Considering the myriad of top-caliber films from Asia, it must be hard to choose your qualifying films. Can you tell us about how you selected the films to be screened, and the actors and directors that will attend the event?
Mainstream commercial blockbusters are enjoying a fair amount of attention and theatrical releases, home videos distributions in Europe and to a certain extent in America. Also with Netflix actively producing original series which include Asia content, people have more access to Asian films these days compared to 10 years ago.
However, I am programming mostly smaller, overlooked films especially those portraying stories resonant with American people’s ordinary lives and predicaments. 90% of the films I have selected would never get wide releases in America theatrically. I definitely shy away from violence, nudity or strong sexual content movies. I think they are actually quite plentiful in the marketplace. Based on the feedback from our Wednesdays/Thursdays nights audiences, I select mostly contemporary films with mixed genres, many of them are first-time directors’ works who have poignant message to share with the American audiences.
What is the festival’s secret to lasting success? What makes this year’s festival different from the previous years?
Being a young film festival, with our inaugural season only 4.5 years ago, our festival is taking baby steps and growing slowly but surely. Since we are a bi-annual film festival, presenting two individual films series per year, we have been able to evaluate, correct and adjust by learning from the immediate past season and improve ourselves for the upcoming season. I think this is probably one of the secret weapons that Asian Pop-Up Cinema has compared to other conventional film festivals that have to wait for another year to make changes.
The 2nd secret weapon that we have is that we have two opportunities to select films from Asia from the recent releases since it’s our objective to exhibit at the minimum Chicago premiere of the films selected. If we missed anything in the Spring due to conflicts of schedule, we can slot the films again for the Fall.
At the end of 2019, we would have presented 40 films and accommodated close to 50 guests (as many of our guests are bringing their family members and associates to Chicago with their films). This data itself, for a boutique, non-competitive film festival, like Asian Pop-Up Cinema proves that film industries in Asia have accepted our good service in exhibiting their films per international film festivals standards and taking good care of their guests. The number of guests from Asia has definitely grown by almost 100% as compared to 2018. For the first time, we even have a guest from the U.S. who took part in a major blockbuster in Korea attended the screening and share his experiences of being cast in a South Korean film and his work with the South Korean cast and crew.
What is your opinion on Asian cinema and film industry at this moment? Which direction do you think it would go?
Asian cinema and film industry are continuously thriving and moving forward and with the help of Netflix and other home video opportunities, as there is definitely a shift of change for films made for “small screens” for people to enjoy at home than theatrical format. If there are a good story and a good script, there will be outlets for them to be shown. Time will tell.
Film festivals, competitive or non-competitive, big or small, still holds the platform for premiering new films and guests as an introduction to the Asian Cinema. We premiered a very low budget film “ONE CUT OF THE DEAD” last fall as our closing night film. It won that season’s Audience choice award. After a year’s gap, the film is now enjoying theatrical release in Chicago.