1997 Asian American Film Festival #1

"Movie Magazine International" Special Report

(Air Date: Week Of 2/19/97)

By Andrea Chase

This year's Asian American Film Festival offers up a smorgasbord of films from the near and far east, it also showcases filmmakers of Asian descent working in the west. Two films tackling women's issues stand out.

Korea's "A Hot Roof" explores sexual politics during a killer heat-wave where the temperature isn't the only thing out of control. At it's height, a wife-beater is ahem 'accidentally' beaten to death by a group of fed-up women. Our modern day furies then hie themselves to their apartment building's roof to escape the police. Before long, the whole country is watching. Think "Lysistrata" meets "The Color Purple" as told by Germain Greer.

There's more heat with "Fire", the festival's finale, which explores desire as in, playing with, or, better, trial by.

The film, by Canadian Deepa Mehta, opens with newlyweds Sita and Jatin getting acquainted after entering into their arranged marriage as complete strangers. As they stroll the grounds of the Taj Mahal, Sita tells her new husband that she loves romantic movies. He replies that he prefers the kung fu variety. Not a good sign.

Settling into her new, extended family, Sita's untraditional inclinations quickly earn the disapproval of her mute and bedridden mother-in-law. Her sister-in-law, Radha, though, becomes a confidante as they spend time on the balcony waiting for their husbands to come home, Rada's from his swami, Sita's from his mistress.

Before long, these women who have already turned to each other for emotional comfort, turn to each other for comfort of a more earthy nature. And no one is more surprised than they are with this turn of events. There is, it seems, no word in their language for it. As their story unfolds, they, and we, learn that it's not desire that is the root of destruction, but the denial of that desire.

"Fire" is frank yet tasteful as the saying goes, lyrically told and sensuously photographed. The good news is that it's already set for distribution in the U.S.

Copyright 1997 Andrea Chase

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