The ninth annual Asian American Showcase, presented by the Foundation for Asian American Independent Media and the Gene Siskel Film Center, continues Friday through Thursday, April 8 through 14, with screenings at the Film Center. Tickets are $9, $7 for students, and $5 for Film Center members; for more information call 312-846-2600.


From a Distance

Short films and videos. Mun Chee Yong’s 9:30 (2004), exquisitely shot in 35-millimeter, charts the loneliness and dislocation of a man who has just arrived in Los Angeles from Singapore, as he repeatedly dials up his girlfriend. Malcolm Lam’s video Falling in Rhythm (2004), a clever if overly stylized depiction of estranged lovers dramatized exclusively through Latin dance, features a refreshingly romantic conclusion, while in Kevin Choi’s elliptical Game Boy (2003), a gay video-game designer is attracted to another gay man in his apartment building but aside from a brief dalliance keeps his lust in check. Yiuwing Lam’s Rupture (2004), the most accomplished short in the program, is a somber story about a lonely cabdriver attempting to repress the memory of a violent crime while befriending the beautiful daughter of an old associate. Three more shorts complete the program, which runs 95 minutes. (JK) Yiuwing Lam will attend the screening. (6 PM)

After the Apocalypse

Searching for food and companionship, five mute survivors of a nuclear war roam a seemingly deserted urban wasteland. Yasuaki Nakajima, who wrote and directed this low-budget indie, manages to turn financial constraints to his advantage, shooting in grainy, deliberately overexposed black and white and using music and ambient sound to establish the eerie atmosphere. The mood is broken, however, as the male characters get bogged down in a predictable struggle to win the affection of the sole woman. The lack of dialogue also invites some awkward and unintentionally corny moments; this may have been influenced by Tarkovsky and Antonioni, but the results are sometimes closer to street-corner mime. 72 min. (Reece Pendleton) Nakajima will attend the screening. (8:15 PM)

R Flying Fists of Funny

Parody rules the day in this above-average program of comic shorts. Alexander Woo’s dead-on Rex Steele: Nazi Smasher catches the look and feel of World War II-era Superman cartoons. James Lu’s Fist of the Iron Chef throws together the cult cooking show and martial arts conventions for a sly political comment on China and Taiwan. Darren Ng’s The Scapegoat is a pretty good homage to Buster Keaton, and Alan Chan’s 12 Hot Women is an all-too-accurate spoof of an action movie trailer. Though the quality of the eight other films varies, there isn’t a stinker in the bunch. Total running time is 117 min. (HSa) (10 PM)


R Repatriation

Kim Dong-won’s 2004 video documentary explores an ideological and personal mess, bravely refusing to simplify or preach. A liberal South Korean, Kim befriended a group of North Korean spies who had refused to “convert.” After decades in prison, these newly released old men remain dedicated socialists who hope for both repatriation and reunification. Are they martyrs who endured torture in prison for a cause, or naive fools? Kim takes his time, letting us see how the division of Korea has left everyone, himself included, knotted in confusion. What begins as a portrait of a few individuals becomes a probing look at two nations. In Korean with subtitles. 149 min. (HSa) (3 PM)

It’s All Relative

Short films and videos about families. Elizabeth Ito’s Welcome to My Life (2004) is a clever animation in which a family of monsters tries mightily to blend into society. In Selling Louie’s Village (Without Breaking the Yolk) (2004), Jason D. Mak profiles a tightly knit Chinese family that has persevered for generations in Eugene, Oregon, running a Chinese restaurant. Larilyn Sanchez and Riza Manalo’s macabre Homebound (2003) is about a dead woman whose corpse was returned to her native Philippines loaded with consumer goods for her surviving family and friends. And Susan Chang’s Broken Roots (2004) profiles a Canadian teenager wrestling with numerous emotional problems; blessed with caring adoptive parents, he travels to Seoul to meet his real family, with decidedly mixed results. Three more shorts complete the program, which runs 117 minutes. (JK) (5:45 PM)

Ethan Mao

“Soppy” doesn’t begin to describe this 2004 drama by Quentin Lee. As the title character, a queer teenager disowned by his Chinese-American family, Jun Hee Lee appears in almost every scene, but he’s not convincing as an anguished son wronged by his authoritarian dad (Raymond Ma) or as a drug-addled hustler. Jerry Hernandez has more screen presence as the trick-turning dope dealer who befriends Ethan, but he and the rest of the cast can’t overcome the awkward temporal switches, the dream sequences, or a third act that misfires hysterically, right down to its lame Butch and Sundance homage. 87 min. (AG) Quentin Lee will attend this screening. (8:15 PM)


Balancing Acts

The life of Man-Fong Tong sounds like something out of an absurdist historical novel: born in China, he traveled the world as an acrobat, gave a command performance for Hitler, married a Jewish-Hungarian vaudevillian, and later appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Donna Schatz’s DV documentary tells Tong’s story through home movies and interviews with him and his sons. Touchingly, the sons recall knowing their globe-trotting father mostly through these home movies. The story is so amazing that this film feels too short by half. 58 min. (HSa) Schatz and Tong will attend both screenings. (3 PM)

62 Years and 6,500 Miles Between

Anita Chang directed this loving video portrait of her Taiwanese grandmother, an outspoken woman who spent her youth rebelling against cultural and generational strictures. Initiated just before the grandmother suffered a debilitating stroke, the video relies on voice-over narration from numerous family members, with characters introduced so rapidly that following the story becomes almost impossible. Chang flirts with the idea that these collected memories effectively fictionalize her grandmother, but unfortunately she backs off. 52 min. Also on the program, Top Woman Shooter (2004, 22 min.) profiles a Korean-American who is the best female handgun shot in the world. Director Bryant Wong draws a connection between her immense competitiveness and her husband’s infidelity, but he doesn’t explore it in any depth. Two short documentary videos complete the program, which runs 110 minutes. (JK) (5 PM)


Balancing Acts

See listing for Sun 4/10. (6 PM)

R Flying Fists of Funny

See listing for Fri 4/8. (7:45 PM)


After the Apocalypse

See listing for Fri 4/8. (6:15 PM)


Ethan Mao

See listing for Sat 4/9. (6:15 PM)