45th Asian American International Film Festival Announces “FREE CHOL SOO LEE” as Opening Film and “YUNI” for Centerpiece Presentation

45th Asian American International Film Festival Announces “FREE CHOL SOO LEE” as Opening Film and “YUNI” for Centerpiece Presentation

45th Asian American International Film Festival Announces
“FREE CHOL SOO LEE” as Opening Film and “YUNI” for Centerpiece Presentation

Exclusive In-Person Screening and Reception with Safety Protocols, Early Bird Gold and Cine Pass on Sale on July 11

July 7, 2022, NEW YORK – The 45th Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF45) will take place from Aug. 3 – 13, and combines in-person screenings and events with online programs to make an exciting hybrid festival. The festival will kick off on Aug. 3 with an exclusive in-person screening of its Opening Night film FREE CHOL SOO LEE, directed by Julie Ha and Eugene Yi, at the Asia Society and Museum, with a reception to follow.

FREE CHOL SOO LEE is a documentary which excavates the essential story of 1970s San Francisco, when 20-year-old Korean immigrant Chol Soo Lee is racially profiled and convicted of a Chinatown gang murder. Sentenced to life, he spends years fighting to survive until investigative journalist K.W. Lee takes interest in his case, igniting an unprecedented social justice movement that would unite Asian Americans and inspire a new generation of activists.

“This film uplifts our deeper purpose of this year’s festival: to bring stories that may have been lost in history to shed light on how to move forward collectively. Bringing Chol Soo Lee’s story back to public attention decades later serves as an homage to the social justice movements that have shaped where we are and adds another layer of history to how we might approach today’s rise in anti-Asian violence and injustices. Through the film, we are forced to witness a system that favors the few instead of the many that existed in 1973, while witnessing its continuation in 2022,” said Festival Director Kayla Wong.

The film also asks audiences to consider what being an Asian American might mean today. In a conversation with the directors (MUBI, 2022), Eugene Yi discusses his hope that the film will provoke the Asian American community to reflect on questions like, “Who gets included in the term Asian American, who gets forgotten? What issues does one find Asian Americans embracing? Why does the issue of criminal justice reform intersect with Asian American politics less frequently than questions of, say, school admissions? Should that be the case?”

The Festival will also host the New York City premiere of Kamila Andini’s YUNI as its Centerpiece film. The screening will be held at 7:30 PM at the Asia Society and Museum on August 6, with a reception to follow. The film, which was Indonesia’s entry for the 2022 Academy Awards and also earned the Toronto International Film Festival 2021 – PLATFORM PRIZE, tells the story of Yuni, a smart, teenage girl with big dreams of attending university. After two marriage proposals, she sparks gossip about a myth that a woman who rejects three proposals will never marry. Yuni must choose between the myth of a final chance at marriage, or her dream of future happiness.

As demonstrated by its programs, AAIFF continues to honor and support the community of Asian American and Pacific Islander filmmakers and their stories by bringing communities together, motivating civic engagement, and activating change:

“AAIFF45 marks an important milestone anniversary. ACV prides itself in a legacy rooted in championing the voices of Asian diaspora artists. This year’s festival continues to celebrate the collective Asian American and Pacific Islander identity by reflecting on ACV’s achievements since 1977!” said Associate Director Eunice Chen.

The 45th Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF45), presented by Citi, and a production of Asian CineVision (ACV) in association with Asia Society, announces its Closing Night, Special Presentations, and Media Award Recipient. The AAIFF45 Closing Night honors New York City’s Chinatown and nods to ACV’s roots with its “Chinatown Beat” programming.

Each film in this block is directed by an ACV alum filmmaker. The block includes the New York premiere of Curtis Chin’s new documentary film, DEAR CORKY, which honors the legacy of ACV pioneer and community activist, Corky Lee who documented the APA community for over 50 years, the New York premiere of Patrick Chen’s short film, A FATHER’S SON, a narrative tribute to the people and stories of NYC Chinatown, starring Tzi Ma and Ronny Chieng, and a screening of the groundbreaking documentary about AAPI activism in the 1970s, FROM SPIKES TO SPINDLES, by Christine Choy — one of ACV’s founders.

AAIFF45 also honors Jean Tsien, a veteran documentary editor, executive producer, and story consultant who has been working in documentary film for 40 years. Her notable editing credits include: the 2001 Academy Award nominated film, SCOTTSBORO: AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY; three Peabody Award-winning films: MALCOLM X: MAKE IT PLAIN, TRAVIS, and SOLAR MAMAS; and the 2020 Primetime EMMY winner for Outstanding Documentary, THE APOLLO.

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Most recently, she was editor and producer of AAIFF45’s Opening Night film, FREE CHOL SOO LEE, and producer of HIDDEN LETTERS, which premiered at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. She is also a member of American Cinema Editors and a Governor of the Documentary Branch of the

Academy. For her courageous, visionary work, she is this year’s recipient of The Asian American Media Award.

Since its start, AAIFF has played an important role in screening innovative cinema, encouraging socially conscious storytelling, and honoring APA independent artists. Honoring the Festival’s 45th Anniversary, AAIFF45 features special presentation retrospective screenings with Third World Newsreel of THE CHINATOWN FILES, HERE TO STAY, and FRECKLED RICE, and co-presents an outdoor screening of MAN PUSH CART on August 11 with the Museum of the City of New York.

Rounding out the special presentations is the “Selective Memory Has No Bounds: Yes, Martial Law Did Actually Happen” program, guest-curated by visual and media artist, educator, and curator Angel Velasco Shaw. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of martial law and the program includes two documentary films to educate and remind global citizens of this dark era in Philippine history.

As a longtime collaborator of Asian CineVision (ACV), Shaw reflects on her association with ACV: “AAIFF played a big role in raising my consciousness about racial and ethnic-based identity issues. Self-identification as an Asian American artist, filmmaker, and cultural activist became the greatest source of power from which I create from.

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Over the 37 years of working with ACV, AAIFF has continued to nurture and showcase talent from diverse Asian American independent filmmakers, actors, and producers generation after generation.”

Early Bird Presale — up to 65% off — for Online All-Access Passes, Cine Passes and Gold Passes are currently on sale at https://www.aaiff.org/ticketing for $45, $65 and $150 respectively through July 20.

Full line-up announcement will be on July 20th at AAIFF45’s launch party.

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Link to RSVP to the launch party https://aaiff45launchparty.splashthat.com/.

About the Asian American International Film Festival

The Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) is proudly known as “The First Home to Asian American Cinema.” Organized by Asian CineVision, it’s the first and longest-running festival dedicated to showcasing the moving image work by media artists of Asian descent for and about the Asian diaspora experience. The Festival takes place in New York City, the second-largest Asian-American market in the U.S. Every year, AAIFF attracts audiences from all five boroughs of New York City, the tri-state region, and around the world.

About Asian CineVision

Asian CineVision (ACV) is a media arts nonprofit devoted to the development, exhibition, promotion, and preservation of Asian and Asian American experiences through storytelling. Our mission is to nurture and grow the community of makers and lovers of Asian and Asian American independent film, television, and digital.

Films submitted and screened at the festival are eligible to participate in our National Tour program, bringing Asian diaspora stories to broader audiences across North America through a rental service for cultural and educational institutions.

Thank You

The 45th Asian American International Film Festival is made possible with support from Citibank, N.A., LIFEWTR, Asia Society, Mayor’s Office Of Media And Entertainment, The Corky Lee Photographic Justice Exhibit Organizing Committee, OCA, SAG-AFTRA, Tamiment-Wagner Collections, NYU Special Collections, Final Draft, Chowbus, and the many friends of ACV.

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