their loved ones.”
Aina Dumlao is compelling as Diwa. In the first three minutes of the film, without any dialogue, she transports you into Diwa’s heavily burdened life which is full of frustration, internal and external struggles and exhaustion. The cinematography beautifully captures the spirit of the film and the music was absolutely moving.
"Diwa" also stars Leslie Thurston, Maria Pallas, Seli M. Rose, Shaw Jones, Jeremy Andorfer-Lopez and Eddie Martinez.
You can show your support by attending the screening. For more information, you can head to www.mynameisdiwa.com
Check out my personal thoughts on the film here
Here's a look at the trailer:
For the past 3 years ISA (International Secret Agents) has hosted Identity LA to celebrate and commemorate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month (formerly known as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month) and this year was another success for the team.
Presented by Los Angeles Councilmember David Ryu, the city of Los Angeles, Pacific Bridge Arts Foundation and ISA (founded by Wong Fu Productions and Far East Movement), the event showcased vendors from the AAPI community showcasing their unique products, a vast array of food trucks curated by Roy Choi which included The Boba Truck, BB Kyu, Belly Bombz, Chinese Laundry, Pho King Awesome, and Seoul Sausage as well as serving a platform for local artists to showcase their work.
The performances at Identity LA 2018 was definitely the high point of the festival which featured Asian and Asian American Pacific Islander artists. Filipina rapper Ruby Ibarra shined with her expressive and sharp-witted lyrics that touched upon her ethnicity and female empowerment. She wowed the crowd with her high energy performance and her effortless skills in rapping seamlessly from English to Filipino dialects. Ibarra also took the time to stress the significance of the festival stating, “I think it’s definitely important for us to have spaces like this, that allow a platform for artists such as myself to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.”
Other notable performances included Hotel Garuda, North Carolina rapper G Yamazawa, The Kinjaz, DJ Zo, and The Flavr Blue. Multi-platinum Korean American rapper, singer, and dancer Jay Park got the crowd dancing and singing along to his hits, and also invited Korean singer-songwriter Hoody to share the stage with him. Hoody, who is signed under Park’s record label, AOMG showed off her sexy and sultry vocal skills during her own solo set right before Jay Park hit the stage.
One of the highlights of Identity LA was headliner Mike Shinoda’s performance. Shinoda, who performed earlier in the day at KROQ’s Weenie Roast, sang familiar Linkin Park tunes and took a moment to give a touching tribute to his former band mate and close friend Chester Bennington. Shinoda also surprised the crowd by bringing along a couple of guests to share the stage with him, including fellow band member Joe Hahn for their song “Castle Rock” and Japanese singer Taka of ONE OK ROCK to sing Shinoda’s Fort Minor hit single, “Where’d You Go”.
Identity LA 2018 also took the time to recognize AAPIs who have made huge contributions in the community. This year’s honorees were the Asian Pacific Islander Forward Movement ,a non-profit organization whose mission is to “cultivate healthy, long-lasting and vibrant Asian and Pacific Islander communities through grassroots organizing.” Activist, artist and the creator of “The Pussyhat Project” Kristah Suh received the Activism award. The Digital Pioneer award was presented to fitness entrepreneur Cassey Ho, founder and creator of oGorgeous and Blogilates. Grammy winner and member of "The Stereotypes" Jonathan Yip was honored with the Musical Pioneer award and Director Jon M. Chu was presented with the Arts & Entertainment honor. Chu’s film directing credits include Now You See Me 2, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, and the upcoming and highly anticipated film, Crazy Rich Asians. During his acceptance speech, Jon M. Chu did not hesitate to invite the audience to show their support and watch Crazy Rich Asians when it hits theaters in August.
Identity LA 2018 was a free and public event sponsored by Comcast | NBC Universal and Private Internet Access.
See below for a recap of this year’s Identity LA and a special performance of “In the End” by Mike Shinoda and fans at the end of the video.
The trailer for the John Cho starring film, "Searching" has just been released.
The movie which also stars Debra Messing, Joseph Lee, and Michelle La follows Cho’s character, David Kim, whose 16 year old daughter goes missing. After 37 hours with not a single lead, David decides to takes matters in his own hands and searches the one place no one has searched and where everyone’s secrets are kept today; his daughter’s laptop.
During the film’s Sundance screening, “Searching” received the Audience Award and was also picked up by Sony Pictures.
The film is expected to be released on August 3rd, 2018.
