Texas-made documentaries shine at Austin Asian American Film Festival



After a year-and-a-half-long hiatus, the Austin Asian American Film Festival is settling into a new summer time slot and returning to the Austin Film Society Cinema.

This year’s festival takes place June 13-16, and showcases 11 feature films and 17 shorts from Asian and Asian American filmmakers.

Seven of the films are by women directors, including “Empty by Design,” the festival’s centerpiece presentation. A U.S./Philippines co-production directed by Andrea A. Walter, “Empty by Design” finds Samantha (Rhian Ramos), a mixed-race young woman, returning to the Philippines after years in the U.S. and struggling to adjust to a culture she knows little about.

Texas gets the spotlight in two documentaries. Nadia Shihab returns to her hometown of Lubbock to make “Jaddoland,” a quiet portrait of her mother, Lahib Jaddo, an artist from Iraq, and a meditation on the nature of belonging and assimilation.

Tim Tsai’s “Seadrift” offers a smartly nuanced look back at a 1979 shooting in the Texas Gulg Coast town of Seadrift, when a Vietnamese refugee killed a white crab fisherman. Though the dispute arouse over fishing territory — and ignited an intimidation campaign from the KKK — Tsai unravels the cultural and social complexities surrounding the settlement in South Texas of Vietnamese refugees.

Both Shihab and Tsai will be on hand for their films and participate in a post-screening Q-and-A.

Want more documentaries?  The festival offers a free screening of short docs at 11 a.m. June 16.

Festival badges are $75, film passes are $50, and student film passes, $40. See aaafilmfest.org/attend for a complete festival lineup.

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