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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Aloha and Mahalo

I've only been back in New York for 48 hours and I am already missing the glistening turquoise waters and the balmy breezes rustling through the palm trees. It was my first time in Hawaii and as one airport bystander quipped with absolute authority: "you'll be back". Indeed I very much hope to be! Even though we only stayed in the tourist-trap of Waikiki Beach, Jane, Mia and I were just daft happy watching the waves lap over the beach and being swept up in the truly overwhelming warm Hawaiian embrace of hospitality.

I will always warmly associate my first Hawaiian experience with the film festival and with our family friend-cum-consummate hostess: Flora Lu. There is no way to overstate the absolute generosity and hospitality that Flora poured over us. Now, coming from Chinese families, we were all used to the overflowing attention and proactive help that Chinese mothers are famous for. But if there were an Olympics for hospitality, Flora Lu would take first, second, AND third place - and then she would probably invite you over for a ten course meal afterwards just for fun! Just to name a few of the wonderful things Flora helped us with: even BEFORE our arrival Flora had contacted all the major local news outlets and posted up our posters around town, scouted restaurants where we could have a post-screening get-together, AND arranged for newspaper and TV interviews upon our arrival in town. Once we were there, Flora's hospitality kicked into high gear: in addition to driving us around Honolulu, Flora insisted on adorning us with (and then refusing to take back) beautiful jewelry that she designs from her beautiful Lucoral store, enrolling us as part of Team Taiwan in support of a cancer walk, shuttling us to and from interviews, taking us out to countless delicious local restaurants (and, to our collective chagrin, winning every fight for the check - you'd think we had been properly brought up young Chinese ladies but we were no match for Flora!), introducing us to the local community leaders, and then rallying everyone to come see our film! I haven't even begun to talk about the heaps of presents she lavished on Jane, Mia, and myself on our last day. So, we were truly overwhelmed by Flora's hospitality and don't know what to say except a very sincere and heartfelt: Mahalo!!!

Believe it or not, we did have some time outside of Flora-land. :) There was a lovely party at Gordon Damon's home in Kahala beach where we got to meet festival director Chuck Boller and many other film folks before rushing off to our first screening. Both of our screenings took place in the Dole Cannery Theaters where we first expected to sit on pineapple crates to watch movies! In fact, the Dole is a multiplex with 18 theaters. I am delighted to report that both of our screenings filled the large 400-something seat theaters and the response was incredible. In fact, Roger Ebert even made it to our second screening, stayed for the Q&A, and then even spoke to us for a bit afterwards. We are incredibly flattered to be mentioned in his festival wrap-up in the Chicago Sun-Times!

The funny (or annoying) thing about me is that once I find something I like, I stick with it. Over and over and over again (in college, it was playing Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" time and time after time again to the deep dismay of my roommates). We were only in Hawaii for five days and I ate at Shanghai Bistro three times. The local Chinese and Taiwanese say that it is the best Chinese restaurant in Hawaii. Flora (of course!) brought us there the first night we arrived. We then returned the next night for our post-screening gathering where we met Phillip Wang (the Taiwan Director General) who was also dining there. He, in turn, graciously decided to host a private dinner for us at the same restaurant the following evening! So all in all, I think we probably tasted the entire menu in 72 hours. Incredibly delicious and yet another reason to return to Hawaii soon!

So, now I'm back in the 40 degree grayness of New York and dreaming of when I can return to lazy walks on the beach and jumping soft turquoise waves...I guess I should get off my sunburned bum and make another movie!


BdC gets lei'd (and
Jane wears a dress)!
A whole lotta Hawaiian love from
Flora (standing, far L.) and friends.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Korea Full of Grace

It turns out that Korean audiences really, REALLY love film. And I mean
true, obsessive love -- the kind that transcends logic and reason and leaves
you prostrate on the floor, gasping for air...which, in my case, may also
have been due to overexerting myself in an attempt to prove that I'm just as
fun with one good leg. We were, of course, incredibly flattered that both
of our screenings were sold out and enthusiastically received by the
festival crowds. Being mobbed by throngs of adoring Korean teenagers was,
however, only one highlight of our colorful Pusan experience. For once, we
actually had time to socialize at a festival, and we took full advantage of
the opportunity to explore the local nightlife.

One evening, after a two-hour taxicab fiasco, we ended up at an all-night
karaoke joint with the European and North American festival folks. At first
we accidentally tried to enter through the all-night spa next door --
imagine our confusion when they asked us to remove our shoes and clothing.
Luckily, we sorted things out and were soon fully-clothed, on our way to
belting out embarrassing renditions of "Time After Time" and "I Want It That
Way" until damn near sunrise. The next day, we were in an elevator headed
up to a film promotion event on the 9th floor of a high-rise building, when
someone accidentally pressed the button for the 7th floor. Much to our
surprise, the doors opened upon a lively little joint called Transgender
Bar. Naturally, we saw this as a sign from above that we needed to broaden
our horizons, so we got a group together and returned the following night.
The "ladies" of the club were distractingly beautiful and only too happy to
offer us warm smiles, sliced fruit and a smorgasbord of Korean beverages.
I'll leave the rest to your fertile imaginations, but I will tell you that
David Kwok of Tribeca and Anderson Le of Hawaii both got, um..."intimate"
with a Tina Turner lookalike while doing karaoke. Rather, s/he got intimate
(and a little violent) with them -- we have pictures to prove it! In fact,
as a result of our various excursions, we have blackmail material on every
festival programmer from here to Shanghai.

It was kind of bizarre for three Mandarin-speaking, Asian-American women to
be in a country full of Asian people who couldn't understand a word we said.
Luckily, we learned some key Korean phrases during our stay, including
"hello", "goodbye", "thank you" and "may we please put up a Red Doors poster
in your lovely Dunkin Donuts establishment?". Let me know if you want that
last one, it comes in handy more often than you'd think...

