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Visual Communications Announces Dates for the 37th Annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival September 23 to October 2, 2021

August 25, 2021


Festival to Open with Documentary

Early Highlights Include Los Angeles Premieres of:

Tuesday, August 24, 2021 – Los Angeles, CA – The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF), presented annually by Visual Communications (VC), today announced the first set of films that will screen as part of the 37th edition of the Festival, which will be a hybrid event taking place virtually and in person at select cinemas in the Los Angeles area from September 23 to October 2, 2021.

The Festival will open on Thursday, September 23 at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center’s Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo, Downtown Los Angeles with the Los Angeles premiere of Ann Kaneko’s MANZANAR, DIVERTED: WHEN WATER BECOMES DUST, a poetic look at the unexpected alliance formed by Native Americans, Japanese American WWII incarcerees, and environmentalists to defend their land and water from Los Angeles.

“Visual Communications looks forward to sharing the stories that intersect and converge movements such as MANZANAR, DIVERTED,” says Francis Cullado, Executive Director of Visual Communications. “From emerging to established filmmakers, the Festival continues to celebrate artists who are making an impact in our communities.”

Following Opening Night, LAAPFF will showcase new works as part of Centerpiece Weekend at the Aratani Theatre and Regal L.A. LIVE. Highlights include the Los Angeles premieres of: Iman Zawahry’s AMERICANISH, the first American Muslim rom-com directed by an American Muslim female filmmaker; Sujata Day’s comedy-drama DEFINITION PLEASE, which she also stars in; Christopher Makoto Yogi’s Sundance hit I WAS A SIMPLE MAN, starring Constance Wu; Dante Basco’s directorial debut THE FABULOUS FILIPINO BROTHERS; and Suzanne Kai’s long awaited crowdpleaser from Tribeca, LIKE A ROLLING STONE: THE LIFE & TIMES OF BEN FONG-TORRES, about the legendary Rolling Stone editor and writer Ben Fong-Torres.

LAAPFF is a proud Academy Award®-qualifying film festival for the Short Film Awards. Recipient(s) of the Film Festival’s Golden Reel Award for Narrative Short Film will be eligible for consideration in the Animated Short Film/Live-Action Short Film category of the Academy Awards®. This Festival is the only one of its kind in the world to have earned this qualification. Some highlights from the shorts lineup include the World Premiere presentations of: Candace Ho’s CHASING CLOUDS, a narrative short about a Taiwanese American woman forced to confront the harsh reality of her mother’s dementia; Paolo Bitanga’s NIGHT & DAY, a documentary short from the Philippines about a mother′s home that comes alive once a year when her many children return for the holidays; and Dakota Camacho’s FANA’GUYAN, a short dance film that explores ending violence and generating healing through embodiment, intimacy, and ancestral creativity. FANA’GUYAN will screen as part of Pacific Cinewaves, programming which represents LAAPFF’s commitment to amplify Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities from Hawai’i, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Guåhan (Guam), Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Samoa, and throughout the Pacific region.

“It is an honor to work in this landscape and witness the rise of storytellers from Asian & Pacific Islander communities,” said Eseel Borlasa, Programmer & Festival Operations Director of Visual Communications. “Each year, the Festival is proud to share these diverse perspectives, and we hope to continuously bridge understanding and build empathy and solidarity amongst our audiences. That collective work of storytelling to audience impact helps put values into action. LAAPFF believes in that work, and we are proud to be part of the process.”

Visual Communications is proud to continue their partnership with HBO for the fifth annual HBO Asian Pacific American Visionaries, a short film competition which showcases cinematic storytellers of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. The finalists were selected from hundreds of submissions and were judged by a distinguished panel of HBO executives, industry leaders and fellow APA filmmakers. The winning films exemplified this year’s competition theme: “Taking the Lead.” Jesse Gi’s NEH and Urvashi Pathania’s UNMOTHERED will premiere at LAAPFF on September 25, and debut on HBO Max on September 27.

This year, the Festival will also continue to host C3, a space for creators to converge and celebrate creative communities. These consist of both virtual and in-person panels and conversations.

Established in 1983, LAAPFF is the largest festival of its kind in Southern California, and the premier showcase for the best and brightest of Asian Pacific cinema. It was recently named one of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” by MovieMaker Magazine. For over three decades, LAAPFF has presented over 5,000 films by Asian & Pacific Islander talent, and continues to expand its commitment to nurturing new talent and promoting the development of Asian & Pacific Islanders both behind and in front of the camera.

LAAPFF will announce its full lineup on Wednesday, September 1, 2021. Ticketing for the general public will be available starting Monday, September 13, 2021 at 12:00pm PT.

For program information, please visit


Visual Communications’ mission is to develop and support the voices of Asian American and Pacific Islander filmmakers and media artists who empower communities and challenge perspectives. Founded in 1970 with the understanding that media and the arts are powerful forms of storytelling, Visual Communications creates cross cultural connections between peoples and generations.

The 37th Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, presented by Visual Communications, runs virtually and in person from September 23 – October 2, 2021 and features an exciting lineup of productions by Asian Pacific Islander artists from across the globe. The largest festival of its kind in Southern California, LAAPFF is a proud Academy Award®-qualifying film festival for the Short Film Awards. For program and ticket information, please visit

The Festival is proud to be partnering with our following screening venues across Los Angeles:

  • Aratani Theatre @ Japanese American Cultural & Community Center – Little Tokyo (DTLA): 244 S San Pedro Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
  • Tateuchi Democracy Forum @ Japanese American National Museum: 111 N Central Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012
  • Regal L.A. LIVE: A Barco Innovation Center: 1000 W Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Visual Communications is supported by:

Foundation: Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Aratani Foundation, Asian Pacific Community Fund, California Community Foundation, California Humanities, Getty Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, Keiro, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, LA Arts Recovery Fund**, National Film Preservation Foundation, SAG-AFTRA Producers IACF, SAGindie, Sundance Institute

Government: California Arts Council, California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, Japanese American Confinement Sites (National Park Service), National Endowment for the Arts

Corporate: Alaska Airlines, Amazon Studios, City National Bank, Comcast NBCUniversal, The Famous Group, HBO, Motion Picture Editors Guild, Paramount, Pechanga, Sony Pictures, Superlative, Union Bank, Vervet, ViacomCBS, Warner Media, Writers Guild of America West

**Initiated by the J. Paul Getty Trust and administered by the California Community Foundation, the LA Arts Recovery Fund is a collaboration of local and national philanthropy and is the largest-ever pooled private investment for arts in Los Angeles County.

Major contributors to the fund include J. Paul Getty Trust, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Ford Foundation, Jerry and Terri Kohl, The Ahmanson Foundation, Perenchio Foundation, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, California Community Foundation, The Music Man Foundation, Robert Lovelace and Alicia Miñana, Snap Foundation, Sony Pictures Entertainment & Sony Global Relief Fund, Ford Theatre Foundation and the LA County Department of Arts and Culture, and The Weingart Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Getty Patron Program & Getty Fund, The California Wellness Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, Netflix, and Vladimir and Araxia Buckhantz Foundation.

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