12th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival

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My recommendation for the upcoming San Diego Asian Film Festival, October 20-28, 2011, has nothing to do with my Japanese heritage, my love for movies or being an ardent festival-goer. Sure, I was the obvious pick to cover this festival, but I am here to tell you that even if I was of Irish descent, watched only 80’s Rom Coms, and was agoraphobic, I would still be recommending this film festival.

Whether you’re an Asian film buff, a foreign film guru or just your run-of-the-mill movie goer, there is something for everyone. Now in its twelfth year, the festival is one of the largest showcases of Pan-Asian cinema in North America, screening over 160 films (feature-length and shorts) from 21 countries in the span of 8 days. From feature to indie films, shorts, animation and documentaries, you’ll be hard pressed not to find something that peaks your interest.

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Some not-to-be-missed highlights include the opening night romantic comedy Almost Perfect, starring Kelly Hu (of The Scorpion King, and X-men 2), who is scheduled to attend the screening on October 20, along with director Bertha Bay-Sa Pan. Also on my radar is this year’s Centerpiece Film, Surrogate Valentine, which premiered at SXSW last spring, and won the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival’s Audience Award. Directed by Dave Boyle, featuring actor/musician Goh Nakamura (in his acting debut), the story follows a traveling indie musician Goh Nakamura (Nakamura playing himself) who unwillingly signs up to give guitar lessons to an actor preparing for a role (newcomer Chad Stoops). As they hit the road, traveling from San Francisco to Seattle to Los Angeles, they develop a friendship through shared struggles with love and art.


This year’s festival will cast a special spotlight on Japanese films, intended to raise awareness and continue support efforts following Japan’s earthquake/tsunami tragedy earlier this year. After a successful fundraiser during their inaugural Spring Showcase in April, the organizers of the festival, the San Diego Asian Film Foundation, will host a booth to provide updates on recovery efforts in Japan, and collect donations towards continued relief efforts.

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From the Japanese film showcase, I’m very eager to see Norwegian Wood, the adaptation of Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s internationally acclaimed novel, whose title pays homage to the Beatles song. The film, which showed at this year’s Venice, Toronto and Dubai Film Festivals, follows three characters brought together by the suicide of a young man in 1969 Tokyo. Starring Academy Award-nominated actress Rinko Kikuchi (Babel), written and directed by Academy Award-nominee Anh Hung Tran, and featuring original soundtrack composed by Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood (who already won the Best Composer Award at the Dubai Film Festival), the film looks poised to garner some attention for the upcoming Oscar season.

Fun for the family? "Ninja Kids" will inspire your kids to brush up on some ninja skills.

For all the foodies out there, don’t miss the closing night feature on October 28, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary about an 85 year-old sushi master who perfects his life’s work in his world-renowned restaurant. And if you’re looking for something for the family, take in a screening of Ninja Kids!!!, about an adorable group of young ninja apprentices battling in an elite ninjutsu academy.

In addition to the film screenings, the festival boasts a schedule of exciting parties and an elegant gala that will keep you engaged with fellow film enthusiasts, film makers and movie stars. For a full schedule of screenings and events, to purchase tickets, and for more information, visit: www.sdaff.org.


We’re giving away 5 sets of tickets for you and a guest, good for entry for one film screening. Leave a comment on this post before 12:00 pm on Thursday, Oct. 13  to be entered for a chance to win. We’ll select four winners at random to receive tickets for you and a guest.

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About Aki

After living in 8 cities in 4 countries, I adopted San Diego as my home town 10 years ago. Everything I love is here - the Pacific Ocean as my back yard, museums and galleries exhibiting world-class art, endless dining options, the coolest attractions, friendly people, a dynamic business community… the list goes on. And after a decade of living here, there is still so much more to see!

What would you do on your ideal San Diego Day?

As a resident of coastal North County, my perfect San Diego Day always starts with a good surf session. Packing up the family, we’ll head to our favorite beach in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. After some fun in the sun and surf, we’ll head to Swami’s Café in Encinitas for their famous Acai bowl, then hit the road down south to any of the great San Diego attractions. Maybe a day at the Zoo, or check out some museums in Balboa Park? As an art lover and former gallerist, I love checking out new exhibitions at local galleries in La Jolla or Little Italy.

In the evening (if we can get a sitter), we love seeing live music at any of the great music venues in town. A concert at Spreckels Theater, a show at the Casbah, or an outing to the Belly Up in Solana Beach is always a treat. For dinner, we'll gather up some friends and head out to Stone Brewery Bistro & Gardens, or Cucina Urbana in Bankers Hill. What's the best way to cap off a perfect day in San Diego? With perfectly crafted cocktails at Starlite, Craft+Commerce, or Noble Experiment.

What is your favorite San Diego outdoor activity?

Surfing & hiking. I also love yoga, which you can enjoy outdoors in San Diego. And shopping too, it’s officially an outdoor sport here.

Do you prefer burgers and beer or linguine and red wine?

That’s an apples and oranges question... On most days, I’m a linguine and red wine kinda gal. But I’ll go for a good Kobe burger and wash it down with a Hefeweizen.

Latest music purchases for my iPod player are…

Archade Fire, Bon Iver and The xx.

Follow Aki on twitter: @akimartinsd

32 thoughts on “12th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival

  1. Congratulations to Teffany Calica, Erick Meyer, Laura, Joedy and Grace Chang! You each won a pair of tickets to the Asian Film Festival. Please check your email for details on how to redeem your tickets.

  2. i havent been to the asian film fest in san diego. i hear about this every year and the reviews are great. im hoping to go this year.

  3. My niece is taking Japanese Anthropology in college,Has recently returned from Korea, and listens to music and watches films when she can get them. I thought this would be a nice gift for her. I can’t afford a lot, and she would appreciate it a lot.

  4. I’m going to be in the area for a vacation with a couple of friends and it would be lovely to be able to check out SDAFF. There isn’t any foreign film festivals in Stockton or around the area. It would be a fun experience if we were able to go and experience the film festival especially about the Asian culture. 🙂

  5. Wow of all my years of living in SD, lol I STILL haven’t gone to one of these. Same for comic con. Lol I either just don’t have a ride, money or anyone to go with. Anyway these films sound interesting! Gotta love it!

  6. I want to go! I’ve never been to the Asian Film Festival, let alone any Film Festival. I love ASIAN FILM! You had me at “The Joy Luck Club”. 🙂

  7. Would be great to win tickets. I went to the festival last year for the first time and totally fell in love. There are a handful of movies I want to checkout this year but Takashia Miike’s Ninja Kids and Holy Ghost top the list!

  8. Wow! It’s awesome you’re giving away tickets! There are so many good films that sound very fun to go see! Norwegian Wood looks good and also Rakenrol I wouldn’t mind seeing ^^ lots of other good options too!

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