The San Diego Asian Film Festival, the largest showing of Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander cinema in the western U.S., has extended its deadline for submissions. Although the due date for submitting short films has passed, filmmakers now have until July 17 to offer their original, feature-length works online to SDAFF for award consideration ($60 entry fee per submission; for instructions, see Put together annually by the Pacific Arts Movement, SDAFF is “dedicated to highlighting the diversity and breadth of Asian Pacific Islander and Asian international images, from impassioned independent voices and provocative documentary subjects, to the top hits from the world’s biggest continent, the latest works from the masters of cinema, and the fresh points of view of Asian Pacific Islander American filmmakers.” The festival premieres movies from around the world in San Diego, giving audiences the unique opportunity to discover Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander cinema.

SDAFF was first organized as a fundraiser in 2000 by the Asian American Journalists Association. Founder Lee Ann Kim, upon receiving a surprising range of film entries, recognized the potential to expand the festival into a larger organizational entity. Kim teamed up with several Asian American and Pacific Islander journalists, writers, filmmakers and community leaders to use the festival to create the nonprofit Pacific Arts Movement, which today runs SDAFF. In addition to the festival, the Pacific Arts Movement has extended its film exhibition, held in the fall, by establishing an annual Spring Showcase along with offering community-engaged training programs such as Reel Voices that empowers local high-school students to learn the art of documentary filmmaking.

Over the years, SDAFF has supported AAPI actors, directors, screenwriters, producers and filmmakers. It has presented everything from genre work like historical crime story “Memories of Murder” (which held its U.S. premiere at the festival) by future Oscar winner Bong Joon-ho, to independent films like Patrick Wang’s LGBTQ drama “In the Family” (for which SDAFF hosted its North American premiere), later nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Winning awards in this competition gives filmmakers the platform to establish themselves and produce bigger and better films. The Pacific Arts Movement continues to evolve the SDAFF and influence Asian and AAPI filmmaking, producing its first feature-length movie in 2019 for its 20th anniversary, “The Paradise We Are Looking For,” an anthology of four documentary short films “highlighting Asian American stories in distinct and overlooked San Diego neighborhoods.”

The 21st annual San Diego Asian Film Festival is scheduled to take place from Nov. 5-14, but the exhibition is subject to change due to COVID-19. And if you ever find yourself in the city of San Diego in November, visit the Pacific Arts Movement website at to view screening schedules and buy tickets for the event to support Asian and Asian American and Pacific Islander movies.
by Katherine Itoh


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