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Asian American Jazz Festival

In A&E on October 22, 2009 at 12:06 am

Screen shot 2009-10-21 at 2.35.49 AM

Music. Jazz artists. Asian Americans. Say what? For the first time in Los Angeles, the Asian American Jazz Festival will celebrate the world premier of creative and artistic achievements of Asian American and Asian jazz artists.

From October 30th to November 1st, the three-day festival will feature Japanese pianist Hiromi, Filipino singers Charmaine Clamor and Mon David, and popular Korean band, Prelude. Sixteen Asian American and American artists will perform at Café Metropol on Friday and Saturday. The main event will be held at the Democracy Form amphitheater at the Japanese American National Museum on Sunday, the first of November. Tickets range from $20 to $100 and are available for online purchase. Support the community, creativity and culture: http://www.asianamericanjazzfestival.com/ticketing.html.

Asian Americans have been performing jazz music since its beginning, but the distinct Asian American jazz sound developed in the latter half of the 20th century. Hybrid music of Asian American jazz derived from combining jazz with ancestral experiences, cultural relevance and Asian instruments. From 1981 to 2006, the San Francisco Asian American Jazz Festival promoted the musical movement; likewise, the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival created a forum for artists to showcase their talents.

by: Malina Tran

“ANIME!” High Art – Pop Culture Visual Tour

In A&E on August 27, 2009 at 3:28 am

This past weekend I went with a couple of friends to visit the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to see their exhibition on Japanese comics and animation.

According to their description: “This electrifying traveling exhibition explores the history, aesthetics and production of Japanese animation from its earliest beginnings up through the cinematic successes and popular heroes of the late 1970s serials, and on to the current computer and video game manifestations of this cultural phenomenon. “ANIME!” illustrates the fascination of anime and its dramatic and often breathtaking, visual language. On view are rare collectors’ items and artwork that has seldom been seen outside of Japan.”

And here, for your viewing pleasure, some pictures:

One of Miyazaki's original sketches of Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind

One of Miyazaki's original sketches of Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind

A cell from Princess Mononoke, one of my favorite films by Miyazaki. This is Prince Ashitaka.

A cell from Princess Mononoke, one of my favorite films by Miyazaki. This is Prince Ashitaka.

Some Princess Mononoke figurines that probably cost an arm and a leg.

Some Princess Mononoke figurines that probably cost an arm and a leg.

Astro-Boy! All the way from the '60s.

Astro-Boy! All the way from the '60s.

Don't tell Disney, but they hold the real keys to the magic kingdom.

Don't tell Disney, but they hold the real keys to the magic kingdom.

A cell from the beloved My Neighbor Totoro.

A cell from the beloved My Neighbor Totoro.

Who doesn't love the cat bus?

Who doesn't love the cat bus?

Diane with her favorite anime, Ranma 1/2.

Diane with her favorite anime, Ranma 1/2.

Original sketch of Ichigo from Bleach.

Original sketch of Ichigo from Bleach.

Welcome to my childhood.

Welcome to my childhood.

Neighborhood Story, prequel to Paradise Kiss

Neighborhood Story, prequel to Paradise Kiss

No anime exhibit is complete without a display of hentai, apparently.

No anime exhibit is complete without a hentai display apparently. Lily and Diane are more than happy to pose next to the sign.

Use your imagination.

Use your imagination.

Finito. Aren't they cute?

Finito. Aren't they cute?

-posted by Shirley Mak

Miyazaki Interview at Zellerbach Auditorium in Berkeley

In A&E on August 27, 2009 at 2:00 am

So I got to see Miyazaki do a rare in-person interview with Roland Kelts last month in Berkeley. I didn’t have the best of seats, but it was still a memorable experience nonetheless. I gotta say, I don’t know of any Japanese animator (or animator, period, other than maybe John Lasseter) who is as revered in the U.S. as Miyazaki is. The audience was hanging onto his every word.

A good part of the interview was devoted to Ponyo, his newest movie. Having seen it twice, I’d say go watch it, but it’s definitely more geared towards kids than most of his films are. I’m more into the dark and heavy stuff, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as other people did, but it’s still got that definitive Miyazaki spark.

