2020 LAAPFF News

36th Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Announces Award Winners

October 31, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: PRESS@VCMEDIA.ORG

October 31, 2020 – (Los Angeles, CA) The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF), presented by Visual Communications, announced the award winners for its 36th edition of the Festival. The largest Festival of its kind in Southern California, LAAPFF celebrated five weeks of film presentations and panel discussions, culminating in an online awards ceremony program that debuted today. 

In a unique result of online film festival programming, filmmakers and jurors from different regions around the world were able to participate in this year’s Festival.

“Our Festival Awards Jury reflected the spaces and places that were presented in the Festival. Films that showcased our stories from Argentina to Polynesia, from Mumbai to Minneapolis, our jury spanned across the United States and the globe,” said Francis Cullado, Executive Director of Visual Communications. “We are grateful for our jury’s energy and passion to support artists and our communities.”

In the North American Feature section, jurors Aukai Ligairi (Director, CLEANFLIX), Cecilia R. Mejia (Producer, YELLOW ROSE), and Joshua Oduga (Exhibitions and Public Programs Manager at Art + Practice (A+P)) bestowed the Grand Jury Award for Best North American Narrative Feature to WAIKIKI, directed by Christopher Kahunahana. 

The jury shared their thoughts on the film: “WAIKIKI is an immersive film that highlights the fantasy and reality of Hawaii that is constantly being negotiated by local and native peoples. This work counters the mainstream image of paradise we normally associate with the island state and the Pacific Rim. Through an elegiac and philosophical mode of storytelling, we’re taken on a journey of the real island state where native Hawaiians continue to struggle on a daily basis with job instability, domestic and racialized abuses, mental health issues, and the ongoing generational trauma of postcolonial cultures. The strong direction, cinematography, music, and lead performances impressed the jury and left us collectively haunted by the film after the fact.”

The following North American Narrative Feature films were also honored with Special Jury Awards:

  • Special Jury Award for Screenwriting to Prarthana Mohan and Kay Tuxford of THE MISEDUCATION OF BINDU (dir. Prarthana Mohan)
  • Special Jury Award for Acting to Megan Suri of THE MISEDUCATION OF BINDU (dir. Prarthana Mohan)
  • Special Jury Award for Editing to Kris Kristensen of THE PAPER TIGERS (dir. Bao Tran)
  • Special Jury Award for Cinematography to Ryan Miyamoto of WAIKIKI (dir. Christopher Kahunahana)

In the International Narrative Feature section, jurors Chanel Kong (Associate Curator of Moving Image, Hong Kong’s M+ Museum for Visual Culture), Marty Preciado (Program Manager for Grand Park), and Paula Guthat (Co-Founder/Programmer of Cinema Detroit) presented the Grand Jury Award for Best International Narrative Feature to KIM JI-YOUNG, BORN 1982, directed by Kim Do-Young.

The jury shared: “While all of the films in competition strived to tell their own truth about patriarchy and its enduring values, the jury was overwhelmingly moved by KIM JI-YOUNG, BORN 1982. As women are continually forced to work under an explicit wage gap, this film shows the wider implications of stressors, microaggressions, and societal disapproval faced by the eponymous heroine. We witness her quiet desperation, pain, and psychological rebellion against these almost impossible expectations. The jury recognizes the importance of the scathing commentary, empathy, and her journey towards empowerment. This film’s significance in advocating for a more equitable society extends beyond national borders.”

The following International Narrative Feature films were also honored with Special Jury Awards:

  • Special Jury Award for Screenwriting to Valerie Castillo Martinez of DEATH OF NINTENDO (dir. Raya Martin)
  • Special Jury Award for Social Issue Commentary to A BEDSORE (dir. Shim Hye-jung)
  • Special Jury Award for Innovation in Genre to THE LONG WALK (dir. Mattie Do)

In the Documentary Feature section, jurors Cai Thomas (Director, QUEENIE), Junko Goda (Producer, IT’S ASIAN MEN) and Miko Revereza (Director, NO DATA PLAN) awarded DOWN A DARK STAIRWELL, directed by Ursula Liang, with the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature

The jury shared: “Ursula Liang’s solid and succinct storytelling in DOWN A DARK STAIRWELL spends the necessary time within each community, allowing folks to speak in their voices and emote in intimate, heartbreaking moments before her camera. While going into the layers of each community’s concerns and anxieties, there is a sense of journalistic integrity conveyed in a biased, mediated landscape. It’s an important film for this current moment that we are living in right now, a period of cultural and racial reckoning and the essential need to spark dialogue and hold space for mindful discourse.”

