The 28th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival gets under way this Thursday, March 11, with a gala opening at the Castro Theatre. Though the focus of this year’s festival is on Filipino cinema, it also features an impressive selection of films from other Asian countries, while the Asian diaspora is well represented by productions from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.
And, as in years past, East Bay residents will be able to enjoy many Festival highlights in the comfort of our very own Pacific Film Archive.
For those who enjoy documentaries, Berkeley resident Deann Borshay Liem’s deeply personal In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee comes highly recommended. Adopted by the Borshay family when she was eight-years old, Liem was a Korean orphan who switched places with another child before moving to her new home in California in 1966. The Borshays had been in correspondence with a girl named Cha Jung Hee, but when Cha was returned to her birth father the Sun Duck Orphanage simply replaced her with another child who was given instructions not to tell her new family of the subterfuge.
Re-named Deann, the youngster quickly adapted to American culture but always knew she wasn’t who she was supposed to be. Many years later, Liem decided it was time to come to terms with her past and returned to Korea in search of the real Cha Jung Hee. The film depicts her dogged efforts — including reviewing orphanage records and plowing through all 80-plus Cha Jung Hees in the Korean phone directory — to find the girl whose place she took forty years ago.
Though this is very much a tale of personal experience, the film also casts light on a dirty little secret: the annual export of thousands of Korean children to the west. Though this practice has slowed some in recent years, it remains a going concern, and children born out of wedlock continue to be sent to orphanages just like the one Deann Borshay Liem lived in during the 1960s. In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee screens at PFA at 3:30pm on Saturday March 13.
If you prefer rockumentaries to documentaries, the Elmwood Rialto is currently screening Until the Light Takes Us, an eye-opening and ear-deafening examination of Norwegian black metal. This doomy sub-genre of hard rock is renowned for adherents who devote themselves to the worship of tremolo picking, misanthropy, and Satan, but in reality enjoy knitting, puppy dogs, long walks on the beach, and burning down churches. Or so they say. Made by two San Franciscans who moved to Norway with the express purpose of traveling into black metal’s heart of darkness, Until the Light Takes Us probably won’t be at the Elmwood for very long, so don’t delay — see it today. And bring earplugs.
John Seal writes a weekly film recommendation column at Box Office Prophets, as well as a column in The Phantom of the Movie’s Videoscope.