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and you can expect numerous events happening around town in celebration and recognition of the AAPI community. The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival produced by Visual Communication never disappoints in representing Asians both on screen and behind the scenes; as well as spotlighting the best films from around the world.
Opening night was the screening of “Searching” starring John Cho and Directed by Aneesh Chaganty. “Searching” received the Sundance NEXT Audience Award and after it’s premiere at Sundance, was picked up by Sony Pictures. The film follows John Cho’s character, David, who is searching for his missing teenage daughter.
The LAAPFF Special Presentations will include:
Regal LA Live Theatre 13, Tuesday May 8th @ 9:30pm
An ambitious Maori rapper returns to his homeland of New Zealand to explore his roots.
Regal LA Live Theatre 13, Wednesday May 9th @ 9:30pm
A group of friends plan a surprise party for their friend and Atlanta rapper Cory. When Cory is extremely late, his friends start contemplating their lives, careers and relationship with the birthday boy.
Park Center @ Griffith Park, Friday May 11th at 6pm – Free Screening
Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Disney hit Mulan at an outdoor screening of the film.
Closing night’s film will be the screening of “Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.” a decade long documentary on controversial musical artist Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, aka M.I.A. Screening will take place at the Aratani Theater on May 10th at 7pm.
The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival is going on now until May 12th. For more information and tickets, you can head to www.festival.vconline.org
The 19th Newport Beach Film Festival is taking place now until May 3rd with over 300 films being screened from 50 countries. The theme for this year’s event is See Who Made the Cut.
One of the highlights for this year’s event is the Pacific Rim Showcase section of the festival which includes a spotlight of films from South Korea, China, Japan, the Philippines and Australia. The Pacific Rim Showcase takes place on Monday April 30th throughout various theaters in Orange County.
Here is a list of the films:
South Korea Spotlight - “A Day”
A skilled doctor witnesses a tragic car accident. While trying to help, he finds that his daughter is one of the dying victims. As the worst day of his life begins to repeat itself, he realizes he may have a chance at saving his daughter with the risk of someone else dying. He attempts to save them both but will have time working against him.
The Philippines Spotlight - “Ulam: Main Dish”
This documentary follows the rise of the Filipino food movement and includes interviews with chefs who are crossing over to the center of the American table. The film confronts issues inherent in representing both Filipino and American identity, and challenges from both the Filipino community and the world at large. Featuring appearances by Alvin Cailan (Eggslut), Jon Eric Concordia and Christine Araquel-Concordia (The Park’s Finest), Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad (Maharlika, Jeepney), Romy Dorotan & Amy Besa (Purple Yam), Charles Olalia (Ricebar) Chase and Chad Valencia (LASA) and Andre Guerrero (The Oinkster, Maximiliano).
Q&A with Director Alexandra Cuerdo and Producer Rey Cuerdo
China Spotlight “End of Summer”
A timid fifth grader, an orthodox middle-aged teacher and a grumpy old man experience their first awakening to true self during the 1998 World Cup in China.
Japan Spotlight - “3 Ft. Ball and Souls” (Sanjakudama)
Four troubled strangers who meet online decide to commit suicide together in person. However, a Ground Hog Day type event forces these strangers to open up and confide in each other in order to resolve some of their various issues.
Australia Spotlight - “The Pretend One”
A young woman’s childhood imaginary friend, Hugo, is in love with her. However, Hugo realizes that his existence is threatened when a real person becomes the woman’s love interest.
Q&A with filmmakers and actors after the screening
The Pacific Rim Showcase takes place on Monday April 30th throughout various theaters in Orange County. For more information and to purchase tickets to the festival, visit www.newportbeachfilmfest.com
Trailers for the highly anticipated film, Crazy Rich Asians have just been released.
Based on the Kevin Kwan novel by the same name, Crazy Rich Asians follows 2 NYU professors; the dashing and exceptionally wealthy Nick Young and his economics professor girlfriend Rachel Chu. Nick however, has kept his family fortune and background a secret to his friends in New York, including his girlfriend. It isn’t until the two travel to Singapore for Nick’s best friends’ wedding, “the biggest wedding of the year” that Rachel realizes Nick’s family is one of the top ten wealthiest in Asia. Their relationship is put to the test when lies, deceit, family drama and a deep and mysterious past all come to light.
