Bombay Breakdown

A poor reaction by a few viewers to a film in the Asian cinema portion of the Newport Beach International Film Festival (NBIFF) is prompting programmers to consider something no other film festival has done: add warnings to films considered unsuitable for children.

In a March 31 Times Orange County story, Asian Cinema Kaleidoscope programmer Andrew Le revealed that he may red-flag films at future festivals. Times arts writer Zan Dubin reported that an Indian-American family walked out of Bombay Boys, while another viewer who was also originally from India called it the "most stupid" film he'd ever seen. Pramod Multani, who left the theater with his family as the gay character and a pickup were taking off their shirts, told Dubin, "This . . . is not the India I want my children to see."

But the same film garnered raves from UC Irvine gay activist Iqbal Pittalwala. The Bombay-born Pittalwala was so entranced by the depiction of three young returning South Asians (one of whom was gay) that he wants a campus screening of Kaizad Gustad's Bombay Boys.

(Full disclosure: as a festival jury member, I tapped Bombay Boys for Best Asian Picture. Another entrant was ultimately given the award.)

Glen Mimura, who teaches a class on Asian-American film and video at UC Irvine and is curating this month's Elsewhere: Asian Diaspora Cinemas series at the university, says it's not the controversial content of NBIFF films that's the problem; it's the incomplete content in festival programs that's leading viewers astray. This year's fliers failed to name Bombay Boys' director (Mimura knew the themes Gustad explored in earlier works) or mention that the film had an interesting gay character, both items Mimura learned only from my March 26 preview in the OC Weekly.

Better synopses in the program would have also told potential viewers of another part of the festival that the excellent documentary The Legacy was against California's Three Strikes law, not a promotion of the repressive measure.

Ironically, Dubin's Times essay was on NBIFF's attempts to reach out to ethnic audiences (as was an accompanying piece by a freelancer on the Latino portion of the festival). Le, with his focus on Asian films, and Festival del Cine programmer Robert Cano worked hard to diversify the festival lineup by bringing great films from the rest of the world. But instead of encouraging Le to continue pushing the cinematic envelope, Zubin's article sent him scrambling into meetings with festival managers to deal with the bad press. He was actually frantic that Bombay Boys might win the Best Film award.

Here's some unsolicited advice to Le and his fellow festival curators: include more descriptive program notes. That-not warnings-should suffice in educating the potential audience about each film. The edgy, avant-garde character of NBIFF must be preserved, not watered-down to cater to the lowest common denominator. After all, Asian audiences, like any other ethnic group, are diverse-and no less interested in offbeat films. It would be a shame to assume a one-dimensional market, defined only by "traditional" family values. (Daniel C. Tsang)

In Hot Pursuit

Good news for fleet-footed Orange County thieves: engage Brea or La Habra police in foot pursuits, and you have a good chance of getting away clean. No offense meant toward the fine men and women in blue from those cities, but when a team of jogging journalists places higher in the standings of an annual law-enforcement relay race, well, those departments' physical-fitness programs may need fine-tuning.

The annual Challenge Cup Baker-to-Vegas Relay is a 120-mile foot race long popular with cops. Starting in Baker, California, and ending at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas, teams of 20 runners and their support crews turned out April 10-11 from Texas, New York and Canada, though more than 90 percent come from California. The relay represents the largest line of moving officers not captured by Fox-TV helicopters flying overhead for one of those lame "hot pursuit" TV specials.

Previously open only to sworn peace officers, the race has in recent years welcomed civilian personnel of law-enforcement agencies and even a media team, of which your correspondent was a member. Though often the recipient of jeers and sneers from the "other side," this year's media team-staffed by writers from such publications as The Hollywood Reporter, the Times Orange County and Police Magazine-placed 20th in the Invitational Division. That wasn't good enough to win any awards, but it did place the media crew ahead of teams from the Brea, La Habra and Los Angeles police departments, which no doubt nursed cases of bruised pride well into the next week.

It makes you wonder how much longer the cops will allow a media team to compete. For when journalist outrun the police, no town is safe. (Dan Frio)

 
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