Model Minority at Vancouver Asian Film Festival (Day 2 at VAFF)

VAFF picked a number of great films for Day 2 of its program.  Asian American films are getting better by the year, and one can immediately feel the intensity and the maturity of films these past few years, particularly this year’s.   There was one film that really stood out this evening, Model Minority.   There not a dry eye in the theatre by the end of the film.  An emotionally intense and thought-provoking story, Model Minority follows the downfall of a vivacious loveable girl who gets caught up with the wrong crowd, and on the wrong side of the law.

Starring the wonderful Nichole Bloom O’Connor, the movie takes us on a journey of one L.A. teenager’s descent into the seamy underworld of drug dealers and juvenile prison — her life spinning out of control amidst a family in turmoil.  We watch on helplessly as Kayla the underprivileged Japanese American 16-year-old seemingly throws away her all the promise and ambition built up her entire life in a mere matter of months as she innocently falls in love, only to discover that the blood of her family is truly thicker than water, as the saying goes.  This film has already won a number of awards, including the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, Las Vegas Film Festival, and the Asian American International Film Festival in New York, and it doesn’t surprise that this film will spawn the careers of actors and director.

The evening ended with a pair of remarkable films, Lost Lagoon and a Day is Far Too Long.  These two films shows the breathaking beauty of Vancouver — often, those who live here don’t get to see our city on the big screen, so it’s always a treat when a great story uses the landscape of familiarity of Vancouver as a backdrop to stories about displacement and migration.  Sponsored by the Korean community organization, c3society, these two films are fitting tributes to the vibrant diversity of the city of Vancouver’s large Korean community.  We often forget that great films are not limited to hallyu — it is also found in the talent on home soil.

VAFF 2012 is celebrating its 16th birthday.   Can you believe it’s been sixteen years of great films by VAFF?    The festival started off with a question, why isn’t there a film festival in Canada celebrating Asian Canadian films?

Over the years, there’s been pressure from within and without to turn to more foreign films, to have films in Asian languages so that it could appeal to newer immigrant audiences or those more familiar with the latest Asian blockbusters.   There’s plenty of those films at the Vancouver International Film Festival.  So why do we need more?   Courageously, VAFF has stuck to its mission and mandate to promote great Asian Canadian and Asian American films by North American film makers.  That’s the only way to grow our industry.  Through home-grown talent.

VAFF’s volunteer staff has also been stellar throughout the years.   Led Mark Oh and Thomas Greiner, this year’s volunteers ran a smooth campaign.  Lots of times, we forget just how critical the work of volunteers are to the success of a film festival.  Lots of festivals do not succeed because of its inability to retain volunteers.   There is little accolade behind volunteering, but it’s always these individuals who make the difference.

Congratulations to everyone at VAFF 2012 for a great ending to Day 2 of the festival.   Look at the packed audiences as they leave International Village.   The after party continued at LaCasita, where everyone enjoyed themselvesa late night drink and Mexican cuisine.  Well deserved!

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