A ukulele legend and more

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Times Staff Writer

The 21st annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival opens tonight at 7:30 at the Directors Guild of America with Alice Wu’s “Saving Face,” the first of 27 features in the lineup, along with shorts and related events, through May 5 at various venues.

Leo Chiang and Mercedes Coats’ heartwarming documentary “To You Sweetheart, Aloha” will be shown Sunday at the DGA. When Alyssa Archambault, a 25-year-old aspiring concert promoter, met Bill Tapia, a Hawaiian ukulele master of Portuguese descent, he was 93, living with his granddaughter in Orange County and soon to lose his wife of 64 years.

Archambault, a descendant of Hawaiian musician Sam Nainoa and the great-grandniece of Joseph Kekuku, inventor of the steel guitar, not only revived Tapia’s career but also took it to new heights. Yet the understandable but not always tactful concerns of Tapia’s grandchildren that he might be becoming too emotionally attached to Archambault -- and her realization that the demands of managing his career are becoming all-consuming -- provoke a crisis.


Poignant zombies

The American Cinematheque’s Alternative Screen showcase presents a sneak preview of David Gebroe’s “Zombie Honeymoon,” which is sure to become an instant cult horror classic, tonight at the Egyptian.

Despite its exploitation title and adroit comic touches, the film is fundamentally serious and remarkably poignant. Denise (Tracy Coogan) and Danny (Graham Sibley) are happy honeymooners who head for the New Jersey shore, where a large borrowed house awaits them. One day at the beach, a dark, malevolent figure emerges from the waves and attacks Danny, turning him into a ghoul with an appetite for human flesh. When the transformed Danny assures Denise he will never harm her, she begins to consider the depth of her love for him.

Shanghai nights

Andrew Cheng Yusu’s “Welcome to Destination Shanghai,” which screens Sunday in the UCLA Film Archive’s Contemporary Mainland Chinese Film series, is a beguilingly idiosyncratic commentary on the lives of those living on the margins of the gleaming, skyscraper-filled new Shanghai that has emerged in the past decade.

Cheng starts with a young man stripping off all his clothes for a gruff madam to get a job as a male prostitute. But the film moves on to a middle-aged woman, desperate to become an actress but who settles on working for the madam. These and a number of other characters and episodes are interconnected to create a fresco of fringe people whose lives mirror and mock society at large.

Overlapping the Contemporary Mainland Chinese series is “In Our Time: New Taiwanese Cinema,” opening Friday at 7:30 p.m. with Hou Hsiao-hsien’s “Cafe Lumiere,” a portrait of disaffected existence in contemporary Tokyo that is an homage to Yasujiro Ozu and his films.

On Wednesday it will screen “Our Time, Our Story: 20 Years of New Taiwan Cinema” (2002). Hsiao Chu-chen’s comprehensive documentary reveals how by 1982 the local film industry, long supported by war movies and romantic tear-jerkers, had collapsed to the extent that opportunities for a new generation of filmmakers opened up.


Working on modest budgets and determined to reflect the lives of Taiwanese people, filmmakers such as Hou Hsiao-hsien and later Tsai Ming-liang became internationally renowned. It has, however, not been smooth sailing for filmmakers since. The irony is that while these and others win prizes at international film festivals, the Taiwanese motion picture industry suffers at the box office from a lack of sufficiently commercial pictures.

Silent satire

“A Woman of the World,” directed by Malcolm St. Clair and based on a Carl Van Vechten novel, will screen Monday at the Silent Movie Theatre. In the 1925 film, Pola Negri plays an Italian countess who puts a two-timing lover out of her mind by visiting a cousin by marriage (walrus-mustached erstwhile Keystone Cop Chester Conklin) in a small Midwestern town. The result is a lighthearted but on-target satire of small-town narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy in which the countess takes the starch out of the town’s priggish district attorney (Holmes Herbert). Negri seems to be having fun with the smoldering siren image, and the result is a timeless delight.

Note: On Monday at 8 p.m., REDCAT will show “The Inner World of Janie Geiser,” a program of eight provocative experimental shorts by the artist. (213) 237-2800.



Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

* “To You Sweetheart, Aloha”: 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Directors Guild of America, 7920 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood

Info: (213) 680-4462;

American Cinematheque

* “Zombie Honeymoon”: 7:30 p.m. tonight

Where: Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

Info: (323) 466-FILM;

UCLA Film Archive

* “Welcome to Destination Shanghai”: 7 p.m. Sunday

* “Our Time, Our Story: 20 Years of New Taiwan Cinema”: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Melnitz Hall, James Bridges Theater, UCLA campus, Westwood

Info: (310) 206-FILM;

Silent Movie Mondays

* “A Woman of the World”: 8 p.m. Monday

Where: Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.

Info: (323) 655-2520;