The jurors also recognized FIRST VOTE, directed by Yi Chen, with a Special Jury Award for the Art & Craft of Documentary Form. 

The jury shared: “We loved how filmmaker Yi Chen inserted herself into the narrative, all while trying to remain non-partisan. The elements of FIRST VOTE were clear and accurate to the general feeling in the U.S. at the moment. We were never bored in the depiction of the oft-humorous undercurrent of political divisiveness with AAPI communities. Its original, accurate, sly, and highly rewatchable depiction of the AAPI political spectrum in battleground states and beyond are so pertinent in this key election year.”

The following Documentary Feature films were also honored with Special Jury Awards:

  • Special Jury Award for Direction and Cinematography to directors Ning Huo and Gary Shih of NOODLE KID
  • Special Jury Award for Social Impact to ACCEPT THE CALL (dir. Eunice Lau)

Lindy Leong (Senior Programmer, LAAPFF) also announced the Global Impact Award, given to two films for their skilled filmmaking to deliver a message urgent for audiences all over the globe: A THOUSAND CUTS (dir. Ramona S. Diaz) and 76 DAYS (dirs. Hao Wu, Weixi Chen).

“A THOUSAND CUTS advocates and commits to illuminating what is at stake in a world without freedom of the press. This Global Impact Award celebrates those brave and ethics-driven journalists and media professionals who use their bylines and platforms to amplify social and political injustices worldwide,” said Leong.

In presenting the award to 76 DAYS, Leong shared: “76 DAYS is an up-close and personal, on the ground view into the tremendous efforts and sacrifices of healthcare professionals and workers treating and saving lives in a global pandemic. We see the psychological and physical toll on you and thank you for your selflessness.”

This year, Pechanga, official gaming partner of the Festival, presented the Emerging Filmmaker Award for Narrative Feature and Documentary Feature filmmakers who have shown amazing promise as our future filmmakers and storytellers. Filmmakers with their first or second feature film are eligible for the award. This year’s recipients are:

  • Mallorie Ortega for THE GIRL WHO LEFT HOME
  • Yuechen Hao for ONE MEAL
  • Hui Tong and Kelly Ng for CURTAIN UP!
  • Jiayan “Jenny” Shi for FINDING YINGYING

In the Shorts Competition section, jurors Kimiko Matsuda-Lawrence (Writer, TWENTIES), Mahin Ibrahim (Multicultural Audience Engagement, The Walt Disney Studios) and Nia Hampton (Artist & Founder of Black Femme Supremacy Film Festival) awarded the Festival Golden Reel Award for Best Documentary Short to STANDING ABOVE THE CLOUDS, directed by Jalena Keane-Lee.

The jury shared: “STANDING ABOVE THE CLOUDS puts us on the frontlines with intergenerational women activists fighting to protect Hawaii’s sacred mountain Mauna Kea from a massive telescope development. This personal and moving project provides us an entry point to this community of mothers and daughters upholding a lineage of fighting for the land. We appreciate the directorial voice and gorgeous cinematography that went into creating this portrait of struggle and strength.”

LAAPFF is proud to be an Academy Award® qualifying 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®. The film that won this year’s Golden Reel Award and is now eligible to qualify in the Animated Short Film/Live-Action Short Film category of the Academy Awards® is YOU WIN USA VACATION RESORT, directed by Georgia Fu. 

The jury shared: “YOU WIN USA VACATION RESORT pulled us into the unfamiliar world of birth tourism and resorts, and the emotional journey that comes with hopes of having a child born on American soil. Great performances and chemistry between the principal cast brought this charming mix of drama and comedy to life. We were wrapped up in the lead Mei’s dilemma and ultimately were left wanting more. We were impressed by such a moving and engrossing portrayal of a sensitive subject, and look forward to seeing Georgia’s future work.”

