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Asian Film Fest

Exploring a wide-range of themes in Lakewood

Laotian film The Rocket is one of five being screened for the Lakewood Asian Film Festival. Photo credit:

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For as large an Asian-American population as the South Sound has, it's notable that there aren't more festivals that celebrate that heritage. Fortunately, the Lakewood Asian Film Festival, now entering its fourth year, is working to remedy that. This year, the festival will be screening five movies over the course of three days, featuring works from Laos, China, India, Vietnam, and the Mongolia-filmed, Thailand-set Anna and the King.

On July 30, the Lakewood Asian Film Festival will kick off with the critically acclaimed The Rocket. Though it was an Australian production, The Rocket was filmed entirely in Laos, with all the characters speaking Laotian. The story concerns a boy who everyone thinks is cursed with bad luck, trying to prove them wrong by competing in the exceedingly dangerous Rocket Festival. Though he may encounter more problems with his choice in material for creating his rocket: undetonated American bombs. The Rocket won several awards on the festival circuit, earning praise for being a family entertainment that doesn't descend into the overly sentimental.

Also opening the festival will be the French-Chinese production Wolf Totem, which was greeted with accolades following its 2015 release, largely being praised for its accomplished visuals and visceral storytelling. Based on the 2004 novel of the same name, Wolf Totem explores a Chinese student who ventures to Mongolia to teach shepherds, and instead learns from them.

English Vinglish continues the festival the next day. The Indian dramedy follows Shashi Godbole, a housewife who constantly gets mocked for her poor English, and travels to New York for a relative's wedding, where she learns the value of self-worth in the face of ridicule. Later that day, Anna and the King of Siam's loose 1999 adaptation - shortened to Anna and the King - will be screened. The historical drama stars Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat.

While most of the films playing during the festival are fine for the whole family, the closing film is strictly for adults. The Lover, set in Indochina in the ‘20s, is an erotic drama centered around a secret affair between a young French girl and an older Chinese man. While the film was originally received with mixed reviews upon its release in 1992, The Lover has found a bit of an audience in the intervening years, thanks in part to its period setting and its unorthodox depiction of sexuality.

In addition to the five films being shown, the Lakewood Asian Film Festival will also feature discussions and will be displaying two art exhibits: "Saigon 67," a series of photos from former combat photographer Ed Kane, and an exhibit from ArtsFest highlighting Philippine Scouts from WWII and the Spanish-American War.

Lakewood Asian Film Festival, 2 p.m. & 7 p.m., Sat-Sun, July 30-31; 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 1, Lakewood Elks, 6313 75th St. W., Lakewood, free, 253.861.1366

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