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Asian Pacific Film Festival revisits ‘Better Luck Tomorrow,’ ‘Bronzeville’ and the L.A. riots

Karin Anna Cheung and John Cho as Steve in Justin Lin's movie "Better Luck Tomorrow."
(MTV Films)

Connecting retrospective and introspective points of view, the 33rd edition of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival begins with Thursday’s opening night gala, a 15th anniversary screening of Justin Lin’s “Better Luck Tomorrow.”

Screening 180 films from 33 countries over the next two weeks, the festival takes an expansive view of cinema, art and culture. In addition to narrative and documentary feature competitions, there’s a spotlight on shorts, Southeast Asian cinema, and films from Taiwan. While opening night is at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre, and the majority of screenings occur in downtown Los Angeles, there are also events in Koreatown, at UCLA and the Directors Guild of America.

Looking at the broader effect of cinema on society and vice versa, the festival includes the Conference for Creative Content (C3), a series of panels on craft and issues facing the industry, as well as special programs marking the 25th anniversary of the Rodney King verdict and Los Angeles riots that followed, and a two-day transmedia presentation on “Bronzeville, Little Tokyo.”

When Lin broke through at Sundance in 2002 with “Better Luck Tomorrow,” his solo feature debut, most Asian American filmmakers were relegated to the indie fringes. Lin, however, quickly moved into the studio ranks and reinvigorated the “Fast and Furious” franchise before assuming the “Star Trek” helm from J.J. Abrams. Sunday, Lin and members of his cast, including Karin Anna Cheung, Roger Fan and Sung Kang, join Times film reporter Jen Yamato to discuss the film’s legacy.

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The Sundance connection continues with two gala screenings of films that debuted at the Utah festival in January and will be released this summer.

Justin Chon’s “Gook,” about two Korean American brothers in South L.A. on the first day of the 1992 riots, is the centerpiece film Saturday night at the Aratani Theatre.

The closing night film, “Columbus,” directed by Kogonada, stars John Cho (also in “Better Luck Tomorrow”) as a visitor to a Midwestern town who connects with a young woman through the surrounding architecture.

The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Festival shifts to Orange County May 5-11 at the CGV Buena Park for best-of-fest screenings and a focus on Vietnamese films.

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Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

Where: Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood; Japanese American Cultural & Community Center; Japanese American National Museum; Downtown Independent, downtown L.A.; Directors Guild of America, Los Angeles; CGV Koreatown; CGV Buena Park; and other venues.

When: April 27-May 4, Los Angeles; May 5-11, Orange County.

Tickets: Screenings, $12-$50; packages, $125-$135; passes, $300-$330

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Info: https://festival.vconline.org/2017/

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