Former Visual Communications Executive Director Linda Mabalot is lovingly remembered for her passion and commitment to nurturing and developing emerging Asian Pacific filmmakers. In that spirit, the Linda Mabalot New Directors/New Visions Award is presented to a short film that demonstrates an innovative and creative use of cinematic language. Previous recipients include TAMA TU (dir. Taika Waititi), PILGRIMAGE (dir. Tadashi Nakamura), PAULINA (dir. Caylee So), and MISS WORLD (dir. Georgia Fu).

The Shorts Jury bestowed this year’s Linda Mabalot New Directors/New Visions Award to DRIFTING, directed by Hanxiong Bo. 

The jury shared: “Through visually stunning and unique cinematic language, DRIFTING takes on issues ranging from the one-child policy to gender fluidity with grace and inventiveness. This ambitious film succeeds in exploring how the familial environment and political climate we are raised within can impact one’s identity and sense of self.”

The following Narrative and Documentary Short films were also honored with Special Jury Awards:

  • Special Jury Award for Acting to Ki Hong Lee of SI (dir. Thomas Percy Kim) 
  • Special Jury Award for Acting to Cris Gris and Alma Adams of LA GLORIA (dir. Mary Evangelista)
  • Special Jury Award for Acting to Ahn Minyoung of MOTHER-IN-LAW (dir. Shin Seung Eun)
  • Special Jury Award for Acting to Holden Mandrial-Santos and Austin Tucker of MOLOKAʻI BOUND (dir. Alika Maikau)
  • Special Jury Award for Editing to Stacy Moon of CRASHING WHEELS ON CONCRETE (dir. So Young Shelly Yo)
  • Special Jury Award for Cinematography to director Dinesh Das Sabu of SRKANA (THE STOP) 
  • Special Jury Award for Writing to director Carol Nguyen of NO CRYING AT THE DINNER TABLE

As the year closes, Visual Communications continues its legacy as the first non-profit organization in the US dedicated to the honest and accurate portrayals of the Asian Pacific American peoples, communities, and heritage through the media arts. In the upcoming weeks, audiences can look forward to PAST//FORWARD,  Visual Communications’ signature event to celebrate the organization’s 50th anniversary. The virtual presentation of PAST//FORWARD is scheduled for December 1, 2020. For more information on the Festival and the forthcoming PAST//FORWARD celebration, please visit vcmedia.org.

FULL LIST OF AWARD WINNERS

NORTH AMERICAN NARRATIVE FEATURE

  • Grand Jury Award: WAIKIKI (dir. Christopher Kahunahana)
  • Special Jury Award – Screenwriting: Prarthana Mohan and Kay Tuxford, THE MISEDUCATION OF BINDU (dir. Prarthana Mohan) 
  • Special Jury Award – Acting: Megan Suri, THE MISEDUCATION OF BINDU (dir. Prarthana Mohan)
  • Special Jury Award – Editing: Kris Kristensen, THE PAPER TIGERS (dir. Bao Tran)
  • Special Jury Award – Cinematography: Ryan Miyamoto, WAIKIKI (dir. Christopher Kahunahana)
  • Emerging Filmmaker Award – Narrative Feature: Yuechen Hao, ONE MEAL 
  • Emerging Filmmaker Award – Narrative Feature: Mallorie Ortega, THE GIRL WHO LEFT HOME

INTERNATIONAL NARRATIVE FEATURE

  • Grand Jury Award: KIM JI-YOUNG, BORN 1982 (dir. Kim Do-Young)
  • Special Jury Award – Screenwriting: Valerie Castillo Martinez, DEATH OF NINTENDO (dir. Raya Martin)
  • Special Jury Award – Social Issue Commentary: A BEDSORE (dir. Shim Hye-jung)
  • Special Jury Award – Innovation in Genre: THE LONG WALK (dir. Mattie Do)

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

  • Grand Jury Award: DOWN A DARK STAIRWELL (dir. Ursula Liang)
  • Special Jury Award – Social Impact: ACCEPT THE CALL (dir. Eunice Lau)
  • Special Jury Award – Directing & Cinematography: Ning Huo and Gary Shih, NOODLE KID
  • Special Jury Award – Art & Craft of Documentary Form: FIRST VOTE (dir. Yi Chen)
  • Global Impact Award: A THOUSAND CUTS (dir. Ramona S. Diaz)
  • Global Impact Award: 76 DAYS (dirs. Hao Wu, Weixi Chen) 
  • Emerging Filmmaker Award – Documentary Feature: Jiayan “Jenny” Shi, FINDING YINGYING
  • Emerging Filmmaker Award – Documentary Feature: Hui Tong and Kelly Ng, CURTAIN UP!

