The San Francisco Asian American Film Festival turns 30 with five solid queer features: a game-changing heartland family custody drama, a touching coming-of-age tale in which an Asperger’s-diagnosed teen’s life is up-ended by the death of a beloved older brother, the revival of a pregnant mom/lesbian daughter comedy, a provocative spin on the horror genre, and an absorbing sports doc focused on a lesbian Jeremy Lin.
In the Family For three hours, freshman filmmaker Patrick Wang earns his grip on our emotions. There’s a leisurely fade-in at the bedside of a lovable six-year-old who resists his cuddly nickname: "There ain’t no Chipmunk here!" Chip enjoys a Capra-corn childhood with his not-necessarily gay-identified Tennessee dads. One of those dads, Joey (Wang), numbs out when tragedy strikes, and buried emotional landmines surface during a meeting between Joey and his dead lover’s sister over the fate of Chip and everything this Asian American "Bubba" holds dear.
"You’re not going to believe this, but I didn’t find the will. Instead there’s this fill-in-the-blank deal. He got as far as his name. Isn’t that hysterical!"
"Cody had a will. Joey, the house is in my name now. So that means there’s a mortgage in my name, too. Cody left all his assets in my name so that he could see that Chip was taken care of, by me."
"Ilene, this is from 2002. Chip was just a baby!"
"It’s his will, Joey, he had six years to change it, and he didn’t. It says, ‘Last Will and Testament.’ It’s not, ‘Fill in the blank.’ He knew what he wanted. And you don’t have to worry about Chip."
"Of course I need to worry about Chip. I’m his father."
"It’s what my brother wanted, Joey, could you have a little respect for that?"
"I’m Chip’s dad!"
Wang keeps Joey in a low gear, surrendering the spotlight to his ensemble. Observe Sebastian Brodziak’s Chip nurture Dad, pouring out a Coke while uncapping Joey’s beer as Dad sits lost in grief. Brian Murray burns warmly as a courtly old-school lawyer who cuts to the heart of the case, a turn reminiscent of Joseph Welch’s cracker-barrel shrewd judge in Anatomy of a Murder. (Kabuki, 3/9, 13; PFA, 3/17)
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