12 Films you shouldn’t miss at the 23rd San Diego Asian Film Festival

These are twelve films you shouldn’t miss at the San Diego Asian Film Festival which will take place from November 3 – 12, 2022.

All that Breathes by Shaunak Sen – India, USA, UK | 2022 – 88 minutes

In one of the world’s most populated cities, two brothers, Nadeem and Saud, devote their lives to the quixotic effort of protecting the black kite, a majestic bird of prey essential to the ecosystem of New Delhi that has been falling from the sky at alarming rates. Amid environmental toxicity and social unrest, the ‘kite brothers’ spend day and night caring for the creatures in their makeshift avian basement hospital. (TGHFF 2022)


Blue Island by Chan Tze Woon – Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan | 2022 – 97 minutes

One risked rushing against raging waves to escape being involved in the Cultural Revolution; one resisted colonialism and was imprisoned due to participating in printing patriotic periodicals; one supported the students’ demands for freedom, only to see their dreams and bodies crushed by tank treads. The past is presented in fictional scenes, with today’s activists playing those of yesteryear, as their scarred memories and experiences become more tangled than ever. (TIDF 2022)


Crossings by Deann Borshay Liem – USA | 2021 – 94 minutes

CROSSINGS is about a group of women activists who decide to change the course of peacemaking on the Korean peninsula. Thirty women, including renowned feminist Gloria Steinem, Nobel Peace laureates Leymah Gobowee and Mairead Maguire, and Korean American activist Christine Ahn, undertake a risky crossing of the DMZ from North to South Korea, calling for a formal end to the Korean War. The challenges the women face, the obstacles they overcome, and the solidarity and trust they build as they forge a path to peace with their Korean sisters, is an inspiring story of bridge building and collective action. (AAIFF 2022)


Fast & Feel Love by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit – Thailand | 2022 – 132 minutes

Kao is the world’s fastest sport-stacking champion who is constantly being challenged. In the midst of this, Kao’s long-time girlfriend, who has taken care of him and everything else in his life, decides to end their relationship. While Kao must keep up with up-and-coming stacking challengers, he also needs to learn the basic daily life skills. Yet, the most difficult task of all for him is figuring out how to win back his girlfriend. (TGHFF 2022)


Gyeong-Ah’s Daughter by Kim Jung-eun – South Korea | 2022 – 117 minutes

The film opens to mum Gyeong-ah’s face – she is on a video call with daughter, Yeon-su, who has moved away from home. Care-worker Gyeong-ah lives by herself. Yeon-su is her mother’s rock, but Gyeong-ah barely ever sees her daughter now that she’s moved out. Yeon-su is struggling with her ex-boyfriend, who refuses to let go of their relationship. One day, Yeon-su’s ex forwards a video to Yeon-su’s family and acquaintances, and her world comes crumbling down. Gyeong-ah is appalled by the video, and it drives a huge wedge between her and her daughter. Yeon-su, despite isolating herself from everyone, fights alone to get her life back, and Gyeong-ah does what she can to help her.

Gyeong-ah’s Daughter is a thoughtful consideration of digital sex crime, as well as the complex relationship between mother and daughter. – Hwang Miyojo


Liquor Store Dreams by So Yun Um – USA | 2022 – 85 minutes

In her debut documentary feature, So Yun Um grounds personal experience in historical context through a fascinating exploration of racial tensions, generational healing, and immigrant struggles. LIQUOR STORE DREAMS begins with So thinking through her identity as a filmmaker and more importantly, an interview with her dad.

Every day for the past 20 years, So’s dad has worked long, grueling hours running one of the many Korean-owned liquor stores in LA. He doesn’t want her to be in the film industry; it’s too hard. So almost finds it strange that a “liquor store baby” like her would want to make films, but she’s inspired by fellow “liquor store baby” Danny, who relinquishes a dream job at Nike to take care of the family store when his father passes.

