When one thinks of martial arts, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Jet Li may come to mind. But one performer who was key in the combat technique revolution in Asian cinema is Sonny Chiba, a pivotal karate and judo figure in the 1970s. This weekend, Chiba will be honored at Singafest, a film festival devoted to Asian cinema.
Over the course of four days, Bigfoot Entertainment, UCLA’s Asian Pacific Coalition and 31 other sponsors will be putting on the first Singafest film festival at three different venues in Westwood.
The festival will include a kickoff party tonight at the Whiskey Blue in the W Hotel, a luncheon at the Napa Valley Grille and screenings at the Bigfoot Crest Theater. An idea that was crafted in Singapore, Singafest is a way to honor and celebrate Asian filmmakers along with Asian culture. Many of the filmmakers use film and storytelling to pay homage to their backgrounds and where they came from.
“Originally, the festival was supposed to be in Singapore, but we realized we wanted to have it in the (United States) and have a coming together of Asia and America and an East-meets-West kind of feel to it,” said Chil Kong, social media coordinator of Singafest.
APC has been working with Bigfoot Entertainment to involve the UCLA community by raffling off all-access passes to the festival and other prizes. APC will be presenting the opening night films with a double feature movie screening of “My Wedding and Other Secrets” and “Kidnapper.”
Ashley Truong, a second-year English student and APC member, said the films that will be showcased at Singafest are directed by individuals who are not living and working in the United States.
According to Truong, what differentiates these films from Hollywood films is that the leads are played by Asian actors and actresses, something not typically seen in theaters in the United States.
“One of the double features that APC is presenting is a pair of films directed by someone from New Zealand. We also have films from the Philippines and Singapore,” Truong said. “It’s a range of cultures and themes coming from directors who don’t produce what you’d normally see.”
On Saturday, there will be a lifetime achievement tribute award presented to Chiba, well-known throughout the martial arts world for his performance in the 1974 action film “The Streetfighter.” The presentation of the award will also be accompanied by a martial arts demonstration, discussion and a screening of Chiba’s 1981 film, “Samurai Reincarnation,” where he played a one-eyed master samurai.
“We wanted to really show the history of Asian cinema, and this year we’re focusing on the martial arts explosion of the ’70s and ’80s because it was a big moment in the history of Asian cinema that changed the course of action films,” said Christian Meoli, Singafest festival producer.
In addition to the tribute award, both Saturday’s and Sunday’s schedules will consist of films that range from shorts and documentaries to 3-D cinema and animation from the U.S., China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan, among other countries.
“We’re also (exposing) filmmakers in Asia and in the U.S. with panels and seminars,” Truong said. “It will be a great way to discuss filmmaking issues with one another.”
Meoli said that the festival is a way to display new films that are premiering for the first time, as well as films that have been influential among the Asian community.
Truong also said that the film festival will provide attendees with opportunities to network and meet with professionals in the film and entertainment industry through discussions and Q&As.
“It’s important that we balance all of the premieres of the films that we’re showing because we don’t want to just have movies showing. We have networking social mixers, industry panels and parties for people to socialize, meet each other and talk about film,” Meoli said.