The Dragon Boat Film Festival returns in person this March for a four-day showcase of all Asian and Asian American screenings celebrating resilience in the Asian and AAPI communities.
Last year’s theme, “RepresentASIAN,” was chosen in response to anti-Asian sentiments present in the country. Paired with hardships around COVID-19, the Asian and AAPI community voted that “Celebrating Our Resilience” was the best theme to remind Denver that they are still here, and boldly, said Sara Moore, Executive Director of Colorado Dragon Boat.
“We are here, we are overcoming [hardships], we are still passionate about our community and who we are as a group,” Moore said. “We’re celebrating that resilience and strength that we have in the community.”
Though the festival is going into its seventh year, this is the third year that Denver Film is helping bring it to life. In addition to hosting it at their home base, the Sie FilmCenter, Denver Film leverages the relationships they have in terms of distribution, sales agents and access to titles from all over the world, said Kevin Smith, Denver Film Chief Marketing Officer. Dragon Boat then takes the lead on thematic choice and which countries they want representation from every year.
“We really have spent a lot of time trying to find all of the best ways to leverage the operational support that we can bring to Colorado Dragon Boat, and Colorado Dragon Boat has done an amazing job of helping us do a much better job of understanding the community that is there and how we can best support them,” Smith said.
“We’re very honored to have [Denver Film] as a partner,” Moore said. “It is just me at the organization currently as an employee, so it’s so nice to have a team to work with.”
There are three major categories: features, a short film showcase, and an emerging artists showcase. All full features are curated by Denver Film’s Artistic Director Matthew Campbell, and local submissions are chosen by Colorado Dragon Boat.
The short film artists are local filmmakers that are mostly Colorado based, but tend to span out to surrounding states. The category may also include artists who studied in the U.S. but now live in other countries. The emerging artists are students and professors from CU Denver’s College of Arts & Media.
When asked what films she’s looking forward to most, Moore responded with, “all of them!”
“I think I say that every year, but it’s just absolutely amazing,” Moore said. “Matt has done a wonderful job choosing all the feature films that we’re having. They’re all so good at representing our theme.”
If she had to choose, the first one would be “Listen Before You Sing” by Yang Chih-lin, based on the true story of Vox Nativa Taiwanese Foundation choir and an elementary school’s fight to avoid closure as the school’s gym teacher prepares a group of children for a national choir contest with few resources and no musical background.
Moore also recommends an Indonesian film called “Yuni” by Kamila Andini, chronicling a determined teenage girl who finds her dreams of attending university under threat following multiple marriage proposals. Yuni must choose between the myth of a final chance at marriage or her dream of
Smith’s top picks include “The Pursuit of Perfection” by Toshimichi Saito, a documentary on four of Japan’s leading chefs and their culinary approaches, and “Free Chol Soo Lee” by Eugene Yi and Julie Ha, a film that just premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and “chronicles a Korean immigrant’s wrongful conviction of a 1973 San Francisco Chinatown gang murder.”
This year, the festival will also include two community conversations–Colorado Asian Pacific United will be presenting their project of re-envisioning Chinatown for Denver, and Asian Girl Ignite!, a relatively new organization to Denver, offers a space for Asian American and Pacific Islander girls from middle to high school to bond over their shared stories and experiences.
Other special events include a performance by Mudra Dance Studio and a culinary experience following “The Pursuit of Perfection.”
Now that the Colorado Dragon Boat Film Festival is returning in person, Moore is hopeful that the Dragon Boat Festival will return in person to Sloan’s Lake after being canceled last summer.
They have dates in July picked out for the event and it will include a lot of rollover from last year, Moore said. “When we have it, it’s going to be the largest it’s been, I feel like,” Moore said. “Everyone’s ready to come and celebrate and have fun.”
The Colorado Dragon Boat Film Festival runs March 3-6, starting at 6 p.m. on opening night. Tickets are available at denverfilm.org. A full festival lineup is available at cdfilm.org.
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