'In Search of Asia' at St. Anthony Main

For 11 days, Minnesota Film Arts will "search" for the world's most populous continent through 40 movies from 12 countries in a brand-new festival. These films, from auteurs, both classic and contemporary, cover true crime, martial arts, war, addiction, poverty, family, and a host of other topics. Several directors will introduce their works at St. Anthony Main, and post-screening parties will be held at Sawatdee, Chang Mai Tai, and other major dining venues.


Presented by Minnesota Film Arts and planned by Al Milgrom, Linda Blackaby, and Adam Chau, 'In Search of Asia' reflects the growing importance of China and other Asian countries as world powers that will eventually overtake the U.S. and Europe. At the same time, it acknowledges the influence of European and American film and culture on Asian life and moviemaking. The variety of shorts and features presented also reflects a basic mantra when talking about Asia: you can't generalize because there's too much variety.

Three major works exemplify this variety. Open Season, showing Thursday, November 4 at 7 p.m., is a Minnesota-made documentary by Mark Tang and Lu Lippold about the 2004 killing of several white hunters in Northwestern Wisconsin by Cha Vang, a Hmong immigrant. The hour-long film covers the trial of Vang, and digs deep into his background to find out what led to the incident and the racial and cultural implications of what happened.

From China, The City of Life and Death is a lavishly mounted epic that covers the 1937 Rape of Nanking genocide of Chinese citizens at the hands of Japanese soldiers. Director Chaun Lu explores the atrocity through actual and fictional characters among the Japanese army and Chinese citizenry, and searches for the humanity that survives among victims and victimizers.

Gallants, from Hong Kong directors Derek Kwok and Clement Cheng, pays humorous tribute to the Shaw Brothers' martial arts exploitation flicks of the 1970s, which also inspired Quentin Tarantino to become the filmmaking phenomenon he has been for the last two decades. Two late-middle-aged veterans of the industry star in a tale about a pair of retired fighters who are hired to look after a friend's restaurant, and find themselves having to defend it from gangsters with their slightly rusty, but surprisingly lethal, fighting skills.

In addition to the regular showings, filmmaker introductions, and after parties, there will be free screenings of the interracial-love comedy The People I've Slept With and the coming-of-age drama Raspberry Magic. These will take place Wednesday, November 10 at 5 p.m.

Gallants, which closes the festival on Saturday, November 13 at 7:15 p.m., sports a trailer that conveys more than a touch of grindhouse spirit:


The City of Life and Death
, which screens on Tuesday, November 9 at 6:45 p.m., also comes with a compelling preview:


For a complete schedule, visit In Search of Asia's website.