San Diego Asian Film Foundation
Wednesday, July 18, 2012 | 6 p.m.
The Fifth Annual Las Vegas Film FestivalThe festival runs July 19-22 at the Las Vegas Hotel (LVH), formerly the Hilton. Visit LVFilmFest.com for a complete schedule of events, list of films, ticket prices and more.
In a city devoted to glitz, glamor and gaming, some might say that the world of film is best left to Hollywood. Milo Kostelecky disagrees.
“Our arts community is ripe with opportunity right now. We have so many different cultures in town, and film, maybe more than any other medium, is a really powerful way to bring people together,” he said.
Kostelecky, a Las Vegas native, heads up the Las Vegas Film Festival, which celebrates its fifth anniversary with a slate of films running Thursday through Sunday at LVH. The festival has been slow to gain momentum in the past few years, so after serving as its director of operations for the past three years, Kostelecky purchased it as part of a rebranding effort.
That push includes an expansion to four full days of features, shorts, panels and special events, including an entire day devoted to Asian cinema.
Kostelecky said it’s part of his long-term goal of having the festival reach a broader demographic that encompasses the city’s cultural diversity.
“As a native, I really felt the need for better community events here. My aim for the festival is to give a fuller representation of who Las Vegas is,” he said.
More than 1,000 films were submitted this year, and about 60 made the final cut.
Kostelecky hopes future festivals will include sections for Hispanic, Eastern European and black film.
“I’m hoping to have a day for each so it’ll all just piggyback off the event itself,” he said.
For this year’s “Day of Asian Cinema,” Kostelecky enlisted the help of Lee Ann Kim, co-founder and executive director of the San Diego Asian Film Foundation, which presents the annual San Diego Asian Film Festival, now in its 13th year.
Kim curated the four feature films being screened Thursday. She explained the festival will showcase two kinds of Asian films — those directed and produced in Asia, such as China’s “Aftershock,” a family’s story of survival amid a natural disaster; and those directed, produced and acted by Asian-Americans, such as “Hang Loose,” a comedy akin to “The Hangover” about a wild night in Hawaii.
“We looked into the demographics of Las Vegas, and there is a substantial Chinese, Filipino and Thai community who would love to have stories about themselves showcased — not just for themselves, but for non-Asians who could learn a lot about who their neighbors are,” Kim said. “Las Vegas is this fascinating city that is also an international hub. If you look at its food culture, there’s any kind of cuisine you could possibly get.
“But if you want to talk about arts and film, can you find Bollywood in Vegas? Or these epic Chinese movies? Not often. We want to see if there is a taste for this here and how this can help Las Vegas as a whole.”
She added that the festival’s Asian showcase is important to help bridge gaps within Las Vegas’ Asian community.
“It’s very segmented to begin with, so film festivals like this one and what we have in San Diego help us define who we are as a community,” she said, adding that demographics within the community still need to make an effort to see Asian films outside their culture niche. “Filipinos need to go see films that are not just about Filipinos; the same with Japanese, or Koreans, or anyone else.”
Above all, however, she said the festival is an opportunity for Las Vegans to experience different voices through a medium she describes as nonthreatening and universal.
“Film is this unique thing where you sit in a theater with a bunch of strangers and then you suddenly have a common, shared experience,” she said. “That’s what makes it such an engaging and powerful way to share different stories. It’s a way to experience a journey that’s very loving and compassionate.”