Roland Kelts interviewing Hayao Miyazaki at Zellerbach Auditorium in Berkeley. Photo by ghibliworld.com

Roland Kelts interviewing Hayao Miyazaki at Zellerbach Auditorium in Berkeley. Photo by ghibliworld.com

Here are little bits and pieces of the on-stage conversation:

Kelts: Some of you might be a fan of what we in America call, in very broad terms – “anime,” or animation that comes from Japan. As many of you know, most anime films are based on manga series, or graphic novel series. And yet Miyazaki-san has more or less abandoned that approach and carved his own way by developing his own ideas and feature films. I’m wondering, what led to that?

Miyazaki: I think we can just enjoy manga by reading manga as they are. Of course if you animate it, you can perhaps add some features to the manga, but I think if you can avoid making animation through manga, it would be better.

Manga and film, or animation, have very different concepts of time and space, and unless you’re very aware of that, then the animation becomes very boring and uninteresting. In animation, we are very intent on showing that we have drawn this; that time and space flow as we have drawn the frames.

In the U.S., animation films tend to be storyboarded, and storyboards tend to be done by a group of artists. But I know that you do your own storyboards yourself. Do you think there’s an advantage to having a single artistic vision dominate a storyboard?

In Japan, it’s customary to have the director draw the storyboards. Occasionally there’s several people working on it – someone perhaps draws the storyboard and someone else films – but that’s not the usual method. In fact, there’s almost a condition to become a director, to be able to draw a storyboard. So if a person can’t draw a storyboard, then he might be thought of unnecessary to the production. (pause) That’s one way to think about it. (audience laughs)

I know you do a lot of thinking about a story to come up with the original idea for a new film. And I wonder, how do you know when you have the first illustration that you can develop into an entire feature length animation? What is it that tells you that you’ve got something and are ready to proceed?

Of course, depending on the film, it’s different. But it’s only when I’ve tried something that I realize I can’t go on this path anymore; that I can’t push this idea anymore. Then I have to abandon it and find something else that I think will work. It might be kind of a loser’s way of thinking about it, but I tell my staff that they have to really struggle and do something that’s kind of useless and impossible first and then maybe they’ll find something.

We want our characters to end up being happy in the film, but we can’t have that happen in an un-persuasive way. We have to satisfy the audience’s wishes and make them really believe that the characters have really done something to make themselves happy. So whether it’s through effort or by accident, we have to find the best ending – or the best ending might find us in some sort of mysterious way.

Has that process become any easier for you over the decades of work or has it become more difficult?

Each time I do a film I feel like I’ve just been able to get through it and I hope that people don’t find the weaknesses that show that I’ve just managed to get through it. (audience laughs) After a film is made, I don’t want to see it again. I try to forget about it as soon as possible.

With each Miyazaki film that’s come out, we’ve been told that this might be the last.

I told my wife when I was doing my second film – Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind – that I don’t want to go through this kind of pain anymore. So since I say this every time, for every film, it has become less persuasive over the years. I’ve been trying not to say this, at home at least.

Regarding this new crop of up and coming animators that you’re training at Ghibli now – in my experience, having recently written about the anime industry in Japan, one of the challenges that the industry faces today is finding and keeping young talent.

Actually, from the beginning of television and animation, it’s been very difficult to have enough animators to satisfy. Nowadays, we’re kind of avoiding the problem by sending out work to China and Korea, but the problem hasn’t been solved, nor have conditions improved. In our company, we are determined to keep drawing with pencils and rowing a bark among many high-speed boats. We promote the hypothesis, which has no basis at all, that we can actually keep going like this. At least we want to assure people’s wages and a place to work.

Can you explain for audience members who are perhaps accustomed to CGI or computer-generated animation what the virtues are of rowing your lonely boat amongst the speed boats? Why?

Since it involves a lot of drudgework to draw by human hand, we thought it might be simpler to have a computer draw or use computer graphics, so we hired a young person to do the computer drawing. But we realized that we could draw faster by hand than by the computer so I make it a matter of thinking that we should be more casual about drawing animation. I think we’re freer when we’re able to draw by hand – when the character is feeling very downtrodden, we can draw him very small. When the character is feeling very confident, we can draw his head bigger and make it show the feelings that he has. It’s difficult for computers to give this kind of feeling.

