Asia or Bust
Now in its fifth year, the Asian Film Festival of Dallas—which runs Thursday through August 10 at the Magnolia Theater, 3699 McKinney Avenue—has emerged as an event that transcends its modifier; though many of its 25-plus entries are imports (some even funded with U.S. bread), more than a few would be welcome and necessary in any fest, no matter their points of origin. The AFF organizers are as far-sighted, if not more so, as any of their peers when it comes to assembling a thoughtful, provocative schedule. Hence, a collection of movies elegiac (Be With Me, a meditation on love and loss that’s almost silent), classic (1954's original Godzilla, when it was known as Gojira), giddy (the big-boy-in-a-small-town Colma, which has Day-Glo aspirations) and gritty (One Night in Mongkok, an amped-up police procedural in which cops try to keep a hitman from turning a rivalry into a bloodbath and sorta, well, fail). Any one of these is good enough to open at the Magnolia on a Friday—Mongkok probably will, when it gets what's sure to be an inevitable U.S. remake.
The schedule at the AFF's Web site (http://affd.org/2006/films.htm) has plenty to recommend. But chief among the entries is Ham Tran's wrenching Journey From the Fall, a mostly autobiographical tale about a family's separation in April 1975, when Saigon fell and the United States abandoned Vietnam to the Communists. The movie, shot by Before Night Falls' cinematographer Guillermo Rosas, tells two tales over the course of six years, and it bounces around like a 3-year-old without an attention span; one minute, Long Nguyen (the actor, whose character has the same name) is defiantly refusing to leave in 1975, and the next he's being dragged to a prison-yard box for punishment, and back and forth it goes until the audience, like Nguyen, loses a little of its mind. At the same time, his wife and son and mother are trying to escape Vietnam. They all presume each other dead; we find out the truth in heartening dribs and tearful drabs. Any fest would be proud to have it.
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