New American Filmmakers
2007 Hawaii International Film Festival
Stephane Gauger, Director
Born in Vietnam and raised in Orange County, California, Stephane Gauger received a Bachelor of Arts in theatre and French literature. His love of cinema moved him away from the stage and onto film sets, where he trained in film lighting under Matthew Libatique, ASC. Gauger subsequently worked in the camera and lighting departments on independent films in the U.S. and Southeast Asia (including Sundance winner Three Seasons), all while honing his writing and directing craft on short narrative and documentary films. Owl and the Sparrow is his first feature.
Owl and the Sparrow
Owl and the Sparrow opens with the harsh words of a factory owner in rural Vietnam to Thuy (Pham Thi Han), his orphaned 10-year-old niece. Threateningly waving the bamboo blinds she has mismeasured, he tells her, "You are useless." Thuy runs away and finds work and friends within a network of child laborers in the city. There, she finds her canny perception of grownup needs and desires useful to her new friends, Mr. Hai (Le The Lu), a zookeeper, and Lan (Cat Ly), a flight attendant. Matching his uncommon sensitivity to her solitary independence, Thuy puts together a new family from the compassion and companionship they find in each other.
Justin Lin, Director
Justin Lin is a Taiwanese-American film director who was born in Taipei and raised in Buena Park, California. He attended the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, where he earned a BA and MFA in film directing. His solo directorial debut, Better Luck Tomorrow, was both a critical and a commercial success and was the first film to be acquired by MTV Films. He subsequently directed the major studio productions Annapolis and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. The NAF selection film Finishing the Game is his fourth feature film.
Finishing the Game
Bruce Lee's shocking and untimely death in 1973 threatened to sink the completion of his passion project, Game of Death. Undaunted, Hollywood executives immediately began a frantic search for a replacement to slide into the yellow jumpsuit. Finishing the Game is the story of how it all happened — or rather, how Justin Lin and his writing partner, Josh Diamond, imagined it happened. And out came a crafty, knockout comedy (or "faux documentary," as the director calls it) that is as much a biting Hollywood satire as it is an insightful study on racial representation. Slyly employing a cinéma vérité style, the film follows a motley group of Bruce Lee wannabes as they audition to be the next big kung fu star. Apparently, every male has an inner Bruce Lee, regardless of their shape, size, or color: There's the self-absorbed Breeze Loo, actor of Bfilms like Fists of Führer and Exit the Serpent;Raja, a South Asian doctor turned stunt double; and Tarrick Tyler, who's actually halfwhite but fancies himself an advocate for the Chinese community. As they go through round after round of humiliating auditions and cattle calls, who among them will be the first to reach the finishing line?
Charlie Nguyen, Director
Born in Vietnam and now based in Orange County, California, director/producer Charlie Nguyen created Cinema Pictures in 1992 and released his first feature, Huong Vuong 18th in 1994. The film, which was entirely selffunded, combined the genres of historical drama and martial arts. Since then, he has produced and directed hundreds of music videos, short films, documentaries, and live concerts in cities worldwide. His credits include Chance Are (director and producer), Finding Madison (producer), and the NAF selection film The Rebel (director).
The Rebel is one of Vietnam's first big-budget blockbusters, and it has it all: drama, intrigue, revolution, romance, and thrilling martial arts choreography. Cuong, portrayed by rising martial arts star Johnny Nguyen, is a government agent employed by the French colonists in 1920s Vietnam to brutally suppress Vietnamese nationalist rebels. Troubled by his conscience, Cuong betrays his cruel employers and goes on the run with a fierce young insurgent girl, played by beautiful Vietnamese pop star/model/actress Ngo Thanh Van. Their flight leads to a number of kinetic and bone crunching martial arts battles. The film climaxes in a tragic confrontation between peasants with farm tools and soldiers with rifles, the significance of which is unlikely to be lost on anyone familiar with the nation’s impending conflict.
Reiko Tahara and Max Uesugi, Directors
After emigrating from Japan, Reiko Tahara and Max Uesugi met while studying alternative media at The New School. In 1994, they founded Mrex Productions, a collaborative filmmaking partnership, based on a strong belief in the power of media to promote mutual understanding and learning among people. They have produced a number of short films, including Remnants, which was screened at SXSW the Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival, and the New York Asian American International Film Festival. The NAF selection film The GateKeeper of Enmoyin is the duo’s first feature-length documentary.
The GateKeeper of Enmyoin
When she was 7 years old, Teijun Ogawa was given to a Shingon Buddhist temple. Cut off from her family, she became a rare niso (female priest) and eventually built her own temple, Enmyoin, in rural southwestern Japan. Over 80 years later, the proud niso shares her story with filmmaker Reiko Tahara. Intrigued by Ogawa’s seemingly free spirit, Tahara looks to her for guidance as she reflects upon her own journey for freedom — as an immigrant, a wife, and a mother. However, she is surprised to find that the niso steadfastly refuses to share her views on womanhood — as if the subject is taboo. The documentary finds another wrinkle when Ogawa passes away before filming is completed, and Tahara returns to Enmyoin in search of the niso’s unspoken feelings. Both a beautiful portrait of an inspiring woman and a genre-bending detective documentary, The GateKeeper of Enmyion offers a fascinating glimpse into female priesthood in the male-dominant Japanese Buddhist culture.
New American Filmmaker Interviews
The 2015 NAF selections included films from various genres and regions of the world, including a documentary filmed in North Korea, a 1980s-style teen comedy, and an action thriller set in the jungles of Colombia.
Watch video interviews as the NAF delegates discuss feminism, activism, and the 80s!
Zoë Bell >