That’s all the transcribing I was able to do. For a full transcription by someone much more experienced, visit here

-posted by Shirley Mak

Preview: Interview with spoken word artist Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai

In A&E, Features, PacTies News on August 27, 2009 at 12:20 am

Last month, Pacific Ties had the opportunity to attend the 2009 Campus Progress National Conference in Washington D.C. In addition to listening to awesome speakers like Bill Clinton, Van Jones and Nancy Pelosi, we also got to experience an amazing performance given by Chinese-Taiwanese spoken-word artist, Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai.

Who is Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai? She’s only one of the best Asian-American spoken word artists on the East Coast! Here’s a short bio for those of you who don’t know:

Photo by Berman Fenelus

Photo by Berman Fenelus

Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai is a Chicago-born, Brooklyn-based, Chinese Taiwanese American spoken word artist who has performed her poetry at over 350 venues worldwide including three seasons on “Russell Simmons Presents HBO Def Poetry.” Winner of a 2007 New York Foundation for the Arts Urban Artist Initiative Award, she was listed as one of Idealist in NYC’s Top 40 New Yorkers Who Make Positive Social Change in 2008 and AngryAsianMan.com’s “30 Most Influential Asian Americans Under 30” in 2009. She has shared stages with Mos Def, KRS-One, Sonia Sanchez, Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, Amiri Baraka, and many more.

Pacific Ties recently had the honor of interviewing Kelly, who gave her thoughts and insights on her beginnings as a spoken word artist, what inspires her to speak out in the Asian-American community today, her take on Asian-Americans in the media, advice for up-and-coming artists such as herself, and much more.

Here’s a short preview of the interview, which will be featured in Pacific Ties’ Fall 2009 Issue. Make sure to check it out both online and in print!

Photo by Katie Piper

Photo by Katie Piper

Pacific Ties (PT): How did you first get into spoken word poetry?

Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai: I’ve always been into writing and performing ever since I was a little kid. I even found these stories I’d written in third or fourth grade at my parents’ house that were all about these little girls who wanted to become writers.

When I was in high school, I had a cool English teacher who was and still is really involved with the national grand poetry slam. The original poetry slam was a competition where you’d get six poets who would compete during the course of the evening; there would be five judges and then all the poets get scored from 0 – 10 (0 being like the worst thing you’ve ever heard and 10 being the most amazing thing you’ve ever heard). These competitions actually started in Chicago with Marc Kelly Smith who started running competitions in all these bars. My teacher would bring my friends and me there to see these poetry slams and I got into poetry slam very early on.

PT: What do you want audiences to get out of your poetry, particularly Asian-American audiences?

Kelly: I think in terms of Asian-Americans, it’s just way past due for us to speak out. Our community is so diverse – linguistically, culturally,  and in terms of our history and socioeconomic backgrounds. Our community is so diverse, and we need as many of our voices out there as possible. I hope that by articulating these things, by unpacking what’s going on in my every day life, it helps other people articulate what’s going on in their own lives. That’s definitely a big thing that I hope audiences get from my work. Another thing that I hope audiences get is just a pure emotional experience – whether it’s thinking about a place, person, or event in history.

How do you feel the performing arts and creating social change are connected, particularly in the Asian American community? Do you feel that there is a direct connection between spoken word and politics?

Kelly: I think there is naturally, inherently a connection. In any kind of art-making, you’re making a statement and you’re making the choice to speak out. Now whether or not artists decide to be conscious about the statement they’re making, I think is a different question… I think all art is inherently political, but I think what determines a political artist from a non-political artist, so to speak, is whether or not they’re conscious of that.

In the Asian-American community, it’s really interesting that at this point in time (and I think this will be rapidly changing over a couple of decades), if we don’t create artistic expression – if we don’t have the outlets and the venues that we build ourselves – we won’t have them in mainstream media. We definitely have a lot more than we did when I was a kid, but we’re still at the point where if we don’t make it, we don’t necessarily have it. In that way,  artistic representation and politics are connected in a lot of ways.

