Lakewood Asian Film Festival aims to entertain, educate, and engage — An interview with festival organizer Phil Raschke

By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly

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The second annual Lakewood Asian Film Festival, free to all, takes place August 1st through August 3rd at the Lakewood Playhouse, located at 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd. in Lakewood. Festival organizer Phil Raschke answered some questions over e-mail.

NWAW: When did you arrive here from Seattle and from where, and what are your strongest impressions of the city?

Raschke:  I grew up in Whittier, Calif., close to Los Angeles, and attended undergraduate school at Pepperdine University.  I arrived in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1970s when I was assigned as an Air-Sea Rescue Pilot at the Coast Guard Air Station in Port Angeles.

Being able to live and fly around the San Juan Islands, Olympic National Park, and the Washington coast convinced me that the Northwest would be a fabulous place to live. I returned to the Northwest in 1981 and retired my flying suit in 1984.

NWAW: How did the Lakewood Festival come into being? Who were the founders, and how did they get together?

Raschke:  I am a founding member of the Lakewood Arts Commission and the annual Master of Ceremonies for the Lakewood Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration. A former member of the Arts Commission was interested in trying to create a film festival.

One day, I just approached the Arts Commission and volunteered to take on the creation of an annual Asian Film Fest to help promote an underserved segment of the community.

Soonyoung Redden of University Place attended the 2013 event and volunteered to help me coordinate this year’s event.

NWAW: How do you go about financing and organizing the festival?

Raschke:  The Asian Film Fest receives a grant from the Lakewood Arts Commission, plus this year, we have 12 local sponsors. Everything is normally in place by early June, so marketing announcements can begin 60 days prior to the event.

NWAW: How were the films chosen?

Raschke:  During the summer and fall, a small group of friends who are foreign film enthusiasts, inform me of Asian films they have watched and highly recommend to me.  I watch their suggestions and then make final selections.  Naturally, I try to balance the films to represent the major nations of the Asian region, including China, Mongolia, Japan, India, Philippines, Korea, and other areas. This year’s films represent a wide variety of themes designed to educate, as well as entertain audiences.

NWAW: Which non-film attractions will be at the festival this year?  How did you recruit them?

Raschke:  This year’s performing groups include the Chang Hee Suk Korean Women Drummers and Okinawa Taiko Drummers, plus a special lobby display by the Philippine Scouts Historical Society. The Philippine Scouts is a famous military group who fought with the U.S. military during World War II and before.  During the year, I visit many community events and when I see a group that has high audience appeal, I contact them and ask them to perform at the film festival on a volunteer basis.

NWAW: What are the easiest and most difficult parts of organizing the festival?  How did you work through the challenges?

Raschke:  Naturally, the first year was the hardest.  No matter how well you plan, there are always a few unexpected issues.  The easiest part is the actual film selection and obtaining volunteers to work the actual event.  The films come recommended by friends and there are many quality films to choose from.  The most difficult part is raising enough funds to support the
marketing and production of the actual event.

The best way to work through any issue is to get an early start in the planning and work on the event every day, even if it is a minor item.  Most importantly, be flexible and have backup films, entertainment, projection equipment, cables, and event volunteers ready to quickly fill in.

NWAW: What are the plans for the festival next year and beyond?

Raschke: The key objective for 2015 and beyond is to expand the sponsorship participation to allow for the purchase of projection equipment, rather than annually renting the equipment.  Consideration of expanding the event to a week will also be reviewed.  Lastly, as the event is currently free to all, there may be some consideration given to charging a small fee to attend. (end)

For more information on the Lakewood Asian Film Festival, call the Lakewood Playhouse at 253-588-0042, Phil Raschke at 253-861-1366, and/or visit www.lsca.us.

Andrew Hamlin can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

Lakewood Asian Film Festival Schedule

Friday, August 1 — “Kahaani” (India, color, 150 minutes, 2012, (PG-13): A murder mystery starts with a poison gas attack on the Kolkata Metro Rail and continues two years later when a pregnant software engineer arrives in Kolkata (Calcutta) from London in search of her missing husband. Beautifully filmed in Kolkata during the festival of Durga Puja, the film stars Vidya Balan, who won the “Best Actress Award” for her fantastic portrayal of the determined wife. It is a non-stop action “where every truth is a lie.” This award winning international box office hit is a must see! Pre-Show Entertainment: The fabulous Chang Hee Suk Drum Group, 7 p.m. Film “Kahaani” 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, August 2 —“To Live” (China, color, 132 minutes, 1998, PG-13): This spellbinding masterpiece begins in the 1940s when a rich man’s son gambles away the family fortune and reduces the entire family to peasantry. Over the next 40 years, the family experiences life and death during the Chinese Civil War, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution. But through each hardship, the family manages “to live” and believes that life will get better. The film stars box office sensation Gong Li. Some consider this film a Chinese “Gone with the Wind” and happens to be Clint Eastwood’s favorite film at the Cannes Film Festival. This film is also a Golden Globe nominee for “Best Foreign Film.” Pre-Show Entertainment: The fabulous Chang Hee Suk Drum Group, 7 p.m. Film “To Live” 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, August 3  — Special Showing of “All We Could Carry” documentary, (USA, color, 15 minutes, 2011, (G): In 1942, 14,000 men, women, and children of Japanese descent were ordered to leave their jobs, schools, and homes. They were to proceed to the Heart Mountain “Relocation Camp” near Cody, Wyo. They were only allowed to take with them what they could carry. In this historically moving film, 12 men and women, who endured three and a half years behind the barbed wire at Heart Mountain, vividly relate their story of fractured families, denied dignity, isolation, and love. The documentary is directed by Academy Award winner Steven Okazaki. Pre-Show Entertainment: The exciting Okinawa Taiko Performers, 2 p.m. “All We Could Carry” 2:30, Main Feature (below) 3:00 p.m.

Sunday, August 3 —“The Front Line” (Korea, color, 133 minutes, 2011, PG-13): Near the end of the Korean War, a ceasefire is ordered, but a South Korean crack army unit is ordered to capture a strategic hill before the ceasefire takes place. When the unit commander is found dead with bullets from a South Korean weapon, a 20-year-old captain now leads the unit. Men in the unit wears North Korean uniforms under their own uniforms. Hold on to your seat, the ceasefire is near, the attack begins! Film stars Shin Ha-Kyun and Ko Soo. The film is the winner of 2011 Critics Choice “Best Film,” “Best Director,” and “Best Cinematography” awards.Pre-Show Entertainment: The exciting Okinawa Taiko Performers, 2 p.m. “All We Could Carry” 2:30, ”The Front Line” 3 p.m.

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