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L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival aims to showcase diversity

The @AsianFilmFestLA returns to showcase the diversity of films from across the Asian diaspora

The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival returns Thursday for a weeklong showcase of cinematic works from across the Asian diaspora.

In its 31st year, the fest also will look to diversify the conversation about diversity in Hollywood, according to David Magdael, a film publicist and co-director of the festival.

"Everybody in this town right now, they're all talking about diversity, diversity, diversity, but it seems that everyone's talking about diversity in terms of black and white," Magdael said in a recent phone interview. "I think diversity comes in different hues, different genders, different genres, and the thing that we have always done at the festival is celebrated diversity, but we call it now celebrating normalcy."

To that end, the LAAPFF will highlight both emerging and established Asian American filmmakers while also sampling recent works from Vietnam, China, South Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, Malaysia and more.

Magdael noted that female filmmakers are well represented at this year's gathering: Of the 16 feature films in competition, half are directed or co-directed by women.

The festival kicks off Thursday at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center with the world premiere of "Everything Before Us," Wesley Chan and Philip Wang's relationship drama about a high-school couple headed to different colleges and a pair of thirtysomething exes whose paths cross again. The movie marks the first feature by Wong Fu Productions, a filmmaking collective known for its short films and YouTube following.

In the LAAPFF's two centerpiece slots are Daniel Park's bromantic dramedy "Ktown Cowboys," based on the Web series about a group of friends reveling in Los Angeles' Koreatown nightlife scene, and Samantha Futerman and Ryan Miyamoto's documentary "Twinsters," about twin sisters who were separated shortly after birth and reunited years later thanks to social media.

Other selections include Jennifer Phang's "Advantageous," starring and produced by Ken Jeong; "Man Up," the directorial debut of "Twilight" actor Justin Chon; and Arthur Dong's documentary "The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor."

All told, the lineup features 32 feature films and 102 shorts from more than 20 countries. The programming includes narrative, documentary and short competitions; an international showcase; and panels, seminars and social events.

"For the most part, a lot of our focus is on the audience," Magdael said, "but it's also on the filmmakers because it's very important for us to nurture and to grow our own storytellers, and to provide them resources and contacts that they can hopefully use in the future."

Ultimately, the festival is aiming to foster a community, Magdael added: "Both people in front of the camera and people behind the camera. For the longest time in Hollywood, we've always heard, 'Oh, we don't know where the talent is.' And we're here to show that they're here."

The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival runs April 23-30 in downtown L.A., Koreatown and West Hollywood. For more information, go to the festival website.

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