NARRATIVE SHORT

  • Golden Reel Award – Best Narrative Short: YOU WIN USA VACATION RESORT (dir. Georgia Fu)
  • Special Jury Award – Acting: Ki Hong Lee, SI (dir. Thomas Percy Kim)
  • Special Jury Award – Acting: Cris Gris and Alma Adams, LA GLORIA (dir. Mary Evangelista)
  • Special Jury Award – Acting: Ahn Minyoung, MOTHER-IN-LAW (dir. Shin Seung Eun)
  • Special Jury Award – Acting: Holden Mandrial-Santos and Austin Tucker, MOLOKAʻI BOUND (dir. Alika Maikau)
  • Linda Mabalot New Directors/New Visions Award: DRIFTING (dir. Hanxiong Bo)

DOCUMENTARY SHORT

  • Golden Reel Award – Best Documentary Short: STANDING ABOVE THE CLOUDS (dir. Jalena Keane-Lee)
  • Special Jury Award – Editing: Stacy Moon, CRASHING WHEELS ON CONCRETE (So Young Shelly Yo)
  • Special Jury Award – Cinematography: Dinesh Das Sabu, SRKANA (THE STOP) (dir. Dinesh Das Sabu)
  • Special Jury Award – Writing: Carol Nguyen, NO CRYING AT THE DINNER TABLE (dir. Carol Nguyen)

ABOUT VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS
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. 

ABOUT THE LOS ANGELES ASIAN PACIFIC FILM FESTIVAL
The 36th Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF), presented by Visual Communications, runs online from September 24 – October 31, 2020 and features an exciting lineup of productions by Asian American & Pacific Islander artists from across the globe. The largest festival of its kind in Southern California, LAAPFF is also a proud Academy Award®-qualifying film festival for the Short Film Awards. For program and ticket information, please visit festival.vcmedia.org.

Visual Communications is supported by:

PLATINUM
Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences
Aratani Foundation
California Arts Council
California Community Foundation
California Civil Liberties Public Education Program
Comcast NBCUniversal
Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles
J. Paul Getty Trust Foundation
Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts
National Film Preservation Foundation
SAG-AFTRA Producers Industry Advancement & Cooperative Fund
Sony Pictures Entertainment

GOLD
HBO
Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture
National Endowment for the Arts
Nielsen
Sundance Institute
WarnerMedia

SILVER
Alaska Airlines
ARRAY
Asian Pacific Community Fund
California Humanities
Japanese American Cultural & Community Center
Japanese American National Museum
Little Tokyo Service Center

BRONZE
AARP
Annenberg Foundation
California Wellness Foundation
City National Bank
Directors Guild of America
Friends of Linda Mabalot
GIDRA
IW Group
Keiro
Kondo Wealth Advisors
MUFG Union Bank
National Geographic
Paramount Pictures
Pechanga
The Famous Group

STAR
AT&T
Counsel for Creators
Flash Cuts
Flipcause
Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council
Japanese American Citizens League
JINS
L.A. Chinatown Firecracker Run Committee, Inc.
Little Tokyo Community Council
Motion Picture Editors Guild
Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress
Okura Mental Health Leadership Foundation
Pacific Islanders in Communications
SAGindie
UCLA Asian American Studies Center
Your Script Produced
Writers Guild of America West

IN-KIND
Asahi
Asian Pacific Filmmaker Experience
Brewyard
Cafe Dulce
E-Tech Rentals
Far Bar
FilmLA
Final Draft
First Street Cafe
Found Coffee
King’s Hawaiian
Passion Planner
Spitz
The Great Company
The Park’s Finest
West One Music Group

MEDIA
Asian American Documentary Network (A-DOC)
Angry Asian Man
Character Media
Crossings TV
David Magdael & Associates
Giant Robot
International Documentary Association (IDA)
Pacific Rim Video
Potluck Podcast
The Asian Highway
This Filipino American Life

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