Song du jour: "Colors" by Amos Lee


Our friendly Korean Dunkin Donuts
manager/Red Doors fan.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

He seems like a very nice boy

It's 2:41 AM Jane Standard Time (which happens to be EST right now). It's cliche, but I must say, it is damn good to be home. Don't get me wrong, Pusan was an absolute blast. Exhausting, overstimulating, and relentless, but crazy crazy fun nonetheless.

Opening night on October 6th was un-frickin-believable. There were 5000 people in attendance for the opening ceremonies and the opening night film (Hou Hsiao Hsien's "Three Times") We got there a little late because of traffic and the festival coordinators basically threw us onto the red carpet as we tried to sneak in unobtrusively around back.

We've done red carpets before but nothing prepared us for this. There was a "normal" red carpet outside the venue that was flanked by hundreds of film fans snapping pictures indiscrimiately. We thought that was it until we rounded the corner inside and saw the stage with the Pusan and sponsors backdrop. There were dozens of photographers making us look left and right, up and down as they took our picture. So far pretty normal.

What we weren't prepared for was the 200 meter long elevated catwalk that traversed the crowd to the VIP seating area. As soon as we set foot on that, the entire audience erupted in screaming and flashing bulbs. Literally thousands of teenaged girls were screaming at us to look their way so they could snap *our* picture. Mia was a particular hit because she was in a bright purple foot cast and on crutches hobbling down the entire catwalk. As we rounded the corner toward our seat, we looked up and saw that we were also being televised on two jinormous jumbotron screens at the front of the theater. We later found out that we walked in at the last possible moment because hot on our heels were Jackie Chan, Stanley Tong, and the man of the hour: Hou Hsiao Hsien. The audience must have thought that we were *somebody* to be walking in right before the glitterati.

Then on Saturday night, we had our international premiere, screening to a sold-out crowd at the Megabox theater in Haeundae. It was amusing to see Korean subtitles being digitally projected onto our picture. It was fascinating to see what parts of the movie the audience found funny. It was a predominantly local crowd and we were nervous about how well the humor would translate. But we're glad to say that the film is apparently as funny in Korean as it is in English. And sometimes, the crowd completely baffled us with the parts they laughed at. They pretty much broke into hysterics whenever Tzi came on screen.

After the screening we conducted a Q&A through a translator. When the translator opened questioning to the audience, we were shocked to see everyone in the theater whip out a camera or cell phone and start snapping our picture continuously for 2 minutes before the first question was even asked. We were incredibly delighted and honored to have the very talented Korean director Kim Jee-Won ("A Tale of Two Sisters," "A Bittersweet Life") in our audience. He not only came to our screening and sat through the entire Q&A, he also bought a standing-room only ticket to get in! He later told Georgia that he enjoyed the film very much, complimenting us on the dialogue and acting in particular.

As we were leaving the theater, Georgia and Mia got mobbed again, this time by the autograph seekers. In the states, there are always a couple people who come up shyly after a screening to ask our actors for autographs. But Pusan was nuts. I would say there were close to a hundred people swarming around for pictures and autographs, not only for Mia, but also for Georgia. One girl even offered Georgia and Mia candy in gratitude for getting their autographs. We realized that Korea has a very celebrity-worshipping culture and that admiration extends to the filmmakers as well. The Pusan crowd by far the most affectionate and effusive crowd we've screened for. One woman even came up to us afterwards and expressed, in emphatic but broken English, that Red Doors was "the best at all the festival." We loved her.

There are a million more things to blog about Pusan but I think it's time to call it a night. I'll leave it to Georgia and Mia to tell you all about our raw crab lunch, karaoke night, the transgender bar, and our second screening...

Georgia is mobbed by autograph seekers.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

On the Road (to Recovery)

After spending an entire month festival-free, hanging out at our respective homes, Jane, Georgia and I are going completely stir-crazy. We're ready to pack our bags, dust off our RED DOORS propaganda, and hit the proverbial road - not literally, mind you, as I had surgery last month on my left foot [insert Daniel Day-Lewis joke here] and will be in a cast and crutches for another two weeks. What happened, you ask? It's a long, dull story involving interpretive dance, an ill-fitting tutu and several small children. The point is that I am temporarily one-legged but still determined to beat the RED DOORS drum, even if I have to hobble, hop and/or crawl my way around the Asian-Pacific Rim. Appropriately enough, we are flying into Seoul's "Gimpo" airport on Thursday for the Pusan Film Festival, where the movie will have its International and Asian premiere. I plan to hire a strapping young rickshaw driver to squire me about town for the duration of our stay. Barring that, Georgia and Jane have offered me piggyback rides around the festival - should make for some interesting red-carpet photo ops.

Since the film is screening out of competition, we can sheathe our talons, relax and enjoy the festival during our free time. So if you happen to be in Korea next week, come find us - I'll be the one in RED DOORS pants and a purple cast, eating kimchee, drinking soju, and watching the latest Park Chan-Wook flick...

Song du Jour: The Decemberists, "Red Right Ankle". Close enough.


Blog Archives by Month:
04/01/2005 - 04/30/2005 05/01/2005 - 05/31/2005 06/01/2005 - 06/30/2005 07/01/2005 - 07/31/2005 08/01/2005 - 08/31/2005 10/01/2005 - 10/31/2005 11/01/2005 - 11/30/2005 01/01/2006 - 01/31/2006 02/01/2006 - 02/28/2006 03/01/2006 - 03/31/2006 04/01/2006 - 04/30/2006 05/01/2006 - 05/31/2006 07/01/2006 - 07/31/2006 08/01/2006 - 08/31/2006
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