TIFF, LAAPFF, and Berlinale winners among selections

AUSTIN, TX – The Austin Asian American Film Festival (AAAFF) is thrilled to announce the full lineup for its 11th annual film festival, a sweeping slate of 11 feature films and 17 shorts from Asian and Asian American filmmakers.

This year’s centerpiece presentation is EMPTY BY DESIGN, a U.S./Philippines co-production exploring what it feels like to be lost as a young adult, torn between multiple countries and lives. Director Andrea A. Walter, along with several cast and crew members, will be in attendance for an extended conversation after the film.

EMPTY BY DESIGN is one of several narrative features in our lineup by and about women. In its company are festival opener and Berlinale Grand Prix winner HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD (Kim Bo-ra); closer THE THIRD WIFE (Ash Mayfair), which received the 2018 TIFF NETPAC Award; and Yang Mingming’s GIRLS ALWAYS HAPPY. Also not to be missed is SONI, Ivan Ayr’s narrative drama about the alliance between two policewomen in New Delhi.


Additionally, we’re excited to show three documentaries helmed by women directors: Nadia Shihab’s JADDOLAND, which examines the intersections between her hometown of Lubbock, TX, and her family’s homeland, Iraq; Laura Asherman’s profile of stand-up comedian Tushar Singh, AMERICAN HASI; and Deann Liem’s profile of four transnational Korean adoptees, GEOGRAPHIES OF KINSHIP.

Finally, the Lone Star State shines in three screenings with a Texas connection. The aforementioned JADDOLAND, as well as Tim Tsai’s SEADRIFT (both of which took home LA Asian Pacific Film Festival Jury Awards), comprise our Texas Documentary Showcase on Friday. On the festival’s final day, UT Arlington Film alumnus Jay Chern visits from Taiwan for the screening of his narrative drama OMOTENASHI.

Girls Always Happy

Following a year-and-a-half-long hiatus, AAAFF returns to the AFS Cinema (6406 N I-35, Suite 3100, Austin, TX 78752) in its new summer time slot, June 13-16, 2019. Festival badges ($75), film passes ($50), and student film passes ($40) are available for purchase at aaafilmfest.org/attend. Single tickets will go on sale in early June.

AAAFF 2019 Feature Lineup

*Filmmaker Q&A expected

Opening: HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD (Thu. 6/13, 7:30pm)
South Korea | Drama, Coming of Age | 2018

Eun-hee, a lonely 14-year-old in 1994 Seoul, is struggling. Her family ignores her brother’s abuse towards her, her romantic relationships are complicated and fleeting, and a looming surgery could have severe side effects. Amidst the tangled mess that is being a teenager, Eun-hee creates a connection with her new teacher, who attempts to bring some clarity to life’s hurdles. A translucent and soft character study, HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD is a complex yet delicate debut from director Kim Bo-ra.


SEADRIFT* (Fri. 6/14, 6:00 PM)
US | Documentary | 2019

In the 1970s, the town of Seadrift, TX becomes home to Vietnamese seeking shelter from their war-torn homeland. They soon join Seadrift’s commercial fishing industry, clashing with long-established residents over territorial water rights. Tensions comes to a head in 1979 when Sau Van Nguyen shoots and kills Billy Joe Aplin. As hostilities against the Vietnamese grow to the point of attracting the attention of the KKK, the residents of Seadrift must reconcile their way of life with the multitude of outside forces.

JADDOLAND* (Fri. 6/14, 8:20 PM)
US | Documentary | 2018

Filmmaker Nadia Shihab visits her hometown of Lubbock, TX, playfully observing the city’s quirks and questioning how her own experiences connect with her family’s homeland of Iraq. She meditates on cross-cultural effects by affectionately portrays the isolation of her artist mother, the homesickness of her grandfather, and the discovery of her complex identity. What may be oversimplified as assimilation, JADDOLAND presents as a quietly profound and complex perspective on the concept of home for immigrant generations.