Actors Henry Golding who plays Nick Young and Constance Wu, who plays Rachel Wu lead the Asian Cast. Other stars in the film include legendary actress and action star Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), comedian Ken Jeong (ABC’s Dr. Ken, Hangover Triology, NBC’s Community), Harry Shum Jr. ( Fox’s Glee), British actress and model Gemma Chan (AMC’s Humans, Transformers: The Last Knight) and Nico Santos (NBC’s Superstore).
According to Warner Bros, Crazy Rich Asians is the first Hollywood studio backed film that is directed by an Asian American and stars an all-Asian cast in 25 years, since The Joy Luck Club. The Jon Chu directed movie is expected to hit theaters August 17th.
Netflix has announced that Brillante Mendoza’s drug war drama “Amo” will be available through their streaming service starting April 9th becoming the first Philippine Series to air on the popular on demand service.
“Amo” is a 12 part miniseries that tackles the controversial drug war in the Philippines and follows the lives of many who are affected by drug trafficking – including the government, drug dealers, and corrupt police officers.
Actor Vince Rillon plays high school student Joseph, a small time crystal meth dealer whose life is made complicated after his dealings in the drug world, while veteran actor Derek Ramsay, plays a policeman trying to keep the streets clean. “Amo” also stars Allen Dizon, Felix Roco, Archie Adamos, and Baron Geisler.
According to Robert Roy, the VP of Content Acquisition at Netflix, “AMO is a bold and suspenseful show that has the potential of capturing thrill-seeking audiences worldwide.” Roy also added “We are always seeking to work with passionate, talented storytellers like Mendoza, to bring premium content to Netflix’s 117 million members around the world.”
“Amo” was produced by TV5 and TV5 President & CEO Chot Reyes said in a statement, “We are excited to finally be able to share AMO with everyone. Brillante has done a beautiful job in bringing paper to life, and the show’s acquisition provides an additional platform to help share the first-ever Filipino series on Netflix to a worldwide audience.”
Brillante Mendoza is no stranger to garnering positive reviews for his work. Many of his films have premiered at numerous legendary film festivals including Cannes, Berlin International Film Festival, and Venice International. Among his awards are the Best Director award for his film, “Kinatay” at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival as well as receiving the Best Film award for the 2009 movie “Lola” at the 6th Dubai International Film Festival. His past movie credits include Thy Womb, Captive, Ma’Rosa, Serbis and Taklub.
For more on Brillante Mendoza and his work, you can head to http://brillantemamendoza.com/
The top three finalists for the 2018 HBO APA Visionaries short film competition include Director Feng-I Fiona Roan’s short “Jiejie”, “June” directed by Huay-Bing Law and the Maritte Go directed film, “Remittance”.
HBO’s Asian Pacific American Visionaries, is a short film competition that was created in 2016 to encourage and provide emerging APA directors a place to showcase their work. Sponsored by HBO, the panel of judges include HBO executives, industry leaders and fellow APA filmmakers. This year’s competition asked filmmaker’s to explore the concept of “home” in creative and innovative ways.
“Jiejie” directed by Feng-I Fiona Roan follows the story of two young sisters who are raised by their single immigrant mother in Los Angeles during 1997. On the sisters’ first day at church, older sister Fen Liang betrays her little sibling, Ann fueling an unprecedented outburst since their immigration. Taipei born Roan, received her Directing MFA from the American Film Institute. Roan’s projects focus on strong female leads as well as explores their relationships in an “intimate, familial, naturalistic atmosphere.”
“June” is set in 1955 and is a story of a Chinese Wife who tries to fit in at her husband’s Texas University graduation party. The short is directed by Huay-Bing Law whose films have premiered at numerous Film Festivals including the San Diego Asian Film Festival, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Fest, Lone Star, Hawaii International and Austin Film Festival.
The Maritte Go directed film, “Remittance” is inspired by Go’s immigrant family experience and follows a Filipino cruise worker who receives a phone call that her son is in the hospital. Filipina American Go received her Masters in Film/TV Production from USC. Fueled by her attraction for horror films, she is currently in preproduction to direct and write a horror anthology produced by Radio Silence.
"HBO is proud to not only be part of the dialogue about media diversity but also leading new conversations around it," stated Jackie Gagne, VP Multicultural Marketing at HBO. "With Asian Pacific American Visionaries, we are empowering communities through representation while celebrating great artistic talent."
