Asian-American film fest’s timely topics 

Basketball sensation: Harvard University graduate Emily Tay is the subject of “No Look Pass,” screening at the 30th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • courtesy photo
  • Basketball sensation: Harvard University graduate Emily Tay is the subject of “No Look Pass,” screening at the 30th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival.

The question, “Have you ever heard of an Asian basketball player?” — which sounds ridiculous in these days of Lin-mania — is asked in all seriousness in “No Look Pass.”

The documentary, screening Sunday and Wednesday during the 30th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, is the true story of an Asian-American Harvard graduate who makes it big in basketball.

While those characteristics describe Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks, they also pertain to Emily Tay.

Called “a poster child for the American dream,” she is the daughter of immigrants from Myanmar (also known as Burma) and a star player on the Harvard women’s basketball team — who cleans toilets to earn money to support herself.

While her parents expect her to marry a man they choose and become a housewife, her dream is to play professional basketball in Europe and be with her lesbian lover.

“No Look Pass” — the title refers to Tay’s signature move on the court — is among some 100 films and videos screening at this year’s 11-day festival, which begins today in The City.

Presented by the Center for Asian American Media, a group dedicated to promoting the diversity of Asian-American experiences, festival programs include 10 world premieres and seven U.S. premieres from two dozen countries; films screen in Berkeley and San Jose as well as San Francisco.

The festival opens at 7 p.m. at the Castro Theatre with the premiere of “White Frog,” an indie featuring Joan Chen (also the subject of a festival tribute), David Henry Hwang, BD Wong and star Booboo Stewart, of “Twilight Saga” fame.

Stewart, 18, plays a high school freshman with Asperger’s syndrome who is often neglected and misunderstood by a seemingly perfect family.

Ellie Wen, who co-wrote and produced the film, is a 2009 Stanford University graduate; festival director Masashi “Sushi” Niwano is 30, and managing director Christine Kwon and most of the staff are about the same age.

That youthful perspective — as well as a $500,000 budget (not including donations) — are what set this ambitious, wide-ranging festival apart from many others.

S.F. International Asian American Film Festival

Where: Most screenings at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1865 Post St.; Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St.; S.F. Film Society Cinema, 1746 Post St., S.F.  

When: Today through March 18

Tickets: $10 to $12 most films, more for special events

Contact: (415) 865-1588,

“No Look Pass” screens at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Kabuki and 9 p.m. Wednesday at SFFS Cinema.

A few picks

Baby Factory

Eduardo W. Roy Jr.’s film is about  the chaos and joy in a Manila maternity ward. [5 p.m. Friday at SFFS Cinema, S.F.; 8:50 p.m. Monday at the Kabuki, S.F.]

Return to Burma

A rare feature film shot in Myanmar,  also known as Burma, the movie tells the story of a Burmese laborer in Taiwan going home. [4:45 p.m. Saturday and 6:45 p.m. Wednesday at SFFS Cinema, S.F.; 8 p.m. Sunday at Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley]


The crowd-pleasing contemporary adventure film from South Korea — about a beautiful woman going blind, a tough ex-boxer, a cute puppy and some thugs — features So Ji-sub and Han Hyo-joo. [1 p.m. Friday, 9:45 p.m. March 15 at the Kabuki, S.F.]

Abu, Son of Adam

India’s official entry to the 84th Academy Awards is about what it takes for an elderly couple in Kerala to perform the Islamic pilgrimage of Hajj. [Noon Sunday at SFFS Cinema, S.F.; 4:45 p.m. March 18 at Camera 3, San Jose]

A Lot Like You

This autobiographical film about an American child whose parents are Tanzanian and Korean examines multiracial identity. [7:20 p.m. Sunday at SFFS Cinema, S.F.; 9:20 p.m. Tuesday at the Kabuki, S.F.]

Jake Shimabukuro Documentary

This world premiere about the ukulele virtuoso features a live performance after the screening. [7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Castro, S.F.]

Prison Dancer: The Interactive Web Musical

This mockumentary, musical and Web series product is based on the sensational YouTube video of inmates at a prison in the Philippines dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The festival event also features live performances, with movie cast members and audience participation. [7 and 9:15 p.m. March 15 at SFFS Cinema, S.F.]


Michael Kang’s romantic comedy about wedding planners — featuring Sung Kang and Illeana Douglas (but not George Clooney) — takes place in Hawaii. [7 p.m. March 16 at Camera 3, San Jose; 9 p.m. March 16 at San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose]

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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