Silk Screen Film Festival | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Silk Screen Film Festival

After its auspicious debut last year, Pittsburgh's Silk Screen Film festival returns.

Beginning Fri., May 11, and running through Sun., May 20, the festival will present 20 films, from North America, the Far East, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, representing the diversity of Asian and Asian-American experiences.

Once again, the event kicks off with a Red Carpet Gala (7:30 p.m.-midnight, Sat., May 12; 121 Seventh St., sixth floor) which will offer live dance and music performances, and food from local Asian restaurants; tickets are $60.

New this year under the aegis of the festival are three concerts highlighting the music of India, Japan and China, to be held at the Carnegie Lecture Hall (4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland). On Sun., May 13, tabla artist Suphala performs; koto musician Masayo Ishigure plays on Thu., May 17; and the ensemble Melody of Dragon performs Chinese music on Sat., May 19. Tickets are $25.

Films screen at the Harris (809 Liberty Ave., Downtown); the Regent Square (1035 S. Braddock Ave., Regent Square); the Melwood Screening Room (477 Melwood Ave., N. Oakland); The Andy Warhol Museum (117 Sandusky St., North Side); and the Penn State Greater Allegheny campus (Ostermayer Room, Student Community Center, McKeesport).

Tickets for regular screenings are $8; an eight-film pass is available for $50. For more information and to purchase tickets online, see

The first week's films are as follows:

BARBED WIRE. A young female immigrant worker struggles against a backdrop of social and political tension between India and Bangladesh in this drama from Bappaditya Bandopadhyay. In Bengali, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Thu., May 17, and 5 p.m. Sun., May 20. Harris

THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY. The abandoned product of a union between a G.I. and a Vietnamese girl, Binh is despised in post-war Vietnam for having "the face of the enemy." Spurred by a silly bit of plot device, the grown Binh, in 1990, makes the arduous journey to America, via the smuggled-labor route, in search of his father. There's much human suffering presented, yet Hans Petter Moland's feature never seems to find an emotional foothold. It may be that Damien Nguyen's portrayal of the stoic Binh is too understated, or that Moland bumps his characters through repeated tragedies without ever stopping for reflection while the plot grows increasingly hackneyed. Binh's plight represents real histories, from the damage wreaked on children by war to the trafficking of human labor, but Moland's depiction lacks the keenness of suffering to make us care. In English, and Vietnamese with subtitles. 4 p.m. Sun., May 13, and 8 p.m. Wed., May 16. Regent Square (Al Hoff)

BLUE UMBRELLA. Adapted from a Ruskin Bond novel, Vishal Bharadwaj's colorful film tells of a little girl who becomes enamored of a blue umbrella, and the impact the curiously desirable object has on her small rural village. A Q&A with the director will follow the Fri., May 11 screening. In Hindi, with subtitles. 8 p.m. Fri., May 11, and 8 p.m. Tue., May 15. Regent Square

GOODBYE BOYS. A group of teen-age Malaysian scouts embark on a unchaperoned five-day hike in this coming-of-age story from writer-director Bernard Chauly. Among the usual archetypes -- the blubbery kid, the nerd, the rule-abider who chafes at the flagrant shortcutting (hitchhiking, riding the bus, catching a porno) -- is a core of head-butting alpha males fretting over girls. Some of the banter feels wonderfully naturalistic, as does the rather dissolute way these lads on the cusp of promise carry themselves. But flashbacks, cutaways and too many boys in identical outfits make the finer parts of the drama hard to sort out. Suffice to say, at the end of the road, some lessons have been learned. In English, and Cantonese and Malay with subtitles. To be screened via video projection. 7:30 p.m. Thu., May 17, and 9:30 p.m. Fri., May 18. Melwood (AH)