"In order for progress and change to be possible for Asian Americans in Hollywood, the major studios and networks must find ways to work together with our community," said Francis Cullado, Executive Director of Visual Communications, the organization that produces the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. "The Asian Pacific American Visionaries program demonstrates HBO's continued industry excellence and sets an example for other companies who are serious about diversity."
"HBO is a network that continues to break new ground with both its award-winning programs and commitment to developing diverse talent," said Michelle K. Sugihara, Executive Director of CAPE. "Asian Pacific American Visionaries perfectly aligns with our organization's core principles of creating new opportunities for APA artists and advancing culture through entertainment."
The top three films will premiere at the upcoming Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in April 2018 and will be offered the opportunity to license their film to premiere exclusively on HBO during May 2018; to coincide with Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
George Takei’s Broadway musical “Allegiance” will make it's Los Angeles premiere at the JACCC’s Aratani Theatre from February 21st to April 1st; with opening night happening on February 28th.
Directed by East West Players’ Producing Artistic Director Snehal Desai, “Allegiance” is inspired by Takei’s childhood. The musical takes place after the events of Pearl Harbor and follows the lives of the Kimura family, who, along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans are forced to leave their homes. The play is described as “an uplifting testament to the power of the human spirit, “Allegiance” follows the Kimuras as they fight between duty and defiance, custom and change, family bonds and forbidden loves.”
“It’s an incredible honor to be able to direct the first production of “Allegiance” since it’s Broadway debut. There could not be a more vital and important time to be bringing “Allegiance” home to Los Angeles and Little Tokyo, where so many still remember the day when the government forced their families to leave their communities and homes. This powerful and moving musical sheds light on this dark chapter of US history with grace and humor. I am humbled to be leading this supremely talented company” said Allegiance (Los Angeles) Director Snehal Desai.
Joining George Takei in the musical will be Elena Wang, Janelle Dote, Eymard Cabling, Cesar Cirpirano, Natalie Holt MacDonald, Ethan Le Phong, Jordan Goodsell, Sharline Liu, Miyuki Miyagi, Glenn Shiroma, Chad Takeda, Grace Yoo, Scott Watanabe and Greg Watanabe.
The Los Angeles shows will be co-produced by East West Players and JACCC by special arrangement with Sing Out, Louise! Productions and ATA.
Performances will take place at JACCC’s Aratani Theatre – 244 S. San Pedro Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012.
For more information and tickets, you can head to www.AllegianceMusical.com
Hannah Simone, most known for her role as CeCe on Fox’s Comedy, “New Girl” has been cast as the title role in the upcoming reboot of “Greatest American Hero.” This is perfect timing for Simone who will be wrapping up her final season of “New Girl” later this year.
According to an article on Deadline written by Nellie Andreeva, Simone is believed to be playing “the first woman of color superhero lead of a live-action TV series.”
Simone will play Meera, a 30 year old woman who lives her life aimlessly; spending most of her days drinking and singing karaoke. However, her world is forever changed when she encounters extraterrestrials who entrusts her with a special suit that will help her save the world.
“Fresh Off the Boat” creator Nahnatchka Khan and writer/producer Rachna Fruchbom will serve as executive producers for the upcoming sitcom. Fruchbom also wrote the script for the pilot.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fans won’t have to miss the show too much when season 3 of the series comes to a close this week because an eight-city music tour of the comedy has just been announced.
According to Entertainment Weekly Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Live Starring Rachel Bloom will kick off on March 31st in Portland and will also include stops in New York, Chicago, Washington DC and Los Angeles. Series Co-Creator, Executive Producer and leading star Rachel Bloom stated how excited she was for the live musical which will include “new renditions of some of our beloved songs and connect with our amazing fans.” The Golden Globe winner also said in a statement, “There is nothing like performing musical comedy live. “It’s not just a performance, it’s an ongoing dialogue between the performers and the audience.
Co-stars Vincent Rodriguez III, Pete Gardner, and Scott Michael Foster are also expected to be part of the ensemble.
Tickets for the tour will go on sale this Wednesday, February 14th. No word on whether the live tour will include a performance in West Covina, CA.
For as long as Thomas Orlina can remember, he has always been glued to the TV, watching the morning news programs and being intrigued by the television anchors. At the age of 5, while most kids were busy playing, Orlina would make up his own news segments and pretend to be a reporter with his father who would play his camera man. He knew then that being in front of the camera, entertaining and informing the audience was his calling.
