ASHLAND, OREGON — The Ashland Independent Film Festival (AIFF) announces the first of five tracks that will be the focus of films featured in its 2020 festival from April 16-20 in the idyllic arts town of Ashland, Oregon. The full program will be announced on March 24.
- Exclusive preview screening of new PBS documentary series Asian Americans
- World premiere of Fanny: The Right to Rock
- Post-screening performance by Fanny including original band members
- Asian Americans PBS producer Renee Tajima-Peña to receive Rogue Award
- Selection of new independent Asian-American features and shorts
Now in its 19th year, AIFF2020 will celebrate the rise of Asian-American independent filmmaking with an exclusive preview screening from the upcoming PBS documentary series Asian Americans, produced by AIFF2020 Rogue Award recipient Renee Tajima-Peña, and the world premiere screening of Fanny: The Right to Rock!, the untold story of the influential 1960s Filipina-American band who were one of the first all-female rock groups to achieve critical and commercial success.
AIFF2020 will also feature a special panel of Asian-American independent filmmakers produced in conjunction with the Center for Asian American Media and include a mix of Asian-American documentary and narrative features including Down a Dark Stairwell, My America… or Honk If You Love Buddha, Who Killed Vincent Chin?, Happy Cleaners and Take Out Girl.
Rogue Award to Renee Tajima-Peña
The festival’s focus on Asian-American filmmakers was inspired by a convergence of advances in Asian and Asian-American cinema, including the triumph of Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite at this year’s Academy Awards —plus a long-time friendship between AIFF artistic and executive director Richard Herskowitz and critically-acclaimed filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña. Herskowitz invited Tajima-Peña to Cornell University to present her documentary debut, the classic Who Killed Vincent Chin?, in 1987. Tajima-Peña is the series producer of Asian Americans, a five-part PBS documentary series premiering in May that traces the epic story of the fastest growing population in the United States, Asian-Americans.
At this year’s festival, Tajima-Peña will receive the Rogue Award given annually to independent filmmakers producing work that is of lasting significance and current relevance. She will preview episode 5 of Asian Americans: Breaking Through, which takes the audience through the tumultuous years surrounding the new millennium. Tajima-Peña will also present both Who Killed Vincent Chin?, her Academy Award-nominated documentary co-directed with Christine Choy exploring the racial fears in Detroit that led to Chin’s murder, and My America...or Honk if You Love Buddha (1997), a rollicking ride across the changing terrain of American culture, in which she seeks out what it means to be Asian-American in our rapidly changing society. Finally at Ashland ScienceWorks, she will present the innovative installation produced with her teenage son, Building History 3.0, which adapts the Minecraft video game to teach kids about the history of the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War Two.
“In light of multiple recent milestones, it became clear that a major new moment in Asian-American cinema is happening now, and we are inspired to celebrate it this year,” shares Herkowitz. “Then, as if by movie magic, we secured the opportunity to host the world premiere screening of Bobbi Jo Hart’s anticipated documentary FANNY: The Right to Rock about the Filipino-American group celebrated as the ‘godmothers of chick rock’.”
World premiere of FANNY: The Right to Rock
AIFF2020 will host the world-premiere of FANNY: The Right to Rock, a fast-paced film following the fifty-year reunion of the all-female Filipino-American band Fanny who could count legends like David Bowie and Bonnie Raitt among their biggest fans. Fanny blasted glass ceilings of racism and sexism back in the 1960s and ‘70s, with lesbian bandmates told they either hide their LBGTQ identity or leave the band. The film features rare performance footage and celebrity interviews with Raitt, Todd Rundgren, the B52's Kate Pierson and Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian to Def Leppard's Joe Elliott, the Go Go's Kathy Valentine, David Bowie's guitarist Earl Slick, Alannah Myles, Charles Neville and Steely Dan's Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, It was directed by Bobbi Jo Hart (Rebels on Pointe), a Montreal-based director returning to Ashland, where she earned her college degree at Southern Oregon College.
The screening of FANNY: The Right to Rock on April 18 will be accompanied by director Bobbi Jo Hart and the band Fanny, who will perform live on stage following the screening,
More Featured Asian-American Films
Down a Dark Stairwell (D: Ursula Liang) is a film set in motion by a tragic police-involved shooting. Two communities of color navigate fraught perceptions of injustice, inequality, and discrimination in the eyes of the law. When a Chinese American police officer kills an unarmed black man in a darkened stairwell of a New York City housing project, it sets off a firestorm of emotion and fractured calls for justice.
Take Out Girl (D: Hisonni Johnson) is about a desperate 20-year-old Asian American girl economically trapped in a crime-ridden, gang-infested LA neighborhood. Inspired by a true story, she parlays food delivery expertise from her family’s Chinese restaurant into a profitable hustle for a local drug lord with a dream of moving her family business to start a new life in the burbs. The film’s African American director created the film with Asian American writers, producers, and actors, and a soundtrack comprised entirely of Asian American hip hop artists including hip hop sensations Raja Kumari and $tupid Young.
Happy Cleaners (D; Julian Kim and Peter S. Lee) is a film about the Korean American Choi Family living and surviving in Flushing, Queens. It observes their day-to-day lives as they navigate through their respective struggles, cultural clashes, and inner angst, all while trying to keep the family dry cleaning business afloat.
Coby and Stephen Are In Love (Carlo Nasisse, Luka Yuanyuan Yang) This 30-minute film follows Coby Yee, a 92 year old retired nightclub dancer and icon from San Francisco Chinatown, and Stephen King, an experimental filmmaker 20 years her junior, who have found an unlikely love in each other through matching outfits, dance, and art. As their last dance performance in Las Vegas approaches, Coby and Stephen prepare a final routine.
ABOUT ASHLAND INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL
The Ashland Independent Film Festival screens 100-plus independent documentary, narrative, animation, and short films at the Varsity Theatre, the Historic Ashland Armory, the Ashland Street Cinema and the new AIFF Film Center. Famous for offering attendees direct access to filmmakers and for giving filmmakers a warm and intelligent reception, the Ashland Independent Film Festival was named by MovieMaker Magazine one of the “Top 25 Coolest Festivals in the World” and “Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee”. The National Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the National Endowment for the Arts have each awarded AIFF with rare festival support grants.