Asian Film Festival of Dallas Announces Film Lineup for 22nd Edition (July 13-16)

Written by John Wildman
Tae-Jim Ahn’s THE NIGHT OWL is the Opening Night Selection
Closing Night’s Selction will feature Park Dong-hee’s DRIVE
Highlights include screenings of Linh Tran’s Slamdance Grand Jury Prize winner, WAITING FOR THE LIGHT TO CHANGE and Sing J Lee’s Sundance Directing Award winner THE ACCIDENTAL GETAWAY DRIVER

The Asian Film Festival of Dallas (AFFD) announced the film lineup for this year’s 22nd edition of the film festival. Taking place July 13-16, AFFD’s Opening Night selection is Tae-Jim Ahn’s The Night Owl, the Closing Night selection is Park Dong-hee’s Drive, Special screenings with filmmaker Q&A’s include Linh Tran’s Waiting for the Light to Change and Sing J Lee’s The Accidental Getaway Driver.

This year’s Special Guest Programmers contributing films alongside Lead Programmer Paul Theiss are Anderson Le (Artistic Director, Hawaii International Film Festival and Film Producer, Maika, The Girl From Another Galaxy) and Mae Hoang (Co-Founder of AFFD, and Director, Cat Daddies). The film festival will add a display of traditional Chinese lions, cinematic toys, and a mural created for this edition of the film festival for moviegoers to see and take selfies with at the Angelika Film Center, an Opening Night KAIDUAN Kickoff Party at Beyond the Bar (101 S. Sherman Street) on Wednesday, July 12, and once again, will present a Saturday evening Red Carpet event for filmmakers and press. All screenings will take place at the Angelika Film Center Dallas (5321 E. Mockingbird Lane, #230).

AFFD Executive Director Thomas Schubert, said, “This year’s edition of the film festival will build upon the successes of our efforts to reinvigorate the film festival format here in Dallas by highlighting appearances and conversations with our filmmakers and talent, and making sure we have ways that the people who love Asian cinema and films in general can immerse themselves in that joy. AFFD has always been a signature event for Dallas film lovers, introducing exciting films and cinema to DFW, and this year we will continue to try new ways to add to the fun.”

Opening Night on Thursday, July 13 features Tae-Jim Ahn’s The Night Owl. The thriller has been a box office sensation in Korea and is based on the mystery surrounding the death of Crown Prince Sohyeon, who returned form the Qing Dynasty in the Joseon Injo period. The Closing Night selection, Park Dong-hee’s Drive, will screen on Sunday, July 16. The driving action thriller follows a popular online streamer who is abducted and trapped in the trunk of a running car. As she tries to figure out a way to escape with her life, she broadcasts her struggle to her followers. The film will screen with Tan Ce Ding’s short film, Please Hold the Line, about a young woman who scams people over the phone who now finds herself desperately needing money for an abortion.

 The Accidental Getaway Driver, Waiting For the Light To Change

Special screenings include films that made a big splash at the Sundance and Slamdance film festivals earlier this year with special guests attending with both films. Sing J Lee’s The Accidental Getaway Driver     won the filmmaker the Sundance Film Festival’s Directing Award in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. The film focuses on an elderly Vietnamese driver in Southern California, who unwittingly takes a job driving recently escaped convicts from an Orange County jail, thrusting him into their getaway plan. Lee will be on hand for a Q&A following the film’s screening. Linh Tran’s Waiting for the Light to Change was the recipient of the Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Film at the Slamdance Film Festival. The film was recently picked up by Byron Allen’s Freestyle Digital Media as the film has burned through the regional film festival circuit since. The thoughtful and nuanced drama focuses on a group of high school friends reuniting after a year of college over the course of a week-long beachside getaway The group’s struggles to find something to do in the empty little beach town turns into an unsuccessful effort by all of them to sort through attractions to each other, as well as suppress old resentments, jealousies, and desires before they leave. Joyce Ha, one of the film’s impressive young cast members, will come to Dallas to participate in the post-screening Q&A.

Peafowl, Siren in the Shadows

Additional highlights include Sung Bin Byun’s Peafowl. The film focuses on an exceptionally skilled dancer specializing in waacking – a dance style akin to voguing that emphasizes striking poses. She faces much pressure as she prepares for a dance battle final, which could win her prize money to fund her gender-affirming surgery. However, everything is interrupted when her estranged father passes, and she must perform a traditional dance ritual at his memorial service. Hidenori Inoue’s Siren in the Shadows follows a female sniper hired to assassinate the head of a rival faction. Prior to her completing her mission, it is revealed that her assassination target is actually the head of her faction in disguise throwing everything into question.       

