Review: Brooklyn’s 11th Annual Korean American Film Festival
In its 11th year, The Korean American Film Fest’s Infinite Cinema, headed up by Chung Tsang and Mark Anthony Singh, was held this past Saturday, October 14th in the Wythe Hotel Screening Room (80 Wythe Ave).
A passage on the fest’s website reads, “Embracing the motto of CONNECT. FUSE. REPEAT. KAFFNY Infinite Cinema challenges its audience to discard notions of cultures as separate, discrete and insular, instead exploring the infinite possibilities of contact, fusion, and creation born from the mixing of different backgrounds.”
True to that directive, KAFFNY’s collection of films, which crossed multiple genres and mediums, maintained an impressive cohesiveness in its focus on shared experience, exploring distinct cultural backgrounds within the global context. Cleverly divided into five thematic segments, the fest included 25 short films and two feature length films, as well as moderated panel discussions with many of the filmmakers and actors.
Cultural fusion is explored quite literally in Seran Kim’s Kimchi Taco, a short narrative following a recently widowed Korean store owner coming to terms with a robbery and subsequent death of her husband, who later hires a Latina woman dealing with struggles of her own. In Shield, by Yijie Mei, food as a source of comfort is examined from two sides—one potentially damaging and self destructive, the other as nourishment of the body and soul.
No matter the format or approach, each of the six films showcased in INFINITE FOOD CONNECTION, both narrative and documentary, touched on the bonding power of food and its ability to not only sustain, but bring people from otherwise different backgrounds together in an unquestionably valuable human experience.
“We feel that one of the best ways to combat stereotypes is to find common threads between cultures and show how we’re all more alike than different,” said Festival Director, Chung Tsang.
INFINITE FASHION CONNECTION guided the audience through varying perspectives within one industry, highlighting the sometimes subtle and sometimes glaring discrepancy between fashion and the self (Perception, En Route), fashion and the consumer, and fashion and the manufacturer (Made in Cambodia, Euna).
In keeping with KAFFNY’s history of being a platform for narratives in the Korean and Korean diaspora community, WORLDWIDE KOREAN CONNECTION featured a selection of films with a careful and moving focus on mental health, especially in the case of Fractured by Arnold Chun, a narrative based on the events surrounding the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. One of my favorite panels of the event, filmmakers discussed the stigma on mental health services within Asian American and minority communities and even the difficulty in casting films with diverse and fully realized roles for such an immensely underrepresented community in media.
And if the laughs and immediate applause were anything to go by, I don’t think I’m alone in saying I need about 100 more minutes of an in depth look into Tetsu Kono’s Crazy Routine, which left me crazy intrigued and crazy-frustrated with Tetsu’s evasive answers to those need-to-know questions surrounding his devoted love for Korean film (he’s traveled twice a month from Japan to Korean film festivals for ten years running).
The evening closed out with INFINITE MIGRATION CONNECTION and CRAZY, RICH ASIAN AMERICANS (shoutout to Kevin Kwan’s book), which included feature length films Amsterdam Stories USA – West by Rob Rombout & Rogier van Eck, only one part of an ambitious documentary series that takes a close look at small town America, and The Last Tour by Ryun Yu, centering on a Gulf War veteran confronted with a crisis of conscience when thrown into a fairly outrageous situation.
KAFFNY’s incredibly well organized and thoughtful programming made for a straightforward and informative festival, where discussion was just as much a highlight as the films themselves.
As for next year’s plans?
Mr. Tsang says, “We were happy to feature some wonderful films and host great panels with our guest moderators and talented filmmakers, and are already planning to have more events throughout the year to continue showcasing great stories for our audience.”