After rough times with the pandemic, the Boston Asian American Film Festival returns full force this week.
“We were virtual last year and did a spring showcase in person but that was very limited in what we were able to be,” said BAAFF director Susan Chinsen.
Headquartered at the Emerson Paramount screening room, the festival’s four-day run begins Thursday. Five Shorts programs, including the popular Queer and Here and After Dark, are available virtually online afterwards.
All live in-person events, including opening night at the Brattle, require masks. “Our Asian American audience tends to worry about feeling safe,” she said. “Many people are still at risk.”
Chinsen notes that both the opening and closing films have in-person Q&As with their filmmakers following the screenings.
Writer-director Tom Huang’s “Dealing with Dad,” a consistent film festival prize winner, kicks off BAAFF with laughs.
“It is about a father who is dealing with depression and his adult children return home to get him better and they realize he’s nicer being depressed. So they wonder, Do we want him to get healthy?” Chinsen explained.
“While a lot of immigrant families with intergenerational experience is fairly universal, the filmmaker brings these issues to light under the umbrella of humor. Because this is our first film, it sets a tone coming back from the dark experience of COVID by taking a serious topic that brings people together through laughter.”
Closing night is David Siev’s extraordinary documentary, “Bad Axe.” “A bit of a darling in the festival for me,” Chinsen said. “The filmmaker, from Bad Axe, Michigan, ended up going home during COVID and turned his camera on his family. His mother is Mexican-American. His father is Cambodian-American, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide. They own Rachel’s restaurant in Bad Axe and this film reflects so many aspects of the pandemic: Trying to run a restaurant, dealing with an older generation with medical conditions, intergenerational trauma and healing.
“And working remotely while Black Lives Matter and Asian American racism are happening. The tension from Trump supporters and non-Trump is there. It’s surprising how red Bad Axe is in its political leanings.
“One daughter works in Ann Arbor and comes home on weekends. The other daughter is dating a Black male — who was adopted by a white family. They all grew up in Bad Axe. One daughter makes a success in a corporate job. Then the family is struggling with a donut shop which they turn into a thriving restaurant in the community. It ends on a beautiful, hopeful note.”
David Siev with both his parents will be at the screening.
For information, tickets and schedules: BAAFF.org
Tickets range from $12 to 15. Student pricing is available. A virtual pass as well as a bundled pass is available.