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2023 Asian Film Festival of Dallas Film Festival Official Selections


The Night Owl
Director: Tae-Jin Ahn
Country: South Korea; Running Time: 118 min

Kyung-soo, despite being blind, possesses remarkable acupuncture skills. His talents earn him recognition from Lee Hyung-ik, and he is subsequently admitted into the royal palace. During this period, Crown Prince Sohyeon, who had been held captive by the Qing Dynasty, returns to Korea after eight long years. King Injo, although elated by his son’s return, is also gripped by an inexplicable sense of unease. One fateful night, Kyung-soo, whose vision is slightly enhanced in darkness, becomes an unwitting witness to the death of Crown Prince Sohyeon. As he endeavors to unveil the truth, he finds himself entangled in a web of even greater secrets and intrigues, endangering his own life. In the aftermath of his son’s demise, King Injo’s apprehensions morph into madness, and he becomes unhinged. Amidst this chaos, Kyung-soo bravely persists in his quest to expose the truth behind the tragic death of the crown prince.


Director: Park Dong-hee
Country: South Korea; Running Time: 93 min

Renowned YouTube personality Yuna is notorious for belittling others. During a social gathering, she consumes a few alcoholic shots and falls asleep after calling a designated driver. To her horror, upon waking up, Yuna discovers that she is confined in the trunk of her own car. The abductor demands a ransom that includes not just money but also insists that she live-stream the kidnapping and plead with her viewers for financial assistance. However, everyone believes this is just another one of her staged antics.


The Accidental Getaway Driver
Director: Sing J Lee
Country: USA, Vietnam; Running Time: 109 min

Long, a Vietnamese driver in Southern California, answers a late-night call for a ride. Already in his pajamas, he reluctantly accepts, picking up a man, Tây, and his two companions. But the men, recently escaped convicts from an Orange County jail, take Long hostage at gunpoint, thrusting him into their getaway plan. When complications arise, the fugitives and their hostage hole up at a motel, and a tense waiting game unfolds.

Waiting for the Light to Change
Director: Linh Tran
Country: USA; Running Time: 89 min

Over the course of a week-long beachside getaway, Amy, having recently undergone dramatic weight loss, finds herself wrestling between loyalty to her best friend Kim and her attraction to Kim’s new boyfriend.

Director: Lang Wu
Country: China; Running Time: 100 min

Han Jiangyu, who has been away from his hometown for ten years, returns to his hometown, trying to regain his old love with his former lover Su Hong. Han’s old friend Chen Kai participated in the house purchase plan, so Han Jiangyu and Su Hong had to face their own problems and face the difficulties of life together.

Director: Ju-hyoung Lee
Country: South Korea; Running Time: 120 min

Escaping the civil war in Syria, Harim finds refuge in a camp in Korea. There, he is devastated to learn of his son’s death. In a desperate bid to secure refugee status in Korea and provide a safe haven for the rest of his family, Harim renounces his religious beliefs and endures humiliating circumstances. The question remains: will his sacrifices and struggles ultimately lead to a better life for him and his family?

Director: Soi Cheang
Country: Hong Kong; Running Time: 118 min

Rookie police officer Will Yam is a recent graduate of the police academy. Due to a wave of serial killings, Will is partnered with veteran officer Cham Lau, who was recently reinstated on the force. However, the duo cannot solve the cases and instead causes a series of incidents. Later, Cham re-encounters a drug-addicted street urchin, Wong To (Cya Liu), who ran over his wife and daughter in the past, and his anger makes him spiral out of control and continuously abuse her. Will clumsily loses his pistol, which the serial killer finds. With the killer lurking in the city, a crisis grows closer.

Nakodo: Matchmakers
Director: Naoki Maeda
Country: Japan; Running Time: 110 min

Akio Akabane, a middle-aged salesman at a prominent real estate firm, nostalgically clings to his former triumphs as a star salesman, though his leadership is marred by intimidation, harassment, and sexism. Unexpectedly, he is reassigned to a matchmaking agency Yui Tokita manages. Initially, Akabane arrogantly believes that matchmaking is no different from selling properties. However, he quickly finds himself overwhelmed by the distinctive quirks and preferences of the clients, such as an individual who never makes it past a third date or another who is resolved to marry by a particular deadline regardless of the partner. On the other hand, Yui is devoted to her work but struggles with self-doubt. Their contrasting values and approaches initially cause friction. Yet, as they complement and compensate for one another’s weaknesses, they orchestrate a series of small wonders.

