The 12th annual Asian American Showcase, presented by the Foundation for Asian American Independent Media and the Gene Siskel Film Center, continues through Thursday, April 12, with screenings at the Film Center. Tickets are $9, $7 for students, and $5 for Film Center members; for more information call 312-846-2800.
American Pastime Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, a Japanese-American family is forced to leave Los Angeles for an internment camp in the desert town of Abraham, Utah. An opening party scene establishes the family as typical Americans, eating hamburgers, talking baseball, and swinging to Glenn Miller; one of the sons is a talented pitcher, and after the relocation his skill emboldens his fellow internees to challenge the bigoted townspeople to a game, with a peculiar bet riding on the outcome. Writer-director Desmond Nakano paints some of the characters in broad strokes, but his feature is undeniably heartfelt. With Gary Cole and Aaron Yoo. In English and subtitled Japanese. 102 min. (JK) Nakano will attend the screening. a Sun 4/8, 3 PM.
Dark Matter A brilliant Chinese student (Ye Liu of Purple Butterfly) thinks his dreams have come true when he arrives at a California university to study astrophysics under his idol (Aidan Quinn), but after the young man develops a dazzling new theory that contradicts his mentor’s model of the universe, he gets a chilly lesson in academic politics. Billy Shebar based his script on the true story of Gang Lu, a doctoral student who killed five people at the University of Iowa in 1991, and fails to pull off a comparably bloody climax. But first-time director Chen Shi-Zheng shows great sensitivity to the pressure and isolation felt by Chinese brains at American universities, and the relationship between Liu and Quinn provides a rare look at the intellectual serfdom of graduate study. With Meryl Streep. 88 min. (JJ) a Sat 4/7, 8 PM; also Wed 4/11, 6 PM.
Hometown Heroes Short works by local artists Phoebe Chao, Cheng-yun Kuo, Kerry Yang, Yuting Hsueh, Emily Wang, Deirdre E. Lee, Sean Seung W. Kang, Karen Lin, Caroline Hong, Michelle Kaffko, Maki Terashita, and Chi-Jan Yun. 90 min. a Mon 4/9, 8 PM.
The Inheritance A Canadian brother and sister return to their native Manila to attend the funeral of their wealthy grandmother and discover they’ve inherited her remote country estate. This Canadian-Filipino coproduction (2006) begins by cogently showing how each sibling has assimilated and how awkward both feel revisiting their homeland; the second half descends into supernatural hokum as they’re terrorized by an assortment of demons on the estate. Writer-director-editor Romeo Candido creates some visually arresting images, but lack of cultural context stymies his attempts to fuse a contemporary narrative with Filipino folklore. In English and subtitled Tagalog. 111 min. (JK) a Fri 4/6, 8:15 PM.
Shanghai Kiss Ken Leung stars as an American, born to Chinese parents, who dropped out of college to pursue an acting career. A gorgeous high school student 12 years younger than he is improbably comes on to him on an LA city bus, but later he’s ready to ditch her for an equally gorgeous woman he meets on a trip to Shanghai. His search for identity–is he Chinese or American? neither country completely accepts him–is at the heart of Kern Konwiser and David Ren’s drama, but while the resolution is affecting, much of the rest is meandering and unoriginal, with the westernized, skyscraper-studded Shanghai implausibly treated as dauntingly exotic. 105 min. (FC) a Mon 4/9, 6 PM.
Short documentaries, program three Two 2006 videos from the U.S. Lisette Marie Flanary’s Na Kamalei: The Men of Hula (57 min.) looks at a male hula-dancing academy; Tad Nakamura’s Pilgrimage (22 min.) is about a former World War II internment camp now used as a shrine. a Sun 4/8, 5:30 PM.
Short documentaries, program two Two videos from the U.S. Duc Nguyen’s Bolinao 52 (56 min.) is about a group of Vietnamese boat people driven to cannibalism in 1989; Doan Hoang’s Oh, Saigon (57 min.) is a memoir centered on the Saigon airlift in 1975. a Sat 4/7, 5:15 PM.
Tre Four libidinous singles test each other’s fidelity in this moody 2006 drama by Eric Byler (Charlotte Sometimes). A noirish opening sequence sets the tone: the title character (Daniel Cariaga), an aimless rich kid, drives drunkenly up a mountain road overlooking the San Fernando Valley and arrives at the tony house he once shared with his best friend (Erik McDowell) and the friend’s wealthy fiancee (Kimberly-Rose Wolter). Sparks fly between Tre and the troubled young houseguest who’s supplanted him (Alix Koromzay), and their affair disrupts the domestic tranquility. By the third act a story about tangled passions has turned into a meditation on misogyny and class prejudice, but the social criticism is blunted by soppy dialogue. 86 min. (AG) Byler will attend the screening. a Wed 4/11, 8 PM.
The Trouble With Romance There’s plenty of trouble–along with some laughs and wise insights–in these four vignettes on sex and relationships, set in rooms in the same hotel. In “Dumped” the misunderstood conversation that leads to a breakup is characteristic of male-female miscommunication. In “Banged” a girl’s hallucinations of her ex during sex and after convinces her new lover that she’s nuts. “Love” shows a guy’s encounter with a surprisingly caring high-priced hooker. The performances are convincing, and director Gene Rhee does a good job of outlining the messiness of human affections here, showing how we don’t always know what we really want or how to get it. 88 min. (FC) Rhee will attend the screening. a Sat 4/7, 3 PM.
Undoing A young Korean-American (Sung Kang) returns to LA’s Koreatown one year after witnessing the murder of his friend, a small-time drug dealer set up by a crooked cop. Seeking revenge, he plots to extort money from the cop, but he soon finds himself in over his head, pursued by (among others) a bleach-blond Asian hit man who sounds oddly like Christopher Walken. Writer-director Chris Chan Lee is a talented filmmaker working with a good cast, but his penchant for visual gimmickry betrays a lack of confidence in his own low-key noir material. 85 min. (Reece Pendleton) Lee will attend the screening. a Thu 4/12, 8:15 PM.