2017 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

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


What happens when 4 Broadway stars and mothers get together during a play date with their children?

Well, if you’re Joan Almedilla, Ai Goeku Chueng, Deedee Magno Hall and Jennifer Paz, you create a team called, “The Mama Bares”, 4 fierce and humorous women sharing their stories of motherhood, careers, and family through music.  Oh, and they just happen to be extremely talented singers who have graced the stage in Broadway productions which include Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, and Wicked.

This August, East West Players, the nation’s longest-running professional theatre of color in the country, will kick off their 51st Anniversary Season, titled Radiant,  with the World Premiere of The Mama Bares in Concert: Once Upon a Play Date. 

“We love every opportunity to get together, eat, share stories about our families, have fun and celebrate motherhood. Once Upon a Play Date is all of these things (except the eating part) set to some of our favorite songs and a few special guests.” says Deedee Magno Hall. “We are grateful to East West Players for inviting us to debut our very first Mama Bares show, and we're excited to share our stories of love, life and Legos!”

In addition, special guests for The Mama Bares in Concert: Once Upon a Play Date will also include their spouses - musician David Cheung, American Idol finalist Anthony Federov, and Broadway veteran Cliffton Hall with media production by Charles Uy and Directed by Giovanni Ortega.

Watch “The Mama Bares” music video parody for Lorde’s single, “Royal” titled, “Rolls Royce” which was recently picked up by www.funnyordie.com

About the cast:

Joan Almedilla landed the role of Kim in the Broadway production of Miss Saigon, and went on to portray the role of Fantine on the Third National Tour of Les Miserables. Her other credits include the Broadway National Tour ofJesus Christ SuperstarSongs for a New World, and It’s Only Life. She has performed in several productions at East West Players including Road to SaigonKrunk Fu Battle Battle, ChessTea with Music, and most recently, Criers for Hire.

Ai Goeku Cheung has appeared on Broadway in the role of Ellen in Miss Saigon. She later performed at East West Players in Beijing SpringLittle Shop of Horrors, and Manzanar the Musical.

Deedee Magno Hall was cast as Kim in the Broadway production and International Tours of Miss Saigon. Her other theater credits include the Broadway production and First National Tour of If/Then with Idina Menzel, and Nessarose in the First National Tour of Wicked. She made her East West Players debut as Mrs. Walker in The Who’s Tommy. Her television credits include Disney Channel’s The New Mickey Mouse ClubAs The World TurnsSister Act 2 to name a few. Deedee has recorded 4 albums with Hollywood Records’ pop group, The Party, & is currently the voice of Pearl on Cartoon Networks’ Emmy nominated animated series, Steven Universe, where she received a 2014 Behind the Voice Actor Award. 

Jennifer Paz played the title role in Miss Saigon on the First National Tour, and received the 2008 Ovation Award for Best Lead Actress. She was nominated for a 2009 Ovation Award for her work in The Last Five Years with East West Players. Her Broadway and regional highlights include Les Miserables, Beauty and the Beast, The Who’s Tommy, Evita, In The Heights, and David Henry Hwang's adapted Flower Drum Song. She is currently the voice of recurring character Lapis Lazuli on Cartoon Networks’ Emmy nominated animated series, Steven Universe. She also received a 2014 Behind the Voice Actor Award.

Performances of “The Mama Bares in Concert: Once Upon a Play Date” will run from August 25th through September 4th at the David Henry Hwang Theater at the Union Center of the Arts in Los Angeles.  For tickets or more information, you can head to www.eastwestplayers.org or contact 213-625-7000.