GOODBYE LIFE. An apple rolling across a truck bed; an IV flapping in the breeze at an abandoned field hospital; ants swarming sand displaced by an unexploded shell: A singular strength of Ensieh Shah Hosseini's film based on her experiences as an Iranian war correspondent during the Iran-Iraq War is the eloquent realism of its visuals. Memorable images erupt as the frightened young protagonist -- clinging to the video camera she never uses -- wanders a devastated countryside populated by the rotting dead and the displaced living. Goodbye Life is sorrowfully beautiful, moving but unsentimental, as a city woman goes among rural folk to find she's a stranger in her own land during a pitiless episode in her nation's history. In Farsi, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Tue., May 15, and 7 p.m. Sat., May 19. Harris (Bill O'Driscoll)

GRADUALLY. Maziar Miri's low-key naturalistic drama depicts a young marriage in crisis, and the role that contemporary Iran's rigid religious mandates, ruling patriarchy and judgmental communities play in the personal. Mahmoud, a railway welder, is called back to Tehran, where his mentally ill wife has gone missing. Sorting through the obfuscations of his neighbors, the state bureaucracy (identifying an unclaimed woman at morgue is especially problematic) and the shame that his wife's untoward behavior has placed on him, Mahmoud eventually discovers the truth about the disappearance. The bittersweet ending is somewhat enigmatic, but it suggests that the episode may have granted Mahmoud a new sensitivity toward his country's restrictive social edicts. In Farsi, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Sun., May 13, and 8 p.m. Wed., May 16. Melwood (AH)

HIDING DIVYA.A funeral reunites three generations of Indian-American woman: Struggling New York City single mom Linny returns with her teen-age daughter Jia to her mother Divya's house in suburban New Jersey. Old tensions flare up, but so too does Divya's mental illness. Rehana Mizra's domestic drama is frank in examining both the community stigma of mental illness and the emotional havoc it can wreak on a family. But the impact of her message is weakened by some amateurish acting and an ending that feels a trifle pat. A Q&A session will follow the screening. To be screened via video projection. 6 p.m. Sat., May 12. Melwood (AH)

INNER CIRCLE LINE. Eunhee Cho's film is 92 minutes long, and you'll spend much of it waiting for someone to say something. It's a, well, meditative film about a male subway operator and a female DJ -- both named Youngju -- mulling over disintegrating relationships, including a woman whose love they both have shared. As with many breakups, the film consists of awkward glances and uncomfortable silences, which are presented here with painful real-time accuracy. Cho gives things a Lynchian twist by suggesting the Youngjus may be different aspects of the same person; he also posits that seeming opposites like male and female (let alone gay and straight) are really just parts of the same continuum. Still, the film's central metaphor -- that hope and heartache follow an endless loop, like a Seoul subway line -- remains trite. And if you like films where stuff, you know, happens ... you should catch another train. In Korean, with subtitles. To be screened via video projection. 7:30 p.m. Fri., May 11, and 7:30 p.m. Tue., May 15. Melwood (Chris Potter)

LINDA LINDA LINDA. Three Japanese schoolgirls and a Korean exchange student form a cover band to perform at their school's talent show in Nobuhiro Yamashita's film. That's basically it. For the hour-and-a-half between the band's formation and the film's inevitable conclusion, the band's rehearsals are punctuated with various struggles, setbacks and sidebars -- boys, personal pride, school administrators, boys, peer pressure, language barriers, musical barriers, boys. Whether the film's passage of time is stately or just boring depends on your attention span. But the ending isn't oversold or too triumphant; it's really about friendships between four girls with different personalities; and no one loses an arm -- all things that differentiate it from The Def Leppard Story. But like "Pour Some Sugar On Me," you will hear the song "Linda Linda Linda" roughly a billion times. In Japanese, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Tue., May 16, and 7:30 p.m. Fri., May 18. Harris (Aaron Jentzen)

SHANGHAI KISS. In this mordantly funny dramedy from Kern Konwiser and David Ren, Liam (Ken Leung) is a struggling thirtysomething actor in L.A. He whines about the lack of roles for Asians ("I'm from New York!"), and finds an uneasy solace with a perky, precocious high school girl (Hayden Panettiere). But an unexpected trip to Shanghai forces Liam to examine who he thinks he is, what role being Chinese plays in his identity, and what to do with his aimless life. Shanghai -- at least to the eyes of a visitor -- sparkles in the neon night, while L.A. gasps for life in an insular haze. But can China truly fulfill Liam's destiny? To be screened via video projection. 9:30 p.m. Fri., May 11, and 6 p.m. Sun., May 13. Harris (AH)

