Jun Kim (second from right) steals scenes in West 32nd.
Every fall, the Reel Asian Film Festival shows moviegoers just how diverse Asian cinema has become.
This year's lineup includes a horror version of a Grimm's fairy tale from South Korea (Hansel And Gretel), a clever deconstruction of Asian identity (Confessions Of A Salesman) and a spotlight on pioneering Canadian video artist Paul Wong.
One of the most anticipated features is Michael Kang's West 32nd (Saturday, November 15, 8:15 pm; Rating: NNN). This is a huge stylistic leap forward from Kang's charming first feature, The Motel, which opened Reel Asian in 2005 and can be found on DVD. Set in the exclusive clubs of New York's Koreatown, it's about an ambitious Korean-American lawyer (John Cho, from the Harold And Kumar movies) who gets in way over his head when he agrees to take on a Korean gang murder case.
Kang expertly weaves his camera through the labyrinthine hallways of his K-town venues, capturing corruption and crime with head-on fearlessness. There are some strange omissions - we never meet the accused, for one thing - but Kang wrests maximum punch from an obviously limited budget. Ironically, he gets a great performance not from Cho or from Battlestar Galactica's Grace Park (as the accused's sister), but from Jun Kim as a magnetic hood trying to work his way up the gangster chain of command.
If, like me, you have a love-hate relationship with the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Flower Drum Song, you'll adore Long Story Short (Saturday, November 15, 3:45 pm; Rating: NNNN), Christine Choy's documentary about one unforgettable Asian-American show business family whose lives touch on that historic show.
Larry and Trudie Long (hence the title) carved out careers in the 1940s and 50s as performers working the Chinatown nightclub circuit. They even appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in a segment that was revolutionary for its time. When Larry is fired from the Broadway production of Flower Drum Song, he becomes disillusioned with the industry. Forty years later, his daughter Jodi appears in the Broadway remount.
Using incredible archival footage and exploring subjects like the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, Long Story Short is necessary viewing for anyone interested in North American Asians trying to find work in the performing arts, something that's still a struggle today.