Austin Asian American Film Festival

Many events have been canceled or postponed due to coronavirus concerns. Please check with the organization before going to any event.
Scene from Atomic Heart
Scene from Atomic Heart, part of the Austin Asian American Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Austin Asian American Film Festival

The Austin Asian American Film Festival will showcase a wide variety of Asian and Asian American films, featuring a lineup of 12 documentary and narrative features and 12 short films. The productions span across all film genres from historical drama to “punk rock opera,” along with exclusive events such as a K-Pop Opening Night Party and an Asian American Comedy Showcase.

Schedule of events

Thursday, November 12

7 pm - Seoul Searching: Korean American filmmaker Benson Lee’s tribute to ‘80’s John Hughes romantic comedies, Seoul Searching is about a group of Korean teens from around the globe who meet at a government-run summer camp for foreign born kids. The story follows these teens as they break rules and compete to impress members of the opposite sex.

Friday, November 13

6 pm - La Salada: Three interweaving stories shed light on an unfamiliar face of the Asian diaspora — an enormous informal marketplace in Buenos Aires that draws migrants from throughout the world. As a Korean businessman frets over his daughter’s pending nuptials, a Bolivian teenager and his uncle cross the border illegally searching for work, and a Taiwanese clerk woos a security guard at the market in between late night calls home to his worried mother.

8:30 pm - The Chinese Mayor: The city of Datong in Shanxi province was once the illustrious capital of one of China's imperial kingdoms. Today, it is a coal-mining city and one of the most heavily polluted, but mayor Geng Yanbo has a plan: He wants to restore the ancient city walls and transform the city into a cultural destination. Unfortunately, this requires the relocation of over 500,000 of the city’s residents, and many are refusing to move. As the project runs behind schedule and threatens to financially destroy Datong, can Geng’s ruthlessly uncompromising approach succeed?

11 pm - Ruined Heart: Like a long-ago late night out with a wild friend, Ruined Heart situates itself squarely in the realm between dream and reality. There is no dialogue of any consequence, and the plot doesn’t get much more complex than the title suggests, but the mix of hypnotic imagery and lush soundtrack will leave you dizzy with awe.

Saturday, November 14

12:30 pm - Top Spin: Mina T. Son and Sara Newens’ electric feature debut thrusts its viewers into the fast-paced world of competitive table tennis. Entertaining and insightful, Top Spin highlights the dedication, passion, and sacrifice of top U.S. players Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, and Michael Landers as they compete to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.

3 pm - Paradise in Service: Set in the late 1960s on the military island Kinmen, often seen as Taiwan’s most dangerous outpost because of its close proximity to China, Paradise in Service tells the story of Pao (Ethan Juan), a naïve but kind-hearted young man from Taiwan who is drafted and eventually assigned to a unit in charge of a military-run brothel. In this peculiar assignment, Pao vows to keep his virginity against all odds.

7 pm - The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor: Set against the backdrop of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge reign of terror, The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor chronicles this horrific period through the eyes of Dr. Ngor, a surgeon and gynecologist who would lose his wife and unborn child in a concentration camp as part of the regime's "Year Zero" social experiment. Ngor survives and eventually escapes to America, where he would channel that experience to deliver an emotional performance as an actor in The Killing Fields (1984), winning an Oscar® for Best Supporting Actor in his first film. Using his newfound celebrity as a platform for activism, Ngor would become a worldwide ambassador for truth and justice in his homeland until his untimely death in 1996.

10 pm - The Purple Onion: Well intentioned but terminally lonely, Johnny (Edwin Li, also co-writer) toils as a dishwasher while pursuing dreams of being a stand-up comic. Success is elusive, and his life is complicated by the arrival of Jeanie (Noreen Lee), a family friend (or perhaps a distant relative), down on her luck and needing a place to crash. Johnny and Jeanie’s searches for purpose in their lives leads them through a world of eccentrics, confirming that, despite reports to the contrary, not all the weirdos have been priced out of San Francisco.

Sunday, November 15

11 am - Giovanni's Island: At the end of World War II, the small Japanese island of Shikotan became a part of the Sakhalin Oblast, a federal subject of Russia. Giovanni's Island follows two young boys, Junpei and Kanta, as they befriend the Russian girl whose family takes over their house. Like Grave of the FirefliesGiovanni's Island is a beautiful, heartbreaking drama about two kids who are forced to grow up too soon amidst war and conflict beyond their control.

1:45 pm - Jalanan: Jalanan (Streetside) tells the captivating story of Boni, Ho & Titi, three gifted, charismatic street musicians in Jakarta over a tumultuous five-year period in their own lives and that of Indonesia. The film follows the young marginalized musicians and their never-before-seen sub-culture, while also painting a striking, moody and intimate portrait of Indonesia’s frenzied capital city.

5 pm - Placebo: After his brother seriously injures himself by putting his fist through a plate glass window, filmmaker Abhay Kumar seeks to excavate the source behind an escalating pattern of violence and aggression at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi, India's most prestigious and competitive medical college. Armed with a handycam, he situates himself amidst the wearied walls and hallways of the dormitory and observes the lives of four students over the course of a year.

7:30 pm - Atomic Heart: Atomic Heart follows two late twenty-something party girls Arineh and Nobahar, who wear jewel-colored headscarves to cover their brightly dyed hair. After a night of chewing on gummies and discussing who invented the western toilet with their hipster friend Kami, they find themselves in a traffic accident that introduces them to a mysterious stranger who believes he is not of this world.

Event Details


+ see all dates and times


AFS Cinema
6406 N. I-35 Frontage Rd. Suite 3100
Austin, TX 78752

Ticket Info

Individual tickets - $10; film passes - $45; festival badges - $65