"As my dad and I pretended to do those imaginary news segments, I just remember loving being in front of the camera and feeling so comfortable. It was so much fun and it just came naturally to me! I just always assumed that’s what I’d do when I grew up."
Now years later, Filipino American Thomas Orlina is an unstoppable force in the entertainment industry. He currently works on several of the most well-known entertainment companies including AfterBuzz TV and Warner Bros. and Orlina does not shy away from working on numerous projects at the same time, just like his role models, Ryan Seacrest and Ellen DeGeneres.
“I think Ryan and Ellen have worked so hard to get to where they are, seeing how they’ve evolved over the years has given me inspiration to never give up and take on multiple projects at the same time.”
Thomas Orlina received his big break working at TMZ where he learned what being in the Hollywood business was really like.
“I learned very early on that this business moves so fast! If you’re not ready in an instant when opportunity arises, then you might be in the wrong industry!”
Currently, Thomas works at AfterBuzz TV as a host and red carpet correspondent. When asked about his experience at AfterBuzz, he says “The great Maria Menounos and Keven Undergaro (who are also the creators) have inspired me to work on improving my hosting skills and have shown me how to be a multi-dimensional host. That means having the ability to handle different genres of programming, and take on subject matter that is either lighthearted and fun, or more serious subjects. They’ve given me a lot of key pointers on how to separate myself from the rest of the field.”
And he has definitely separated himself from everyone else. 2017 was a successful year for the producer and host. In addition to covering numerous red carpet premieres, hosting the after show for Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York,” Orlina got his first Producer job at C Squared, where his main responsibility was to create original entertainment news segments.
But perhaps Orlina’s biggest accomplishment was the premiere of his original self-produced show, “Your Time With Thomas” an eight part YouTube series which not only takes the audience through different parts of Southern California (and one episode in Vegas), but more importantly, captures Thomas’ personal life as he deals with topics that most of us can relate to; including friendship, dating, community, family and his Filipino culture. One of his main goals in producing “YTWT” was to inspire others.
“I told myself at the very start of this, if I was going to make a show, I wanted it to have meaning and provide inspiration to the viewer. At the end of each episode, I have a segment called “Takeaway” which allows me to incorporate my mantra which is to always end things on a high note. That’s why in each episode, I leave you with a message of hope and inspiration that you can hopefully take with you and carry over into your own life.” He adds “I think certain life experiences have made me the way I am. I grew up feeling like I had to portray myself a certain way for people to like me but later in life i realized that wasn’t the way I wanted to live. When I decided to let my true self shine through and let go of worrying about what others might think, I gained so much confidence. Now I’m in a place where I’d like to give that same confidence to people who might have felt like me growing up.”
Orlina’s series has definitely resonated with many. His episodes garner thousands of views on YouTube. When asked about the success of “YTWT,” Orlina says, “We live in a world now where people are looking for what I like to call “snackable” content and with the short length of the episodes (about 8 mins or so) and the many different topics we offer, it’s really appealing to almost every demographic. Whether people are drawn to the subject matter of the episodes or the travel aspect or perhaps the messaging in the takeaways, those are all things that make it stand out as unique content and the reason why people connect so well with the show.”
So it comes as no surprise that Season 2 of “Your Time With Thomas” is in the works. In addition, Orlina is excited to announce a spinoff.
“This year I’m premiering what I’m calling a “spin off” of YTWT which is going to be titled, “Your Time With Thomas: The Experience.” It’s a video log format which will be more intimate than my original show. The videos will be shorter and the way I’m producing each of them will be fresh and exciting for viewers. This is not to be confused with, “Your Time With Thomas: The Shuffle,” which is already an interactive segment where we feature fans of the show asking questions and providing feedback. It’s been such a rewarding experience to expand and create more unique and intriguing content to continue building the brand and expanding viewership. For the next season, you’re going to see even more of me, so look out! I’ve been approached with some interesting opportunities, so I’m weighing out my options now and I’ll try and take on as much as I can and say “yes” whenever possible! I’m excited about all of the possibilities!”
"Now for 2018, it’s going to be about looking towards my future like, Where do I want to be 5 years from now? 10 years from now? With that in mind, I’m really going to focus on what I need to do to get there and take the steps necessary to make my vision of the future a reality."
Serenity Media Group Founder, CEO and Executive Producer, Christie Hsiao is working on an independent film based on Pat Moffett’s critically acclaimed book, “Ice Cream in the Cupboard”.
