The tenth annual Asian American Showcase, presented by the Foundation for Asian American Independent Media and the Gene Siskel Film Center, continues Friday through Thursday, April 7 through 13, with screenings at the Film Center, 164 N. State. Tickets are $9, $7 for students, and $5 for Film Center members; for more information call 312-846-2600.


The Slanted Screen

Jeff Adachi’s hour-long video traces the portrayal of Asian men in Hollywood movies and reveals that their heyday might well have been the early silent era, when Sessue Hayakawa played romantic leads opposite white women. Soon afterward came an abrupt retreat into such stereotypes as Charlie Chan, Fu Manchu, and Mr. Moto, as well as myriad racist images of Japanese men during World War II. Adachi interviews a broad range of Asian-American actors, writers, directors, and producers, many of whom took the long view, optimistic that someday they’d be granted their full humanity on-screen. (JK) Also on the program: Ming Lai and Michael Blair’s 17-minute video Pawns of the King (2005). a 6 PM

R Eve & the Fire Horse

An auspicious debut for Canadian filmmaker Julia Kwan, this 2005 feature follows two young sisters on their divergent paths to recovery after their beloved grandmother dies. The older girl (Hollie Lo), acting as interpreter for her English-challenged mother (Vivian Wu), is converted to Christianity by some door-to-door evangelists, while the younger child (Phoebe Kut), born under the unlucky zodiac sign of the Fire Horse, has a more elastic view of spirituality and communes easily with Jesus, the Maitreya Buddha, and a dancing goddess. Lovingly realized and light of touch, this is a beguiling family movie. In English and subtitled Cantonese. 92 min. (AG) Kwan will attend the screening. a 7:45 PM


James Bai’s provocative if bleak sci-fi feature (2005) takes place in a depopulated and technophobic society where Luddites have triumphed and a lonely scientist labors secretly on a look-alike robot. To protect himself he sends his alter ego into the lawless streets to run errands, but one day the automaton thwarts a grocery store robbery, earning the affections of the store’s pretty owner and inciting the scientist’s jealousy. Rugged newcomer Stephen Galaida is agile enough to play both man and machine, though his line readings are so affectless that he telegraphs the major plot twist. 81 min. (AG) Bai will attend the screening. a 10 PM


Punching at the Sun

Tanuj Chopra makes his feature directorial debut with this low-key video about a South Asian teenager in Queens (Misu Khan) who lives in the shadow of his late older brother. A beloved neighborhood figure, the brother was murdered in a holdup one year earlier, yet the hero is still struggling to find his own place in his family and community. His emotional journey–from anomie and rage to catharsis and maturity–is completely predictable, but a vibrant young cast provides the charm and energy needed to make this work. 82 min. (Reece Pendleton) Chopra will attend the screening. a 3 PM

For the Love of Shorts!

Wen Hwa Ts’ao will attend this program of short films, which includes his 12-minute Wonton. 101 min. a 5 PM

Red Doors

Georgia Lee makes her writing and directing debut with this predictable but sincere 2005 comedy about the trials of a suburban Chinese-American family. The mother and three daughters, preoccupied with their busy lives, fail to comprehend the deepening depression of the recently retired father (a deadpan Tzi Ma). Unwilling to seek professional help and consoled only by old videos of his daughters, he makes several feeble attempts at suicide and contemplates entering a Buddhist monastery. Lee suggests that Asians sacrifice family to assimilate into American culture, hardly an original notion but one conveyed here with humor and plangency. 90 min. (JK) Lee will attend the screening. a 8 PM


To You Sweetheart, Aloha

When 25-year-old Alyssa Archambault met 93-year-old Bill Tapia, the Hawaiian ukulele legend was mourning the deaths of his wife and daughter. To his surprise and delight, the vivacious music researcher quickly became his manager, promoter, and near-constant companion. Nostalgic and nonjudgmental, this hour-long 2004 video documentary avoids probing Archambault’s motives, but Tapia’s grandchildren aren’t as decorous: they clearly view her influence as undesirable. S. Leo Chiang and Mercedes Coats directed. Also on the program, Josh Diamond and Justin Lin’s quirky video Spotlighting (2005, 25 min.) profiles Vegas lounge act the Sunspots, a Filipino band whose dreams of pop stardom in the 60s were thwarted by the British invasion (or so they claim). (AG) a 3:15 PM

R Image x Sound, program one

For 25 years Chicago musician and filmmaker Tatsu Aoki has been forging a modest, meditative cinema that abjures grand statements to focus on the rhythms of daily life and its tiny moments of beauty. Of the five works on this retrospective program, the two longest are rambling, uneven Super-8 affairs that nonetheless offer a fascinating mix of improvisational home movie and more lyrical moments: in Solutions (1991) scenes of Aoki’s filmmaking and home life are interrupted by a brief but lovely meditation on a wineglass, and in Landing (1998) static, out-of-focus window views contrast with the varied rhythms of horses walking in a circle. The best film, Local Color 1 (1987), combines distorted street images in multiple superimposition to suggest a lovely and mysterious moving tapestry. 105 min. (FC) Aoki will attend the screening. a 6 PM


Grassroots Rising

Robert C. Winn strings together numerous interviews with mostly first-generation Asian-Americans for this panoramic portrait (2005, 57 min.) of Los Angeles immigrant communities fighting for workplace justice. The video celebrates the resilience of exploited people who find ways to band together and challenge oppressive working conditions, though its broad-brush approach makes it feel more like an organizing tool than a personal statement. On the same program: Ryan Yokota, Huy Cheng, Anjali Nath, and Long Trinh’s video documentary Arnold Moreno = p (2004, 18 min.), about the short life of a promising young community activist in LA’s Echo Park. (Reece Pendleton) a 6:15 PM

R Eve & the Fire Horse

See listing for Fri 4/7. a 8 PM


Punching at the Sun

See listing for Sat 4/8. a 8 PM


Image x Sound, program two

The second of two retrospective programs honoring Chicago musician and filmmaker Tatsu Aoki. In Shape (1996) the beat of windshield wipers injects rhythm into a blurred image. Traveling Spirits, shot mostly from a moving car, creates a feeling of flow and no firm resting place. Discovery (1991) is a Super-8 diary film, its home and road scenes punctuated by brief Japanese voice-over narration in which Aoki expresses his thoughts and feelings about the scenes. 76 min. (FC) Aoki will attend the screening. a 6 PM

Red Doors

See listing for Sat 4/8. a 8:15 PM