Claustrophobia, Paper Heart at the Asian American International Film Festival

Claustrophobia will play on opening night (tonight!) of the Asian American International Film Festival. The screening will be its New York premiere. Q&A with Ivy Ho follows.

Also playing tonight: Paper Heart, a documentary by Charlyne Yi who goes in search of other people’s stories of true love – and gets a little love story of her own (with Michael Cera!).

Claustrophobia is an introverted, reflective film about four co-workers in a carpool and the gray areas of their relationships to each other. The main character is Pearl (Karena Lin), a young marketing assistant who is in love with Tom (Ekin Cheng), a manager. Jewel, a glamorous princess who can’t be bothered to pick up her work phone, serves as a contrast to Pearl. Jewel has a more direct and confrontational style and plans to rat out some wrongdoings she knows about in the company. John, the fourth co-worker, provides further context and secondary plot.

The film is written by Ivy Ho, an award winning Hong Kong screenwriter. It has a reverse chronological structure that fits the oblique, indirect natures of its characters. It begins with the end– early on there is a scene of Tom encouraging Pearl to work somewhere else– and shows how they got to that point. As the film progresses the mood lightens slightly, and the viewer working backwards can see how the characters have sunk deeper and become more burdened by their secret feelings.

Because the film relies heavily on looks, body language, and other subtle cues, it will resonate more with people who are accustomed to paying close attention to people and what they aren’t saying. At times it can be bit frustrating, because they clearly have important things to resolve, but instead will have a dialogue about what to order for lunch. It’s easy to say These people just need to get over it! Find someone else my dear! but if you are honest with yourself you will admit that there is some self-recognition here, and something distinctly Asian about they way these characters communicate and mull over things.

100 min, Cantonese with English subtitles
6:45 PM @ Clearview Chelsea

Paper Heart
9:30 @ Clearview Chelsea

It is highly recommended to purchase tickets ahead of time- at the theater or online.

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About Lily Huang

Lily Huang is a writer of Taiwanese descent, who lives on the East coast. She grew up in suburbia completely oblivious to Asian culture, and is making up for it now.
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