“I am so excited to have a young, talented group of filmmakers and an amazing cast to be a part of this project,” says Hsiao. “Pat Moffett’s book is so timely, he tells a beautiful story about Early Onset Alzheimer’s and how it affects a loving marriage. I was so compelled to bring his book to the screen to raise awareness and support families and caregivers around the world to better take care of themselves and patients. This is a love story everyone can relate to, to know when to let go and move on,”
“Ice Cream in the Cupboard” follows the story of a loving married couple; Carmen and Pat. After a series of unsettling events which include Carmen physically attacking her husband Pat, and not being able to find her way back home, Pat begins to wonder what is happening to his wife. They soon discover that Carmen has early onset Alzheimer’s. As Carmen’s condition worsens, Pat finds solace in his memories of their life together.
The film, which stars Jaime King, Tobin Bell, Dana Ashbrook, Andy Dick, Sean Whalen and AmberFrank is scheduled to be released in the Summer of 2018.
For more information on Christie Hsiao or her company Serenity Media Group, you can heat to http://www.serenitymediagroupinc.com/
November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.
Magician Kevin Li has been performing magic for several years and was just recently featured on the CW’s show “Penn and Teller Fool Us” where he not only wowed and amazed the audience, but left the silent Teller emotional and in tears. Although it took him several seasons of auditioning to finally make it on the nationally televised program, Li never faltered. When asked what kept him going and auditioning Kevin said, “What kept me motivated to try out again for the show after getting cut multiple times is loving what I do. No matter who you are and what you want to do, if you truly love what you do, why not try out? It isn’t a waste of time if you are passionate about what you love. If you fail, you didn’t lose anything but gain more experience. If you succeed, you are put on a larger platform to showcase who you are and inspire more people.”
Among Li’s other proud accomplishments include being one of the very few Asian American magicians who perform at the exclusive and legendary Magic Castle in Hollywood. Kevin first heard of this opportunity through his father who mentioned to him that there was a Junior Society at the Magic Castle for kids ages 13-20. Li made it through after his first audition and admits that he owes a great amount of his success to the Castle.
Li was introduced to magic first-hand through his grandfather. However, it wasn’t until he started performing in front of his family, friends, as well as strangers, that he realized this was something he was extremely passionate about. Kevin recalls, “the magic brought out a child-like wonder in them, similar to when one sees a balloon fly away for the first time or eating cotton candy for the first time.”
Kevin Li’s approach to magic is distinctive in that he incorporates a story or reason to his performances. “I want my magic to speak for itself through the story behind it. At the end of the day, I want my audience to be engaged with what’s happening and maybe even take meaning from it afterwards.” He also has an adoration for Street Magic and credits David Blaine as one of his inspirations. “It was always amazing to see him walk up to these diverse strangers and connect with them instantly through ordinary objects he used.” Kevin describes. In several of Li’s videos, you can see him doing the same, connecting with strangers through a packet of gum, a deck of cards or a person’s cell phone.
Kevin lives by three standards when it comes to his magic – Modern, Meaningful, and Memorable. Modern - in that the objects he use are nothing out of the ordinary but rather familiar and every day items that you already carry. Meaningful, in a way that the magic has to have meaning. And finally, Memorable. stemming from his own interpretation of his favorite quote by Maya Angelou, “Your audience may forget my name and face, but they will never forget the true astonishment they have felt.”
For more information on Kevin, you can head to his Instagram and Facebook pages @kevinlimagic.
Once again, Kristina Wong successfully uses her comedic creative skills to shine the light on the absurd and obnoxious self-published books from 6 self proclaimed, “expert” white men giving tips on how to pick up Asian women.
In Wong’s youtube series, “How To Pick Up Asian Chicks” notable Asian ladies read excerpts from 6 books a la “Jimmy Kimmel’s Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” style. Each 2-minute episode is dedicated to reviewing one self-published book written by a self-proclaimed “expert” on Asian women. Several of the books reviewed include, “Everyman’s Guide to Asian Sex,” “Asian MILF Hunting,” and “How to Get an Asian Girlfriend”.
Tips range from Yelp being one of the best places to meet Asian women, Vietnamese women will tolerate an older man as long as he’s got a fat wallet, and Asian women are very insecure because of the communist experience on "it’s people". (Yes, you read correctly).
Featured commentators include porn star and author Asa Akira, actor Amy Hill (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Unreal”), actor Aubrey Anderson-Emmons (“Modern Family”), comedian Jenny Yang, actresses Lynn Chen and Michelle Krusiec.
