Two talented but directionless indie rock bandmates belt out heartfelt lyrics as they struggle to bring their music out of the garage. They both whip their long dark hair around and smile as they allow their tunes to drown out all other worries, at least for the time being.
This scene is from UCLA alumnus Akira Boch’s film “The Crumbles,” which will be one of the many Asian American-centered films screened at this year’s Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.
According to Masami Kawai, a directing graduate student at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, the talents of Asian American actors, producers and directors are often overlooked in mainstream Hollywood cinema.
By showcasing the best of Asian Pacific American cinema in the United States, the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival serves as a launching pad for the directing talents of two UCLA alumni and a current graduate student.
Kawai as well as alumni Boch and Ernesto Foronda will have their films screened at the festival, which runs through May 20.
Through the inclusion of the latest works by both well-known and emerging filmmakers, the 28th annual festival’s aim is to provide the support and commitment to development that Asian Americans both behind and in front of the camera often lack.
“The film festival gives filmmakers that are Asian American, or actors that appear in these films, the opportunity to be seen and heard, whereas in other film festivals they have their own agenda that they are trying to fulfill and don’t always take into consideration ethnic background or issues of representation,” said Boch, who received his Master of Fine Arts in directing from UCLA’s graduate film program.
His film “The Crumbles” focuses on the two leads, both Asian American, who, in addition to being bandmates and best friends, drive the movie’s conflicts by being total opposites in terms of personality.
Boch said that though he went into his movie’s casting colorblind and unaware of the race of the people auditioning, he knew that he wanted to feature ethnic minorities in some of the film’s roles, mainly for reasons of representation in typical mainstream productions.
Like Boch’s film, Foronda’s film “Sunset Stories” also features an Asian American in a lead role.
According to Foronda, he does not focus on the character’s ethnicity but rather highlights underlying emotions that people of all ethnicities can relate to.
“In Asian American cinema, a lot of the narratives tend to explain the Asian American through an immigrant narrative,” Foronda said. “There’s not this cohesion like in African American and Latino cinema where they can go beyond these immigrant stories. … There’s still this need for Asian Americans to go and represent themselves however they want.”
Foronda graduated from the School of Theater, Film and Television in 1995. “Sunset Stories” follows the tale of an overly meticulous nurse who comes to Los Angeles to retrieve bone marrow for a transplant.
Soon after her trip begins, however, her world turns upside down when she loses the cooler containing the marrow and must turn to her ex-boyfriend for help. By focusing on the characters in his film outside of an ethnic-centered perspective, Foronda said he hopes “Sunset Stories” adds to the festival’s goal of promoting the development of Asian Pacific Americans within the entertainment industry.
For Kawai, this will be her first year participating in the festival. Her movie “Almost There” is about an artist who struggles with her mother’s past life as a prostitute.
Like Boch and Foronda, Kawai said she believes the event exists to help create a space to promote and develop content coming from Asian Americans and appreciates the opportunities it provides not only for directors, but also for actors who rely on content open to characters coming from minority backgrounds.
“I think it’s so important to have these venues for an Asian American director who wants to tell stories about an Asian American community or characters,” Kawai said. “That in itself creates more room for Asian American actors. … If there’s more stories being told, there’s more work for actors.”