New Religion
Director: Keishi Kondo
Country: Japan; Running Time: 100 min

Miyabi, a woman grappling with the grief of losing her daughter, finds solace in working as a call girl following her divorce. Her life takes an unusual turn when she encounters an eccentric client interested in photographing her spine. In a subsequent appointment, he insists on photographing her feet. As Miyabi continues to permit her body parts to be photographed, she makes a startling discovery: each photograph taken brings her deceased daughter’s spirit nearer to her. As the series of photos near its culmination with only her eyes left to be captured, unforeseen consequences ensue. The entire society spirals into chaos in this audacious, imaginative, and unparalleled fantasy narrative.

Next Sohee
Director: July Jung
Country: South Korea; Running Time: 134 min

Young Sohee, portrayed by Kim Si-eun, is a spirited and determined high school student residing in the Korean countryside. Eager to secure a future, she opts for an education geared toward the labor market and enrolls in a paid employment program. Her school encourages her to enter into a contract with a call center that exploits its trainees by enticing them with the allure of bonuses that never materialize. The trainees are pressured into employing highly unethical tactics to achieve their goals. Throughout her time at the call center, Sohee faces a barrage of verbal abuse, including being shouted at, threatened, and subjected to profanities. However, the turning point arrives when her supervisor, who is overwhelmed by the workload and stress, tragically takes his own life. This event triggers a downward spiral in Sohee’s mental state, ultimately leading her to commit an act that cannot be undone.

Night of the Assassin
Director: Kwak Jeong-deok
Country: South Korea; Running Time: 101 min

After a deadly, long-dormant health condition surfaces during a mission, Joseon’s most lethal assassin goes into hiding to seek a cure without revealing his identity. But upon witnessing a ruthless campaign of terror against local villagers, the region’s deadliest killer comes out of retirement in order to exact his own brutal brand of vigilante justice.

Director: Sung Bin Byun
Country: South Korea; Running Time: 115 min

Shin is an exceptionally skilled dancer specializing in waacking – a dance style akin to voguing that emphasizes striking poses. She is gearing up for a dance battle final, which holds enormous significance for her. The prize money would be sufficient to fund her gender-affirming surgery if she was victorious. However, Shin’s life takes a turn when her estranged father passes away. Being the only child, she must perform a traditional dance ritual at his memorial service. This necessitates an uneasy return to the rural community she left behind. Intriguingly, Shin is not alone on this journey; she is guided by a mystical peacock that serves as her spirit guide. With a mix of defiance, poise, and self-assuredness, she confronts the challenges ahead.

Siren in the Shadows
Director: Hidenori Inoue
Country: Japan; Running Time: 127 min

In the wilderness of the Kanto region, a striking beauty and Geisha named Gokuraku Tayu (played by Yuki Amami) emerges. She was once the most trusted and cherished sniper under the service of Nobunaga Oda. Meanwhile, the Kanto Skulls, led by the enigmatic Tenmaoh (played by Arata Furuta), construct the impenetrable Skull Castle. The Kanto Skulls assert their dominance over the Kanto region to hinder Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s unification efforts. Jiroemon Mamiana (played by Akira Yamamoto) approaches Tayu with a mission to assassinate Tenmaoh. Upon learning of Tayu’s assassination plot, Tenmaoh confronts her and reveals his true face by removing his mask – he is none other than Nobunaga Oda. As Tayu aims her gun at him, Tenmaoh divulges a startling revelation. The narrative unfolds as a tale of a woman who walks a warrior’s path and a man with ambitions of creating his own empire. Their intertwined past resurfaces, setting in motion a series of gripping and poignant events.

Stone Turtle
Director: Ming Jin Woo
Country: Malaysia; Running Time: 91 min

Zahara, a stateless refugee, lives on a small remote island in Malaysia, where she makes a living selling turtle eggs. One day, Samad, claiming to be a university researcher, visits the island, wanting to employ Zahara to show him around. As the day goes on, Zahara and Samad become entangled in a dangerous dance of duplicity and deception.

