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Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival ready to launch

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STORY WRITTEN BY NATHAN LERNER
For 21st Century Media

Now in its seventh year, the upcoming Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival is right around the corner. With the last minute addition of the Martin Scorsese-produced “Revenge of the Green Dragons,” it will now include 16 feature films. These will be augmented by five free programs of shorts, a web series pilot, and a panoply of ancillary events. These events will be held predominantly at the International House of Philadelphia and the Asian Arts Initiative, with one panel taking place at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Plymouth Meeting resident, Michael Wingate Jones, will again serve as managing director of the festival. Jones was recruited by Joe Kim, the founder of the PAAFF. Jones was festival coordinator during the first year and thereafter served as its managing director.

Jones described the scope of his activities, “Over the years, I have worked directly along with other top level staff with our primary sponsors, HBO and Comcast, and have worked directly with the festival director and board of directors on all strategic and logistical issues, both planning and execution. Jones added, “I consider my current role to support Rob Buscher, the new festival director, in all matters to bolster his leadership and to provide a perspective reflecting the past experience of putting on the festival.”

Jones clarified his ethnic background, “Although part Asian by birth, I was not raised in the Asian sub-culture. I have been amused when at various PAAFF events, I am sometimes approached by persons of obvious Asian heritage, who politely inquire how someone like me became interested in Asian American films. I typically respond by explaining that many Asian Americans such as myself are multi-racial and that people are people.”

Jones garnered a juris doctor/masters of business administration from Villanova University and School of Law. Jones clarified, “I have practiced law for over twenty years. I no longer directly represent private clients, performing litigation support on a project basis.”

Jones noted, “I came late to pursuing the acting bug. My first paid acting gig was as a background detective on the second season of the television series, ‘Hack.’” The CBS show starred David Morse and was shot in the Philadelphia area for two seasons, from 2002 through 2004. Jones knew, “I was hooked.”

Jones went on to appear semi-regularly as an extra on network shows like “Cold Case” and “The West Wing,” and in feature films such as “Invincible,” “Shooter,” and “Get Smart.” Jones has also participated in regional and national commercials, corporate industrial training videos, and performed in community theater

PHOTO COURTESY OF STEVEN J. KUNG ìA Leading Manî will be shown on the opening night of the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival.

PHOTO COURTESY OF STEVEN J. KUNG
ìA Leading Manî will be shown on the opening night of the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival.

Jones updated, “Recently, I was fortunate to book a small speaking and credited on-screen co-star role in an episode of Season Two of Kevin Spacey’s acclaimed ‘House of Cards’ series on Netflix. I am hoping that this role has broken the ice to open the door for other speaking roles.”

Jones cited the low cost of PAAFF events, “Where else can one enjoy a free catered reception with food and drink for the price of an $8 movie ticket and an even lower $6 for seniors and students?”

This year’s five short film programs have some of the best quality material in the festival and the short film programs are all free admittance. Other free extras spread throughout PAAFF’14 include live sushi making and cooking demonstrations by Madame Saito and by Master Chef Joseph Poon, a live martial arts demonstration by Old City Aikido, a hip-hop music industry panel at the Free Library of Philadelphia, as well as karaoke and open mic nights with PAAFF staff and supporters.

In reference to the upcoming festival, Jones exhorted, “Break out of your comfort zone and experience the best of diverse emerging filmmaking by upcoming creative artists in the Asian American community. The stories told may be foreign to you on the surface, but the themes are common to anyone from any culture or background. Even when outer appearances seem to differ, inner shared human experience is common to us all.”

IF YOU GO

What: Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival
When: Wednesday, Nov. 12 through Saturday, Nov. 22
Where: International House of Philadelphia, 3701 Chestnut St.; and Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine St., Philadelphia.
Info.: For more information, visit www.phillyasianfilmfest.org.

Nathan Lerner sees more than 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at lernerprose@gmail.com

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