Slant 11 Preview: Asian American Jesus

We can safely say we’ve never screened anything quite like Asian American Jesus before at Slant. A mockumentary directed by Yasmine Gomez, it stars writer-performer Samantha Chanse as six different characters including a self-important spoken word artist, Truth Is Real (top row, right), who is the subject of college freshman Suzette Law’s (bottom row, left) final project for her ethnic studies class, ‘Performing the Diaspora: Asian Americans and the Arts.’

We caught up with Yasmine to ask her about the making of Asian American Jesus.

How did you get together with performer Samantha Chanse  to create Asian American Jesus?

Samantha and I became friends through the Asian American arts community in San Francisco. I had wanted to do a mockumentary film for a while, and thought spoken word would be an ideal subject. It wasn’t until I saw Sam’s one-woman play, “Back to the Graveyard,” where I was introduced to the awesomely bad Truth Is Real, that I knew I had my star. After the play, I approached Sam about creating a short film based on her incredibly funny spoken word character. We met over bowls of pho, discussed the story, and a few weeks later we were filming.

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Slant 11 Preview: PIA

PIA, directed by Tanuj Chopra, will have its Texas premiere at Slant. A sci-fi love story about the convergence of technology and the human soul, it stars Pia Shah as a malfunctioning android in the year 2063.

Tanuj is perhaps best known for directing the feature film Punching at the Sun, which premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. That film told the story of a South Asian teenager in Queens, NY dealing with anger and confusion in the aftermath of his older brother’s senseless death in a post-9/11 world. It was the first South Asian American narrative feature ever selected to the prestigious festival, and we’re thrilled to be screening Tanuj’s new work. We asked Tanuj a few questions about PIA.

What inspired the story in PIA?
PIA was inspired by an old Transformers comic storyline where Megatron and Rachet went through the space bridge at the same time and emerged as one fused entity. That storyline impacted me a lot as a kid — there was something horrific and terrifying about the idea. That was a seed for PIA — this idea of a dead human soul inhabiting the body of a female service android — and that giving rise to a new machine. This idea fascinated me and the story grew from there.

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Slant 11 Preview: Jaime Lo, Small and Shy

Jaime Lo, small and shy, by Lillian Chan

In our lineup for Slant this year, we have one animation, Jaime Lo, Small and Shy, by Toronto-based Lillian Chan. Drawn in a charming style, the story is told from the perspective of a quiet little girl who spends her days and nights drawing. The 8-minute film is also about what happens to a family when one parent must go overseas for work. We talked to Lillian about her film.

What inspired you to make Jaime Lo?
Jaime Lo
is part of a series by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) called Talespinners that touches on different stories from Canada’s multicultural communities. Growing up as a Chinese Canadian in Canada (and from a suburb with a large Chinese population), I wanted to share a story that addresses a quite common experience from my community, where the father works abroad while the rest of the family stays here. There’s actually a Chinese term for it : astronaut dads!

Telling the story through the eyes of a young girl like Jaime, especially one who liked to draw, seemed liked the perfect starting point for an animator like myself.

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Slant 11 Preview: Digital Antiquities

Slant is proud to have the Texas premiere of J.P. Chan’s Digital Antiquities, a sci-fi tale set in the year 2036 about a young man named Kai desperately trying to get some information off this old round shiny thing called a CD. He seeks out Cat, the cranky proprietor of a shop of outdated technology, who begrudgingly helps him on his quest.

J.P. Chan is no stranger to Slant. His films Dry Clean Only, Beijing Haze, and I Don’t Sleep I Dream, have played in prior years of the festival. We caught up with J.P. recently to hear more about his latest film.

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Soham Mehta in Person at Slant 11

Filmmaker Soham Mehta, who grew up in Houston.

We are thrilled to announce that filmmaker Soham Mehta will be attending Slant in person on August 11 at the River Oaks Theatre. Though now based in New York, Soham grew up in Houston (where he founded the theater troupe Shunya), and got his film degree at UT Austin.

We will have the Houston premiere of his latest film, Fatakra, which just won a Student Academy Award. Click here to learn more about the film and Slant 11.

Slant 11 Preview: Fatakra

Slant is proud to screen Soham Mehta’s Fatakra at our festival this year. Fatakra (which means “firecracker” in Gujarati) has been playing at festivals around the country (including SXSW) to critical acclaim and we’re delighted to present its Houston premiere. It recently won a Student Academy Award. Not too shabby, Soham!

The film tells the story of Naveen (Samrat Chakrabarti), an immigrant who left his family behind three years ago to work in Texas. Now, his wife and young son are joining him in the States, and the reunion is filled with tension and high emotion.

Soham told Austin 360 in an interview, “I was looking for stories about relationships that had a separation and were now coming together. I went through different story ideas, and this was the most obvious choice, because in a way it is the experience of my parents and many people like them. So in a way it allowed me to pay tribute to their experience but not just make a tribute film because it had an emotional core that I could relate to.”

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Slant 10 Preview: Neo-Benshi Experience

Neelanjana Banerjee and Robin Sukhadia will perform neo-benshi at Slant. Photo by John C. Liau.

We are super excited to bring performances to Slant this year. Bay Area artists Neelanjana Banerjee and Robin Sukhadia (pictured above) will be performing their hilarious take on neo-benshi. Focusing on Bollywood’s Golden Era, they’ve written their own scripts and soundtracks to film clips starring the megastar Amitabh Bachchan, which they’ll be performing live.

Neela is a writer and editor who also has a new book. She co-edited Indivisible: Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry. Robin, who puts a modern spin on his classical tabla training, is also known as DJ TablaPusher.

Neela and Robin go on at 7 this Saturday at Super Happy Fun Land. Tickets are just $7 (and free for Aurora Picture Show members.) More details about Slant 10: The Neo-Benshi Experience here.

Following their performance will be singer songwriter Goh Nakamura. Goh will be performing a live score to a new animation by Dino Ignacio, as well as playing his own songs. “Armed with an acoustic guitar and an active imagination, Goh Nakamura strums to the beat of a processed drum machine, singing the minimum wage, dial-up connection blues,” says Hyphen magazine. “Like Neil Finn gone broke or a male version of Mary Lou Lord, Nakamura could be a patron saint for lonely code warriors with good record collections. Geekdom doesn’t get any more pronounced than on ‘N.P.’, a wistful stalker anthem about a girl in a Star Wars trilogy.”

Goh’s got lots of videos on YouTube if you want a preview of Saturday’s show.
Here’s his cover of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.”