CHINESE PORTRAIT (Sat. 6/15, 12:40 PM)
China | Documentary, Experimental | 2018

In this quietly radical documentary, acclaimed director Wang Xiaoshuai (BEIJING BICYCLE) captures China’s rapid transformation through a series of carefully-composed long takes, shot over the course of ten years and exploring many regions of China and its diverse population—from fishermen to students, office workers to traditional musicians. Contemplative, subtle, and immersive, CHINESE PORTRAIT is a visually striking film that offers viewers an intimate window into Wang’s singular perspective of contemporary China.

American Hasi

AMERICAN HASI* (Sat. 6/15, 2:45 PM)
US, India | Documentary, Comedy | 2018

After losing his day job, comedian Tushar Singh decides to pursue stand-up comedy full-time. Singh maps out a 35-day tour of India, taking part in India’s flourishing stand-up scene and drawing on his unique perspective as the son of conservative Hindu parents in Huntsville, Alabama. Balancing humor with the struggle for success and self-discovery, AMERICAN HASI is a funny yet emotional portrait of a comedian at the crossroads of his life and career.

Centerpiece: EMPTY BY DESIGN* (Sat. 6/15, 5:30 PM)
+ extended conversation w/cast & crew
US, Philippines | Drama | 2019

Samantha (Rhian Ramos), a mixed-race woman asked to return to the Philippines after her parents’ passing, crosses paths with Eric (Osric Chau), a stuntman whose work brings him back to Manila after years in the US. They recognize each other from school and begin to reconnect in this confident drama that explores what it feels like to be lost as a young adult, torn between multiple countries and lives.

GIRLS ALWAYS HAPPY (Sat. 6/15, 8:45 PM)
China | Comedy, Drama | 2018

Struggling young screenwriter Wu (writer/director/star Yang Mingming) depends on the largesse of her boyfriend, a middle-aged film professor, to support herself and her aging mother (Nai An); the mother, for her part, pins her hopes on the yet-to-be-written will of Wu’s ailing grandfather. Yang’s witty feature debut explores a mother-daughter relationship that swings between affection and bitterness as they confront life’s indignities and disappointments.

Geographies of Kinship

South Korea, Switzerland, Sweden, US | Documentary | 2019

The reasons for transnational adoption of Korean children have been numerous and heartbreaking. The Korean War left many children orphaned, while some fathered by American soldiers were abandoned and excluded by a South Korean government-promoted ideology of racial purity. Each adoptee’s journey is different, but their stories all echo certain themes. GEOGRAPHIES OF KINSHIP introduces four of them, inviting us to feel the primal connection with a family and culture that each may have never encountered.

OMOTENASHI* (Sun. 6/16, 3:00 PM)
Japan, Taiwan | Drama | 2018

Jacky, a young Taiwanese American man, is sent by his father to oversee the renovation of a failing rural Japanese guesthouse. Initially inclined to demolish it, a confrontation with the inn’s co-manager Rika inspires Jacky to turn the guesthouse into a wedding venue, with his engaged ex-girlfriend Naoko as the first client. UT Arlington Film alumnus Jay Chern’s third feature interweaves multiple conflicts—between tradition and modernity, responsibility and regret, desire and love—into the story of one young man’s maturation.

SONI (Sun. 6/16, 5:40 PM)
India | Drama | 2018

Undercover policewoman Soni (Geetika Vidya Ohlyan) walks the streets of New Delhi at night, carrying out sting operations to catch men who would prey on local women. Her quick temper gets her demoted to another department, despite the sympathy of her supervisor Kalpana (Saloni Batra). Ivan Ayr’s expertly performed, visually sumptuous film combines incisive gender politics with the police procedural, producing one of the most acclaimed debuts in recent Indian cinema.

The Third Wife

Closing: THE THIRD WIFE (Sun. 6/16, 8:15 PM)
Vietnam | Drama | 2018

In 19th-century Vietnam, 14-year-old May is married off to a wealthy landowner as the third wife. Observing of the social dynamics of her new family, it becomes clear to May that her worth is tied to a single overriding priority: she must birth a male heir. As illicit relationships become more clear and their consequences more tragic, May must choose between living true to her newfound self or risking her place in the only family she has.


The mission of the Austin Asian American Film Festival (AAAFF) is to tell Asian and Asian American stories via media arts and help Asian Americans explore opportunities in cinema.

AAAFF is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department and the Texas Commission on the Arts. More information can be found at www.aaafilmfest.org.

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