Pittsburgh's Silk Screen Asian American Film Festival returns for its eighth year. Beginning Sat., May 11, and running for nine days, the festival will present 31 films, mostly recent features from the Far East and Southeast Asia, as well as the United States and the Middle East.
The festival kicks off this Saturday with a number of screenings, including the opening feature, Midnight's Children, Deepa Mehta's adaptation of the award-winning Salman Rushdie novel (4:30 p.m. Regent Square; $20).
Films screen at: Regent Square (1035 S. Braddock Ave., Edgewood); the Melwood Screening Room and Classroom (477 Melwood Ave., North Oakland); and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Earth Theater (portal entrance, Oakland).
Tickets for regular screenings are $10. For the complete schedule, and to purchase tickets online, see www.silkscreenfestival.org. Below are reviews for some of the festival's offerings.
VALLEY OF SAINTS. Musa Syeed's gentle dramedy takes place at Dal Lake, in Kashmir, where a young man named Gulzar operates a water taxi and dreams of leaving the troubled region. But an encounter with a visiting researcher, stranded at the lake during a week of curfew, causes Gulzar to reassess his place in the world. The film is a rare chance to see this scenic area, home to colorful boats and lotus flowers, but also imperiled by careless development and pollution. In Kashmiri, with subtitles. Noon, Sat., May 11, and 3 p.m. Sun., May 19. Carnegie
NIGHTMARE. A young man is having nightmares and seeing ghosts, so he and his psychologist girlfriend journey to the rural village of his childhood. Something bad happened there, and perhaps it's repressed memories that are now trying to surface. Herman Yau's psychological thriller owes a debt to such Freudian classics as Spellbound, but it's more moody and existential: The harder one searches for the truth in memory, the more unknowable it can become. In Mandarin, with subtitles. 5:30 p.m. Sat., May 11, and 6 p.m. Fri., May 17. Melwood Classroom
KEY OF LIFE. In this Japanese comedy (with a dash of romance and crime thriller added), a struggling actor assumes the identity of a sophisticated hitman after the latter suffers a bout of amnesia. Kenji Uchida's film has fun tweaking the concept of identity, and what it means to play roles in everyday life. The rather lazy actor has trouble selling himself as a gangster, while the meticulous and organized hitman finds success as a cheesy actor. The switcheroo is further complicated by a lonely woman who falls for the hitman-turned-actor, and a crime syndicate angry about some unsettled business. In Japanese, with subtitles. 8 p.m. Sat., May 11, and 2 p.m. Fri., May 17. Melwood
HEADSHOT. The existential trials of a cop-turned-hitman are examined in this non-linear film from Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn how he turned to killing (is evil an inherent human trait?), and watch as he struggles with the consequences, both spiritual (three times, he dons monk's robes) and physical (a gunshot has turned his vision upside down). The film is slow — and occasionally confusing — with bursts of violence and plenty to meditate on. In Thai, with subtitles. 5:45 p.m. Sun., May 12, and 5:30 p.m. Fri., May 17. Melwood
THE THIEVES. Choi Dong-hoon's heist film was a gigantic hit in South Korea, and who doesn't like a twisty crime caper with a huge cast of pretty people, exotic locales and kicky stuntwork? Two criminal gangs join forces to rob a reputedly impenetrable casino in Macau, but the execution is imperiled by personal dramas (there's love and hate among the crew), secret agendas, people pretending to be somebody else and plot twists galore. This Ocean's Eleven-style feature is nothing but good fun for us, though. In Korean, with subtitles. 8:30 p.m. Tue., May 14, and 8:15 p.m. Fri., May 17. Regent Square