In spite of my sense of self-preservation, I write this entry as I am viewing screeners in a dark kitchen somewhere in Salt Lake City, Utah instead of the comforts of the Visual Communications offices in downtown L.A. Indeed, I am back to help organize another edition of the APA Filmmakers Experience Reception, an annual event that we put together along with other APA media arts organizations for filmmakers of Asian Pacific descent whose works have been selected into the Sundance or Slamdance Film Festivals. I’ve written extensively about my past adventures here in Utah, as well as my enduring ambivalence toward coming here in the dead of winter on film-related business. I’ll spare you the pain of rehashing all of that. Suffice it to say that with sheets of rain and hail falling down on Southern California and with my first glimpse of wet, sticky snow falling endlessly on Park City, my 2010 is starting on a note of gloom.
Coming back to the subject of “best-of” lists, I never did participate in my friend’s online poll of the most important Chinese films of the past decade. I just ran out of time. As it turns out, my feedback wasn’t really needed, judging by the responses of nearly 100 film buffs, critics, and scholars who answered the call (the poll results, by the way, can be found on the website of deGenerate Films — google the URL). Apparently, deGenerate Films wasn’t the only one conducting polls. The current edition of the Asia Pacific Arts online magazine if loaded with Top Ten lists for just about everything having to do with Asian Pacific arts and popular culture. Look it up — I stopped counting once I got to eight. And everyone ranging from the folks at Giant Robot Magazine to media watchdog Guy Aoki have come up with end-of-year or decade lists ranging from the very best, the absolute worst, and everything else in between.
Coming up with a list has been lurking in the back of my mind, as Visual Communications embarks on its 40th Anniversary year. Back in 1999, in anticipation of the organization’s 30th anniversary year, I attempted to compile a list of important films by Asian Pacific Americans. Me being me, however, I explored the creation of such a list from an entirely different perspective: not to recognize the best or even the most important, per se, but to identify those works that most influenced the development of Asian Pacific American cinema. Having made an initial list, I put it away and pretty much ignored it — until now.
Now, with four decades and thousands of cinematic works to consider, I’ve come back to the task of coming up with a list that will ultimately be published online for all to see, peruse, dissect, argue, whatever. Me, I thought it necessary to put the project away and continue to watch more films, the better to gain a sense of where this whole gamut of activity is taking us and what signposts, what significant directions or trends, we should be looking out for. To date, I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m confident that at the conclusion of this exercise that I’ll come up with a strong list of works and, even more importantly, an explanation for what I’ve done. But ahhh, the thought that goes into this — some days, my head hurts. More thoughts on this later.
This short trip to the Sundance and Slamdance Film Festival is part of my annual winter trek to cold-weather film festivals; in a couple of weeks I travel across the waters to attend the European Film Market and Berlinale, a trip I find infinitely more rewarding and worthwhile than heading to Park City. I’ll share my thoughts on what I find next month, after my duties in Utah are concluded and I’ve cleared out!