This Year’s Asian American Film Festival Winners Are…

Hold up… Before I announce the winners, especially the audience choice award winners, I’m officially going on the record to say that whomever was in charge of coming up with the new balloting process is in need of a serious talking to.

This year’s ballots simply read “Should this film win, Yes or No?”  Now how am I supposed to know if a certain film should win if I haven’t seen all the others yet?  My point being, given my already defiant stance on awarding subjective art in general, this year’s audience awards are a pathetic joke.  But, with all that said, follow the jump to see which films won along with all of filmbalaya’s festival reviews.

SFIAAFF29 Winners

Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature:  SURROGATE VALENTINE (Dir. Dave Boyle) (IMDB link) (Filmbalaya review)

Director, Dave Boyle (Big Dreams Little Tokyo, White on Rice) delivers yet another low-key comedy aimed at the hopeless romantic in all of us.  With this his third film, Boyle has established himself as a director that should be on the radar of all those looking for worthwhile comedies.  There are no complex stylistic choices in how the film was shot, nor are there any CGI trickery, just a straight forward narrative with a good deal of fervent storytelling.  Okay, so there might have been a few moments during the film where pixels would be visible due to the digital tracking, but this happened only once or twice and was so minimal that it had no bearing on the enjoyability factor of the overall movie.

Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature: ONE VOICE (Dir. Lisette Marie Flanary) (IMDB link)

“A nuanced approach to an urgent contemporary issue – that of refugee and migrant struggles to find a home and justice in 21st-Century America” – SFIAFF Jury Statement

Winner, Best Film: THE IMPERIALISTS ARE STILL ALIVE! (Dir. Zeina Durra) (IMDB link)

“In this impressive directorial debut, we witness post-9/11 New York City through the eyes of its young “émigré intelligentsia.”  Poignant, charming, politically aware – and shot in gorgeous 16mm depicting a wintry Manhattan – this is one of my favorite films of the year thus far.” – Michael Hawley of

Winner, Special Jury Prize: THE TAQWACORES (Dir. Eyad Zahra) (IMDB Link)

“It’s an important thing for this film to be made because it shows the diversity of Islam that we don’t see in popular media. With well-drawn characters that we care about, the film is engaging to a universal audience.” – SFIAAFF Jury Statement

Winner, Best Documentary: MADE IN INDIA (Dirs. Rebecca Haimowitz and Vaishali Sinha) (IMDB link)

“An unflinching and surprising look at a rapidly growing industry that puts women’s bodies on a new global market.” – SFIAAFF Jury Statement

Winner, Visual Achievement Award: SUMMER PASTURE (Dirs. Lynn True and Nelson Walker) (IMDB link)

“This is yet another SFIAAFF 2011 documentary with eye-catching cinematography, with yak silhouettes against a dawn sky and the arrival of a hailstorm among the high points.” – Michael Hawley of

Winner, Award for Achievement in Citizen Journalism: OPEN SEASON (Dirs. Lu Lippold and Mark Tang) (IMDB link)

“A nuanced approach to an urgent contemporary issue – that of refugee and migrant struggles to find a home and justice in 21st-century America.” – SFIAAFF Jury Statement

Filmbalaya’s Festival Reviews

Bi, Don’t Be Afraid (2011 – Vietnam) “A complicated and difficult film, yet human and infinitely relatable, and well worth watching.  This is not an easy film to watch, but I strongly recommend it.  I can certainly understand why it was so popular at Cannes.” – Tom

Gold and Copper (2011 – Iran) “A highly restrained film about traditional family dynamics in Iran.  It very calmly examines various issues that we can not necessarily relate to on a direct level, but from which we are not alienated because of the style.” – Tom

The House of Suh (2011 – USA) “The House of Suh is a fascinating thought-provoking intelligent piece of cinema on the moral repercussions of those responsible for the fates of other human beings.” – Adam

The Piano in a Factory (2011 – China) “To say this film is to piano building what Steven Soderbergh‘s Ocean‘s movies are to the heist genre is a somewhat fair though not entirely accurate comparison.  It’s playfulness is certainly there, as is the catchy music, drama with the ex-wife from the film’s lead, and putting together a team for one big score, or in this case, one big piano.” – Adam

M/F Remix (2011 – USA) “Just as Godard’s style of filmmaking reflected the youth and times of the 1960s in Masculin Feminin, so too does Jy-Ah Min‘s M/F Remix reflect that of the youth in the mid-2000s.” – Adam

Passion (2011 – Mongolia) “Passion was, intentionally or unintentionally, a great piece of absurdist documentary filmmaking” – Tom

Peace (2011 – Japan) “Without any fanciful camerawork, the film has a very meditative quality to it not often found in most other observational non-fiction pieces” – Adam

Sampaguita, National Flower (2011 – Philippines) “Interspersing documentary and narrative and shot from a low angle to show the child’s POV with flawless fluidity, we are forced to follow these kids as they beg for food, sleep on cardboard and try as desperately as they can to both sell these flowers and be kids while trying to survive on the streets.” – Adam

Surrogate Valentine (2011 – USA) “Director, Dave Boyle (Big Dreams Little Tokyo, White on Rice) delivers yet another low-key comedy aimed at the hopeless romantic in all of us.” – Adam

Bend It Like Beckham (2001 – United Kingdom) “I am well aware that this film has its many defenders, but as a soccer/romantic comedy/coming-of-age movie that was made to be shown in theatres I found it a tad bit offensive.  Offensive in the fact that when I go to the movies I don’t want to see something resembling a made for Nickelodeon television series being condensed into 112 minutes.” – Adam

Dance Town (2011 – South Korea) “Just having bad things happen to somebody displaced should not be enough to garner the same comparisons to any Lars Von Trier film, as the festival’s guide would want me to believe.” – Adam

Histeria (2008 – Malaysia) “Essentially, Histaria is a hodgepodge of lovably corny scenes wrapped up in an unsatisfactory package.  If you’re a horror fan looking for something to do you might enjoy this one, but at its best this is an average effort.” – Nick

Nang Nak (1999 – Thailand) “This cinematic interpretation of a legendary Thai ghost tale is a pretty non scary one.  I can only hope that it was the filmmaker’s intention to make this feature be more about the melodrama and less about evoking any reactions of horror from its audience.” – Adam

Living In Seduced Circumstances (2011 – USA) “There is an audience for every type of film but I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending Living In Seduced Circumstances to anyone.” – Nick


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Categories: Asian American Film Festival, Festivals

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