The Childe
Director: Park Hoon-jung
Country: South Korea; Running Time: 118 min

The Childe follows Marco, a boxer with a complicated past. He is of mixed descent, with a Korean father and a Filipino mother, and has been wandering around illegal stadiums in the Philippines. Marco lives with his sick mother in the Philippines. Marco then decides to travel to Korea in search of his estranged father to pay for his mother’s surgery. Upon his arrival in Korea, Marco quickly discovers that he is being relentlessly pursued by a dangerous group of individuals for reasons unknown. Among his pursuers is a mysterious and unidentified man known as the “nobleman,” who creates chaos and severely restricts Marco’s movements. In addition to the nobleman, Marco is also being pursued by Han Yi-sa, a wealthy heir seeking to claim his father’s vast fortune, and Yoon-ju, a mysterious woman Marco unexpectedly reunites with in Korea. Marco finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of unpredictability and madness. Amid this chaos, Marco is forced to confront a shocking truth that will change everything he thought he knew about his past and present.

The Cord of Life
Director: Sixue Qiao
Country: China, Mongolia; Running Time: 96 min

Alus, an electronic musician from Mongolia, is grappling with uncertainty regarding his life’s direction. He is deeply distressed by the sight of his mother, who is battling Alzheimer’s, living confined in his brother’s urban apartment. Driven by her longing for the grasslands, he resolves to take her back in search of the home she so desperately misses. As her condition deteriorates, Alus takes the drastic measure of using a rope to tether himself to his mother in a bid to prevent her from wandering off. This rope symbolizes a reborn connection, akin to an umbilical cord, linking him not only to his mother’s fading memories but also to the land of his origins and the rich tapestry of his cultural heritage.


Children of the Mist
Director: Ha La Diem
Country: Vietnam; Running Time: 92 min

In a village hidden in the mist-shrouded Northwest Vietnamese mountains resides an indigenous Hmong community, home to 12-year-old Di, part of the first generation of her people with access to formal education. A free spirit, Di recounts her experiences to Vietnamese filmmaker Diễm Hà Lệ, who planted herself within Di’s family over the course of three years to document this unique coming of age as she faces the local custom of “bride kidnapping.”

Seven Winters in Tehran
Director: Steffi Niederzoll
Country: France, Germany; Running Time: 97 min

In 2007, a 19-year-old named Reyhaneh Jabbari is condemned to death in Iran for killing a man in self-defense during an attempted rape. The endeavors made by her family and advocates to save her not only shed light on Reyhaneh’s case but also unveil the widespread subjugation and muzzling of women in Iran. Furthermore, the case highlights the perilous lengths to which individuals go in their pursuit to defend and stand in solidarity with these women.


100 Dragonflies
Director: Kyle Michael McCloskey
Country: Japan; Running Time: 20 min

100 Dragonflies tells the story of Maria, a six-year-old girl growing up in Kawasaki, Japan with a plan to catch 100 dragonflies over her summer break. As the summer festivities and traditions of honoring their ancestors progress, the events that unfold will change the way she sees her family forever.

A Dawn at Minato City
Director: Sergey Vlasov
Country: Japan; Running Time: 7 min

A usual morning for a usual married couple in a big city.

Ey You!
Director: Nicola Fan
Country: Hong Kong; Running Time: 6 min

An interracial couple’s encounter with a harasser who won’t leave them alone – featuring Isabella Wei from Netflix’s original series “1899.”

Passenger Seat
Director: Neha Guatam
Country: USA; Running Time: 18 min

Passenger Seat shows the truth of being a cabbie in NYC: taking on predatory loans, struggling with deregulation, and competing with the rise of rideshare apps. But we wanted to humanize the complexities of financial struggle by centering tenderness in daughter-father Desi immigrant relationships.

Please Hold the Line
Director: Tan Ce Ding
Country: Malaysia; Running Time: 18 min

A young scam call operator is thrust into a moral dilemma as she frantically hustles for money to afford an abortion.


The Asian Film Festival of Dallas (AFFD) is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to celebrating and supporting emerging and established Asian and Asian-American filmmakers and sharing the rich diversity of Asian culture through the medium of cinema. Over the last 20+ years, the festival has provided opportunities for over 400 Asian and Asian-American filmmakers to share their vision, often providing the only venue for their films to be shown in Dallas. The films have also allowed festival goers a chance to experience other lives and cultures without leaving their seats.


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John Wildman

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