Arts & Culture

Lakewood Asian Film Fest features emotional stories, beautiful settings

“Wolf Totem” is one of five films in the upcoming Lakewood Asian Film Fest.
“Wolf Totem” is one of five films in the upcoming Lakewood Asian Film Fest. Courtesy

It’s all about the story at the fourth annual Lakewood Asian Film Fest, on this weekend at the Lakewood Elks building. From a Laotian boy who overcomes a curse to an Indian woman who conquers English during a visit to New York, the five films were chosen for their compelling stories and beautiful, often unusual locations, says organizer Phil Raschke.

As always, the festival is free, and this year also includes an art show and the “Saigon 67” photography show.

“I’ve seen all the car chase and robot movies I need to see,” says Raschke, who makes his film choices from suggestions by festival fans. “These films are about people, filmed in some amazing places.”

The film that kicks off the festival is a good example. Made in 2013 by Australian director Kim Mordaunt, “The Rocket” has won numerous festival awards and was filmed entirely in Laos. A boy whose twin died at birth, 10-year-old Ahlo is seen as cursed by friends and family, and journeys through strange villages and unexploded minefields before finally triumphing over his fate.

“It’s filmed in a part of the world most people have never seen,” said Raschke.

“Wolf Totem” also takes the audience — and the protagonist — to completely new places. Based on a best-selling novel, the festival’s second film is set during China’s Cultural Revolution, following a young Red Guard student from Beijing who is sent to live with nomadic herdsmen in Mongolia. It’s a clash of cultures that pops up in other films in the festival: “English Vinglish,” about an Indian woman (played by Bollywood superstar Sridevi) who overcomes her insecurity about English with a memorable trip to New York; “Anna and the King,” the retelling of the true 1860 story of Siam’s King Mongkut (Chow Yun Fat) and English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens (Jodie Foster); and “The Lover,” a French-Vietnamese film about a teenage French girl in 1928 Saigon who gains control over her life by seducing a wealthy Chinese heir.

The festival includes post-film discussions and pre-film giveaways, and this year collaborates with Lakewood’s ArtFest. Among the shows is “Saigon 67,” work by former combat photographer and Lakewood resident Ed Kane.

Last year’s festival saw around 350 attendees and raised $700 in donations to fund this year’s event, said Raschke.

“People loved it,” he said. “I got phone calls back in June asking were we doing it again.”

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568, @rose_ponnekanti

Lakewood Asian Film Fest

When: Saturday-Monday.

Where: Lakewood Elks, 6313 75th St. W., Lakewood.

Cost: Free.

Films: “The Rocket,” 2 p.m. Saturday, PG-17; “Wolf Totem,” 7 p.m. Saturday, PG-13; “English-Vinglish,” 2 p.m. Sunday, PG-13; “Anna and the King,” 7 p.m. Sunday, PG-13; “The Lover,” 7 p.m. Monday; R (sexual content).

Information: 253-861-1366,