Together, Danny and So grapple with the chasm between them and their parents, from disagreements about marriage to attitudes towards Black Lives Matter. So manages to combine an excavation of family history with a rich lesson in the history of the community surrounding their liquor stores. The two are inexorably linked in the same way the dreams of our parents shape and co-exist with our own dreams. It’s something that goes beyond words alone. This is the gift of LIQUOR STORE DREAMS. — Neha Pearce


Mama Boy by Arvin Chen – Taiwan | 2022 – 98 minutes

Mama Boy is a romance set in the city. Starring Vivian Hsu and Kai Ko, it tells the story of Xiao-hong. Despite his good looks, Xiao-hong, who is almost thirty years old, has always been single since he is too shy and inarticulate. One day, when his cousin introduces him to Lele, with whom he falls in love at first sight, a romance burgeons quietly at night in Taipei. While Kai Ko plays the timid young man, Vivian Hsu appears as a mature urban woman with curly hair in the film. In the first clip unveiled to the public, the audience can definitely feel the light-hearted romantic atmosphere stemming from the interaction between Vivian Hsu and Kai Ko. (TaipeiIFF 2022)


Mama’s Affair by Kearen Pang – Hong Kong | 2022 – 127 minutes

Director Kearen Pang presents another brilliant female-driven, cross-generational story that is guaranteed to delight viewers of every stripe. A seamless blend of Cantopop fantasy, idol-chasing mania, and social issues, including economic malaise and women’s return to the workforce, the film is deeply moving, with show-stopping moments from each of its leads. Mei-fung (veteran Teresa Mo) is a former talent manager and now single mother, who discovers a potential star and reignites her career. But her devotion to the singer incites her teenage son’s jealousy, and she struggles to relocate the balance between her vocation and her family. Keung To and Jer Lau (both of pop sensation Mirror) are stellar in their film debuts, with musical numbers that will have audiences dancing in the aisles. (NYAFF 2022)


Stonewalling by Huang Ji, Ryuji Otsuka – Japan | 2022 – 148 minutes

A young flight-attendant-in-training’s plans to finish college are thrown into doubt when she discovers she’s pregnant. Not wanting an abortion, she hopes to give the child away after carrying it to term, while staying afloat amidst a series of dead-end jobs. Beijing-based wife-and-husband team Huang Ji and Ryuji Otsuka’s film is an urgent critique of a modern-day social structure that has few options for women in need of care. (NYFF2022)


The Hill of Secrets by Lee Ji-eun – Korea | 2022 – 122 minutes

Twelve-year-old Myung-eun (MOON Seung-a) is a model student. She is popular, has good grades and is even elected class president. But when she has to introduce her parents at school one day, she is faced with a problem: her parents are not like the parents of the other children. Her mother (JANG Sun) is stingy and works all day. Her father (KANG Gil-woo), on the other hand, works too little and has no ambitions. In order to avoid embarrassment in front of the class and her teacher, she invents a new family that suits her expectations better. However, due to the arrival of a new classmate (JANG Jae-hee) she must reconsider her lies. (KFFF 2022)


Walk Up by Hong Sang-soo – South Korea | 2022 – 97 minutes

Working his way through the middle-age blues despite being a famous and celebrated film director, Byung-soo pays a visit to old friend Ms. Kim in hopes of securing an interior design apprenticeship for his daughter Jeongsu. As Ms. Kim gives the pair a tour of the four-story building she owns, nosy and unconcerned with the ethics of snooping in peoples’ apartments, Byung-soo is quickly called away for a work meeting, leaving the two women to discuss their lives, their pasts and potential future. But as the director returns and one conversation leads to another, over many, many bottles of wine, time passes and the banality of small talk – of commerce versus art, travel and the lingering effects of the pandemic – slowly reveals a deep longing, each person revealing themselves not just with words, but also in the silences between those words, in this slyly witty and ephemeral new film from prolific modern master Hong Sang-soo. –Cedar Sherbert


When the Waves Are Gone by Lav Diaz – Philippines, France, Portugal, Denmark | 2022 – 188 minutes

Lieutenant Hermes Papauran, one of the best investigators of the Philippines, is in a deep moral crossroad. He is a first-hand witness of the murderous anti-drug campaign that his institution is implementing with dedication. The atrocities are corroding Hermes physically and spiritually, causing him a severe skin disease. As he tries to heal, a dark past haunts him and has eventually come back for a reckoning. (TGHFF 2022)


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