SUMMER PALACE. In 1987, a pair of Beijing University students finds their tumultuous love life mirrored in ongoing political upheaval, including the demonstrations at Tiananmen Square. Lou Ye's drama generated controversy in China, not just for depicting the Tiananmen riots, but also for his inclusion of full frontal nudity. In Mandarin, with subtitles. 8 p.m. Mon., May 14, and 8 p.m. Thu., May 17. Regent Square

TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER. Wisit Sasanatieng's film is as advertised: a Thai cowboy melodrama. It's an homage to two seemingly incompatible highly stylized genres: the spaghetti Western, with its violent homo-eroticism and skewed cinematography; and the color-saturated forbidden-love story where yards of pastel chiffon and achingly sad songs convey unresolved heartbreak. A gang assassin, the titular Black Tiger, is in love with his childhood sweetheart, now engaged to his nemesis, a police captain. But the plot hardly matters -- aficionados of 1960s cinema will reel with delight as Sasanatieng unspools his tricks: screen wipes, back projection, fanciful sets and a fair amount of injuries drenched in gloriously fake blood. In Thai, with subtitles. 7 and 9:30 p.m. Fri., May 11. Warhol (AH)

TRAIN MAN. In Shosuke Murakam's sweet romantic comedy, a painfully shy nerd woos a girl he met on the commuter train, with the help of some online pals (the modern-day equivalent of the whispered advice from behind the curtain). As valuable as e-communities may be in today's new-rules social dynamics, and as much as they deserve to be represented, frequent shots of people squinting at computers, fingers typing madly and close-ups of screen text (with or without voiceover) make for terribly dull cinema. Murakam makes a few attempts to break out of the e-mail box (posing one trio of texters as warriors), but the romance is much better served the old-fashioned way: when the engaging lead actors fumble through a series of awkward dates. In Japanese, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Sat., May 12, and 7 p.m. Sat., May 19. Regent Square (AH)

TULI. Contemporary gender politics in rural Philippines inform Aureaus Solito's drama, which tells of a rebellious young woman who not only refuses the hereditary mantle of town circumciser, but also forms a romantic relationship with another woman. In Tagalog, with subtitles. To be screened via video projection. 9 p.m. Sat., May 12, and 7:30 p.m. Mon., May 14. Harris

UNDOING. This stylish noir meditation from Chris Chan Lee (Yellow) follows Sam Kim (Sung Kang) through a maze of bad debts and broken promises in Los Angeles' underworld. Returning to the city from exile after a botched drug deal has killed his friend, Sam is desperate to win back Vera (Kelly Hu). This makes him just reckless enough to go for any chancy racket or hustle that promises enough cash for them to blow town. Throughout the film, Sam seems more archetype than character; the gritty, idiosyncratic center of the film is the aging, ruminative ex-con man Don Osa, played with frank disillusionment by Tom Bower. A Q&A with the film's producer will following the Fri., May 11 screening. To be screened via video projection. 7:30 p.m. Fri., May 11, and 9 p.m. Sun., May 13. Harris (AJ)

VANAJA. The effervescent 15-year-old fisherman's daughter Vanaja (Mamatha) dreams of dancing, and considers it a lucky break to have secured a servant's position with a wealthy landlady Rama Devi (Urmila Dammannagari). Rama Devi agrees to teach Vanaja classical dancing, and the girl's virtuosity offers hope for a better future than her prescribed lower-caste life. But class barriers don't fall easily, and impetuous teen-agers make poor decisions. Rajnesh Domalpalli's drama affirms there are few surprises in a life such as Vanaya's. The actors, many of them unprofessional, give strong performances, and Vanya's dance sequences are truly transporting. A Q&A session will follow the 6 p.m. Sat., May 12, screening. In Telugu, with subtitles. 6 p.m. Sat., May 12 (Harris) and 7:30 p.m. Thu., May 17 (Penn State McKeesport) (AH)

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