PT: Do you have any advice for young people looking to break into the same field as you?

Kelly: I think something unfortunate that I see right now is that I think a lot of people get really focused on the business side of arts and entertainment much too early… Sometimes I talk to different emerging artists and they’ll be worried about not fitting in, about not doing the current style, and trying to get an agent and this and that. And I’m like hold on a second; you haven’t even talked to me about your actual artwork yet. You’re talking about all this other stuff but what about the writing? Do you care about it? And it’s not even so much “Screw you if you don’t care about it” but “Do you care about it and is it doing something for you?” Is it giving you all that you can get from it? Because I believe that writing is one of the most liberatory things you can do in your life; as is expressing yourself. So let’s not forget that.

PT: What are your future plans? Any upcoming shows?

Kelly: I’m working on a bunch of stuff right now. I’m working on stuff for my tours in 2009-2010. I’m also working on a short film version of my poem “Real Women I Know,” which is going to have a huge, huge viral component. And I’m also working on my show, which is called “The Grieving Room” and deals with the different issues of grief and the difficulties of letting go, as well as the difficulties of not letting go and about how it’s important to honor your experiences and move on. I’m always working on a bunch of different projects, but those are the big ones.

Interested in spoken word poetry? Make sure to check out one of Kelly’s upcoming shows. If it’s anything like what we heard in D.C., it’s bound to be a blast:

Upcoming shows

August 30 – NYC-TV Ch. 25

September 140 Bellingham, WA

For more information, check out Kelly’s website: www.yellowgurl.com

-posted by Shirley Mak

Shepard Fairey’s political artwork of Burmese leader

In A&E, Politics on August 9, 2009 at 12:34 am

Picture 9An artistic feat, indeed.

Renown artist Shepard Fairey (famous for his Obama election “HOPE” posters and “Obey Giant”) released a poster of Burmese prime minister-elect and democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Nobel peace prize winner Suu Kyi remains under house arrest by the military junta; however, she is receiving wide international support of her freedom, human rights, and democracy in Burma.

Copies are available for distribution via download: http://obeygiant.com/ (not intended for sales merchandise or for-profit materials)

Tuesday Night Cafe: Art in the API community

In A&E, Culture on August 1, 2009 at 2:34 pm

tnkat_20090804
For more information on Tuesday Night Cafe series and other events hosted by TN KAT, visit their website at: http://www.tnkat.org/

Dalai Lama endorses book on peace

In A&E, Culture on July 30, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Inspired by a school mural of peacemakers, atist and poet Fereidun Shokatfard published the book “Colors of Love and Peace” with artwork and hopeful messages to children receiving treatment in hospitals. With the help of Shokatfard, the students of 186th Elementary in Gardena created an art-filled book promoting harmony, peace, and respect. In a cover image, the students are gathered around a photograph of the Dalai Lama, who is the Nobel Peace Prize winner and spiritual leader of Tibet.

Shokatfard sent an outline of the book’s artwork to the Dalai Lama, who heads Tibet’s government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India in hopes of the Dalai Lama writing a foreword. To the surprise of the artist and students, the Dalai Lama wrote a forward endorsing the book.

“I am impressed by this gathering together of their colorful paintings and messages to encourage children receiving treatment in hospital,” he wrote. “It’s a bright, cheerful and practical expression of concern for others. What better example for all of us could there be?”  

According to school principal Marcia Sidney-Reed, about 5,000 copies of the book have been printed. Half of the copies will be donated to children’s hospitals; the other half will be sold with most of the proceeds from the sales going to charity. The book comes with a CD of songs from the International Children’s Choir of Long Beach.

Oldboy director gets a little bloodier

In A&E on July 23, 2009 at 6:11 pm

Nothing personal against Korean cinema (quite the contrary), but when I think Korean movies,  my mind immediately goes to titles such as The Classic (along the lines of The Notebook, but more memorable, in my humble opinion) and the smash-hit rom-com My Sassy Girl (whose American adaptation, predictably enough, failed to achieve the same success).

