VC Filmfest 2007
Grace Lees American Zombie, the centerpiece presentation in this 23rd edition of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (a.k.a. VC Filmfest), is a purported documentary about L.A.s substantial, if largely closeted, community of the undead. In her translation of the Christopher Guestian comedy of manners into bone-nicking Swiftian satire, Lee and posse horn in on the everyday lives of four urban zombies, each of whose virtual normality (pace Andrew Sullivan) is belied by chain-locked refrigerators, tissue decomposition, and sinister shenanigans at a desert Live Dead gathering whose countercultural pretensions rival those of Burning Man. As to the actual documentaries at VC Fest, the standout this year looks to be Linda Hattendorfs The Cats of Mirikitani, whose subject 80-year-old Japanese-American artist Jimmy Mirikitani, who was robbed of property, family and reputation by the World War II internments is presented with an opportunity to recover his identity and his pride. The filmmaker, who orchestrated the rescue operation by taking Mirikitani into her Greenwich Village flat, wisely remains on the margins of the picture, which records, over 18 months, the literal unbending of a homeless man so trapped in his wounded isolation that the transformation of his circumstances, his attitude, his art and even his physical posture is nothing short of miraculous. Other mentionable docs include Cambodian-American Socheata Poeuvs New Year Baby and Vietnamese-American Tien Nguyens The Story of Spirits, two you can/cant go home again stories told by children of war-scarred Southeast Asian immigrant parents. While following similar narrative paths and adopting much of the same methodology, both films carry their audiences into territory that seems unfamiliar, even revelatory, by managing to appear at once representative and intensely personal. Dramatic films worth catching include Lee Jun-Iks King and the Clown, a transgender tragicomedy of 16th-century Korea thats like Hamlet as viewed from the perspective of the visiting Players; Negishi Kichitaros What the Snow Brings, in which the sumo-esque spectacle of Japanese draft-horse racing is developed into a metaphor for the external and internal struggles of its characters; and Thai writer-director Pen-ek Ratanaruangs Invisible Waves, a follow-up to 2003s Last Life in the Universe so sinister, suggestive and beautifully photographed (by Christopher Doyle, natch) that 15 minutes in, I decided to shut off the DVD player and save it for Monday night on the big screen. (Directors Guild of America and other venues; thru Thurs., May 10. 213-680-4462, Ext. 68, or www.vconline.org.)
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