All the folks involved in organizing the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival can’t rave enough about all the goodies we have in store for y’alls this Festival Week 2016 (April 21st-28th). As a member of the programming team who had a hand in selecting the films, I wanted to run down some works that are awesome but maybe, “under the radar” for both festival attendees and for everyone else thinking of checking out this 32nd edition. Some films are more obvious ticket sellers (see my Top 5 Must-See Films) while others are either crafted with more niche audiences in mind, depicted unfamiliar subject matters, and/or shot by first-time/still unknown filmmakers. For these reasons, I want to get the word out so you the viewing public won’t miss out. There’s no excuse now. Here’s my Top 5 “Under the Radar” Films at #LAAPFF2016 I recommend checking out:


While not exactly a film per se, FAMILY INGREDIENTS is a popular, ongoing Hawaiian food and culture series, hosted by well-regarded, “local” chef Ed Kenney with executive producer Heather Hanauni Giugni and Festival veteran director Ty Sanga back bringing you a couple of new installments to satiate our collective palette. If you enjoy foodie shows like Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations,” this dish is for you!

FAMILY INGREDIENTS screens on Sunday, April 24th, 3:30pm at the Downtown Independent. Director Ty Sanga will be in attendance and will regale you with anecdotes about the wonderful Hawaiian cuisine he shot (and probably consumed) in the making of the series.

Watch the trailer, get more info, and buy tix here: http://laapff.festpro.com/films/detail/family_ingredients_2016


When I watched director Mikiko Sasaki’s documentary some months back, my gut reaction was like, “Wow, this dude is like the Jesse Ventura of Japan” and we absolutely got to program this work at the fest because his story is really fascinating and unique about an aspect of contemporary Japanese popular culture and society we don’t know much about, especially here in the States. Sasuke is such a character, both human and borderline extraterrestrial, in his commitment to his craft, his brand of Mexican-style wrestling (“lucha libre”) known as Michinoku Pro Wrestling, which he is credited with creating in Northern Japan, and to becoming a political animal in his election as legislator for his local prefecture. Sasaki gets up close and personal with her subject and tells an unflinching story of hard knocks and hard won victories in and outside of the wrestling ring.

THE GREAT SASUKE screens on Saturday, April 23rd, 7pm and encores on Monday, April 25th, 4:30pm at the Japanese American National Museum. Director Mikiko Sasaki will be in attendance!

Watch the trailer, get more info, and buy tix here: http://laapff.festpro.com/films/detail/the_great_sasuke_2016


Festival veteran and documentarian Janice Tanaka hits this one out of the park subject-wise. My jaw was pretty much ajar throughout my initial viewing of this film on the life and times of this complex, complicated, resourceful, and fiercely intelligent Japanese American woman, who could be the poster child for defying everything we often stereotypically assume of an Asian American woman, let alone one who grew up in mid-century America and lived through WWII and the Japanese American internment experience. Ms. Yoshinaga was a childhood friend of the director’s mother who took a radically different path in life than her own parent. Fascinated by this difference between these two female role models, Tanaka, no matter how deep she delves into her subject’s life, pulls back to reference the limited “choices” Asian American women had in the last mid-century. Therefore, Ms. Yoshinaga’s multi-faceted “American” life was extraordinary in its very layers, in both triumphs and defeats. Ultimately, this represents a portrait of an Asian American woman pioneer who lived her life on her own terms and without regrets. I could only hope to achieve half as much.

REBEL WITH A CAUSE: THE LIFE OF AIKO HERZIG YOSHINAGA screens on Sunday, April 24th, 1pm at the Downtown Independent and encores on Tuesday, April 26th, 4:30pm at the Japanese American National Museum. Director Janice Tanaka will be in attendance!

Watch the trailer, get more info, and buy tix here: http://laapff.festpro.com/films/detail/rebel_with_a_cause_the_life_of_aiko_her_2016


What can I say about renowned feminist filmmaker/film theorist/experimental artist, Trinh T. Minh-Ha that hasn’t been well-documented by both her academic and artistic fan bases. “Trailblazer” sums it up for me. Her film and media works as well as her scholarly writings have influenced an entire generation of us working in the intersections of film and media studies, Asian and Asian American Studies, cultural studies, and the social sciences. I am thrilled that #LAAPFF2016 is hosting this special presentation of her latest experimental doc, FORGETTING VIETNAM, which commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, in her own indelible, enigmatic style.

FORGETTING VIETNAM screens Saturday, April 23rd, 2pm at the Japanese American National Museum. Director Trinh T. Minh-Ha will be in attendance!

Watch the trailer, get more info, and buy tix here: http://laapff.festpro.com/films/detail/forgetting_vietnam_2016


From a veteran like Professor Minh-ha to first-time filmmaker and current Mainland Chinese university film student Lam Can-Zhao, #LAAPFF2016 brings you the most diverse and representative, established and up-and-coming talent. THE DOG bowled over the programming team with both its simplicity and sophistication: a cross-section of contemporary Guangzhou is unknowingly observed by a stray dog who gets handed off from one human caretaker to another, sometimes treated well and at other times, deemed a nuisance. When we realized the filmmaker was a twenty-year-old kid making his first feature, we all felt bad ourselves. I mean what were we doing at that age? Let’s not go there.

THE DOG screens on Saturday, April 23rd, 4:30pm at the Japanese American National Museum. Director Lam Can-Zhao will be in attendance!

Watch the trailer, get more info, and buy tix here: http://laapff.festpro.com/films/detail/the_dog_2016