How much Asian cinema can one city take in a single summer? Last month's New York Asian Film Festival placed some of the continent's edgier output (Vibrator) alongside its most expensive blockbusters (Infernal Affairs, Hero). An even more miscegenated congregation of talent, budgets, and nationalities, this week's Asian American International Film Festival offers less star power, but in terms of democratic reach, it's the one to beat. Of course, what qualifies as an "Asian American" film is up for debate.
Does Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle make the cut because its stoner protags are of South Korean and Indian descent? (Yes.) Do the films of '30s auteur Hiroshi Shimizu count, even though they are set entirely in Japan? (Yes again.) Whatever the rules, something must have gone right for the selection committee to include James Lee's The Beautiful Washing Machine, one of the festival's true finds.