Yes, they do horror as well (A Tale of Two Sisters ring a bell?), but with about 80% of my female friends (and a couple male) having seen at least one Korean drama, I can’t help but associate ‘love story’ with most Korean entertainment.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I found out that one of Korea’s most talented directors (albeit not for love stories), Chan-wook Park, has a new film out – featuring none other than a priest who becomes a vampire. A Korean vampire flick that’s about as far from the Twilight saga as you can get — how could I possibly resist?

thirst-poster

Bite me, Twilight - here's how real vampires are supposed to behave.

Thirst, Park’s latest cinematic thrill ride, seems to have the same creepy vibe as his previous masterpieces Oldboy (please stay away from this as well, Hollywood) and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, but promises to be unique as well. Knowing the director’s not-so-opaque style, it’s bound to have some bone-chilling moments coupled with humorous intent.

The synopsis, borrowed from ropeofsilicon.com:

Sang-hyun, a priest who believes that life is precious, volunteers for a secret vaccine development project to help save lives from a deadly virus. But during the experiment, he is infected by the virus and dies. When some unidentified blood is transfused into him, he miraculously comes back to life, but the blood has turned him into a vampire. Sang-hyun is now conflicted between the carnal desire for blood and his faith, which forbids him to kill. But if he cannot survive without feasting on human blood, how can he get it without resorting to murder?

I for one can’t wait until it’s released in the U.S.

Watch the trailer

-posted by Shirley Mak

Miyazaki makes rare U.S. appearance

In A&E, NEWSPRINT on July 23, 2009 at 12:02 am

Anime fans have cause to rejoice – revered animator and living legend Hayao Miyazaki is making a rare U.S. appearance this Saturday at the Zellerbach Auditorium in UC Berkeley.

The event involves a conversation with Roland Kelts (Tokyo University lecturer and author of Japanamerica – a book I conveniently happen to own due to my Global Studies 1 class) and a Q&A with Miyazaki afterwards.

Tickets have long been sold out, but luckily I managed to grab one off the internet weeks ago and will hopefully have some updates post-Saturday.

Miyazaki is also slated to make an appearance at the 2009 Comic Con in San Diego on Friday (two different U.S. appearances over the span of only two days? The man is a powerhouse!). He will be featured in a panel hosted by John Lasseter, vice-president of Pixar and a close friend of Miyazaki’s, along with a couple other Disney representatives.

Miyazaki is famous for Academy award-winning Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and the Oscar-nominated Howl's Moving Castle. His newest movie, Ponyo on the Cliff By the Sea, is hitting U.S. theaters Aug. 14. Among creating other masterpieces, Miyazaki is famous for the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and the Oscar-nominated Howl’s Moving Castle. His newest movie, Ponyo on the Cliff By the Sea, hits U.S. theaters Aug. 14.

-posted by Shirley Mak

Source

More info on Comic-Con line-up

Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Winners

In A&E on May 8, 2009 at 2:32 am

Tonight I attended the closing night of the 25th annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival to watch Departures. The movie was so beautiful and moving (so many tears!), but I’ll talk more about that later. I first want to recognize and announce the winners of this year’s festival!

Short Film

2009 Festival Golden Reel Award: The Green Mountain in the Drawer

Linda Mabalot New Directors/New Visions: Wet Season

Non-Fiction Film

Special Jury Award-Non Fiction: The Real Shaolin

Grand Jury Prize-Non Fiction: Whatever It takes

Fiction

New Talent to Watch in Acting:

Michael Chen and Crystal Chiu in Children of Invention

Hee Yeon Kim and Song Hee Kim in Treeless Mountain

Justin Kwong in White on Rice

Outstanding Screenplay: David Boyle/Joel Clark for White on Rice

Outstanding First Film: All About Dad, Director Mark Tran

Outstanding Achievement in Directing: So Yong Kim for Treeless Mountain

Grand Jury Award for Best-Feature Length Narrative: Children of Invention, Tze Chun

Posted by Evelina Giang, who  heardamazing things about Children of Invention, but couldn’t catch it opening night. She hopes there’ll be another screening around here soon!