The 32nd Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) has just concluded, but the inspiration is still running strong. After the wake of upsetting casting announcements, it is more important than ever to support a festival that has proven over and over again that there really is no excuse to not hire diversified actors. Every single year, the festival opens up with a movie that not only chips but fragments the idea that there is limited talent pool of actors of diverse background. No matter which genre, LAAPFF culminates cinematic treasures from all over the globe. LAAPFF is the premiere film festival pooling in a global community of cinematic artists. Over seven days, films of all nature were being played in theaters in Little Toyko, West Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles, and Koreatown.
The opening move this year has already become my most favorite, sweetest, inspiring movie of the year. Don’t let the title fool you, The Tiger Hunter, is not about hunters going after feline prey (except maybe one). This is a movie set in 1979 around a young man named Sami Malik (played by Danny Pudi of Community). Living in the shadow of his larger than life father, Danny strives to be as loved and glorious as him. Earning his engineering degree, he waits for a chance from America to prove his worth. Especially to his childhood sweetheart, Ruby Iqbal (played by Karen David of Galavant). Once the opportunity arises, Sami is buoyed off to America thanks to the generous and well wishes of his village. Unfortunately the Land of Opportunity quickly becomes the Land of Smoke and Mirrors. In less than twelve hours, Sami is hit with reality. It is the kindness of a stranger who had been in the same plight that gives Sami one more chance to survive.
The Tiger Hunter blew my mind from the first act of the movie. By the end of the movie, I had thoroughly sobbed from happiness and heartache, cheered loudly in my mind, and felt the familiar sting of being disappointment of not being rewarded for hard work. My cheeks ached from smiling so much and it had taken every ounce of control not sigh. To be clear, the sighing did not stem from the romance. As sweet as the romance is, it is hardly a huge player in this movie. So many themes that just resonates through my soul. The value of friendship as an adult, the perception of self worth, and the hard truth of how hard is it to be successful. What the movie does a brilliant job is showing how hard the main character crashes and burns but he still walks on. Never give up. Movies with a message like this are so important than bloated superhero movies. It is a movie of an immigrant man facing a steep hill of adversity and showing that he doesn’t succeed right away.
Admittedly, I have only watched three episodes of Community, so I just had an inking of who Danny Pudi was. After this movie, I cannot go back to that series. Danny Pudi energy as the main actor is just amazing. He transformed from a geeky fun character on television to a strong, powerful, dashing–oh hell yes dashing– lead actor. He needs to be in more movies. Although Pudi astounded me, it was Rizwan Manji that stole my heart. Manji played Babu Rahman, the friend that extends the hand of kindess. It is Babu who shows Sami, along with the other eight roommates, how to survive in Chicago in 1979 as an immigrant on a limited work visa. It is through living in tight quarters, tight budget, and doing whatever it takes to secure a job. It was Babu’s optimism and sweetness that made me love him. Babu believes in Sami and all of the roommates. His devotion to his friends, Mary Tyler Moore, and the General Lee car just tugs my heart strings in all different directions.
Not only did movie prove that you can have a main cast made up primarily of Indian Americans, you can also have a great movie like this directed by a woman. A Muslim-American woman named Lena Kahn. Kahn directed a movie that didn’t have a love story has the primary focus. Kahn directed a movie that touching, beautiful, sweet, amazing, and absolutely entertaining.
There isn’t much more I can say about this movie other than dissolving into a happy blubbering glob of goo. To have a chance at watching the movie, got to http://www.thetigerhunter.com/ and sign up for their mailing list. If you have a chance to see this movie in your neighborhood, please do. Support independent movies that strive to bring a new refreshing cinema for your entertainment. Especially if mainstream Hollywood is disappointing you with churning out another comic movie, CGI masterpiece, holiday themed cameo marathons, or just lackluster movies.
Check out the red carpet footage of the opening night to get to know the cast!