As Series Creator Kristina Wong says, “I’ve infiltrated the pickup artist scene for years, crashed their conventions, and made art about their ‘techniques.’ These guys spread misinformation on Asian American women, and their books are ripe for dissection. It’s time to flip the script on the submissive Asian woman stereotype and upend its root cause--white supremacy.”
In support of the series, Wong created the hashtag #HowNOTtoPickUpAsianChicks which has become an active forum for discussing the lousy ways men try to pick up on Asian women.
Here is a look at one of the episodes.
You can head to Kristina Wong's youtube channel to view the entire series.
The Japanese American National Museum will host a special screening of Lena Khan’s film, "The Tiger Hunter", on Wednesday August 30th, which will be followed by a Q&A with Khan and lead actor Danny Pudi.
“The Tiger Hunter” tells the story of Sami Malik, played by Danny Pudi, who travels from India to the United States to become an engineer, in hopes of impressing his childhood crush and his father who is a legendary tiger hunter. However, Malik’s goal does not go as planned and is forced to take a low paying job. He, along with his quirky group of friends decide to convince his crush that he is more successful than he really is.
"The Tiger Hunter" premiered at the 2016 Los Angeles Asian Pacific American Film Festival where it was presented with the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Film. The move is set to open in US theaters on September 22nd.
For more info or to RSVP for the special screening on August 30th at 7pm in JANM, you can head to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sneak-peek-tiger-hunter-with-director-lena-khan-tickets-36205502633
"The Tiger Hunter" also stars Jon Heder, Iqbal Theba, Kevin Pollack and Karen David. Check out my 2016 interview with Writer/Director Lena Khan and Producer Megha Khadakia.
The 33rd annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival kicked off on April 27th with the screening of Justin Lin’s film, “Better Luck Tomorrow”. It’s hard to believe that it was 15 years ago when I first saw this movie. So much has happened since then, and at the same time, it's bittersweet to see that not much has changed. We can still relate to the characters of the film as well as their storylines.
I have been a huge supporter of the LAAPFF for several years and am always thrilled to see which movies will be screening. The films being showcased are always some of the best and do a wonderful job in representing the talented filmmakers, directors, writers, and actors in our APA community. This year was no different.
One example of this was Justin Chon’s movie, and Sundance Audience Award winner “Gook” which takes place during the 1992 LA Riots. “Gook” has received numerous positive reviews, including a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.7 rating on IMDB. Samuel Goldwyn also picked up the North American rights for the film, which is scheduled to be released sometime in August. “Gook” is screening at the LAAPFF Orange County on Wednesday, May 10th.
I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Justin Chon throughout the years - from his “Twilight” roles to “Seoul Searching” and his other directorial debut movie, “Man Up.” It’s such a thrill to see him go from talented actor, to director and writer. I cant wait to see what else Justin has in store for us.
I also had the opportunity to be a juror for the Shorts Documentary competition; which was also the first time this category was created. What an honor! Each of the short documentaries in the competition was told in their own beautiful way. The other jurors and I had a difficult time reaching a decision.
In the end, The Grand Jury Prize was awarded to Alisa Yang for her documentary, “Please Come Again” which centered on her story and the history of the love hotels in Japan. After watching the short, I was completely speechless. “Please Come Again” incorporated only text and visuals of the love hotels and the different meanings each room has held throughout the years. It was not only a documentary on Alisa’s life, but also used the love hotels as a metaphor for the female body.
The Best Cinematography award was presented to “Forever, Chinatown”. “Forever, Chinatown” follows the life of 81 year old artist, Frank Wong, who, for the past 40 years has recreated memories of his childhood, living in San Francisco’s Chinatown, through miniature models. The cinematography for the short docu captured every intricate detail of the film, including Wong’s touching, nostalgic and some times bittersweet memories, the miniature models he created and was able to lucidly encapsulate the tone of the documentary.
Jennifer Zheng took home the Best Director award for her documentary “Tough”. Zheng’s choice in creating an animated documentary was an interesting but well told one. “Tough” tells the story of a Chinese mother and British born daughter who openly talk as adults for the first time and honestly discuss growing up in their respective backgrounds and the cultural issues they struggled with.
Congratulations to all of the winners.
The Orange County portion of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival is still going on until May 11th. For more information and for tickets on the movies currently screening, you can head to www.vconline.org