Find of the Week: SEAM Sci-Fi Short Film

by Tom Nguyen

One of my guilty pleasures is searching YouTube for sci-fi shorts to watch in my spare time, and I did plenty of it this past week, while in bed with the flu. Most are pretty mediocre and familiar riffs on themes that have been done before; which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I randomly happened upon “Seam”, and was instantly pulled into its world for the next 20 minutes: “In the not-too-distant future, a tenuous peace between humans and remarkably human-like “machines”—some don’t even know they’re not real—is tested when synthetics begin spontaneously exploding. A military-led search for these unwitting suicide bombers begins, sending a terrified machine woman and her human partner on the run.”

It’s rare to see a sci-fi film with a good combination of an original and compelling story with amazing visual effects…even rarer still to see one by filmmakers of color (written and directed by brothers Rajeev and Elan Dassani), taking place in the Middle East (mostly shot in Jordan), and featuring protagonists speaking Arabic (Israeli actor Oded Fehr and Jordanian actor Rakeen Saad). The film puts a different twist on the meaning of ‘suicide bomber’ and at its heart, is a love story about a couple devoted to each other against all odds. I would love to see the Dassani brothers fulfill their vision of turning their short film into a feature length movie. Watch the film below and go to their site to support their efforts.

5th Annual Cambodia Town Film Festival this September 15-17!


by Tom Nguyen

When I lived in Long Beach, the Cambodia Town community was home to me. As fellow refugees & exiles from illegal US war & Communism, we’d suffered so much trauma…the Khmer worse than us Viets as they suffered genocide. Almost all their culture bearers were singled out for execution. Despite genocide, exile, racism, poverty, deportation & other obstacles, the largest Cambodian diaspora community outside Cambodia endures & thrives, still unseen and under-acknowledged in our immigrant LA tapestry.

This is why I always attend the annual Cambodia Town Film Festival (CTFF), which runs this Friday, September 15th through Sunday, September 17th, at the Art Theatre Long Beach. The festival is such a rare opportunity to see Khmer film and it’s a celebration of a people and community who exemplify the enduring human spirit against all odds. This 5th annual festival features a lot of special screenings, like the opening film “First They Killed My Father”, directed by Angelina Jolie, to the first ever all Cambodian-American stand-up comedy show, Khmers of Comedy.

The festival kicks off Friday night with a party at Sophy’s Restaurant and then the opening ceremony starts on Saturday morning at 11am, followed by “First They Killed My Father”, which is based on the book of the same name, written by author Loung Un about her experience as a child during the Khmer Rouge regime. She will be in attendance for a Q&A after the screening. Continue Reading →

What does being an Afro-Latino band mean? My favorite LA bands in their own words


by Tom Nguyen

Seems like folks really enjoyed my last blog on 6 upcoming Los Angeles Latin Alternative bands to watch, so I wanted to follow up with my favorite Afro Latino bands, heating up dance floors all over SoCal with their tropical rhythms (in alphabetical order): Buyepongo, Changui Majadero, El Santo Golpe, La Chamba, QUITAPENAS, Tropi Corillo and YANGA.

Now, I’m not an ethnomusicologist…I’m not qualified to give you an academic lecture on what makes each of these bands different, from which cultures and regions of Latin America they derive their music, and so on. What I do know is I’m a sucker for percussion and tropical beats, and music like this gets me into a non-stop frenzy on the dance floor!

But beyond that, I’d rather you hear from the musicians themselves, to let them tell you in their own words what their band and their music is all about. And let’s talk about labels again…”Afro Latino”…it seems like everyone wants to throw that term around these days. African descendants and roots in Latin America have been so historically unacknowledged, and in Los Angeles, there’s a tight knit community of bands reclaiming and honoring African contributions that bleed deeply through their music.

Because Afro-Latino heritage has been so suppressed and unacknowledged in home countries and communities here in LA, I wanted to know what drove each band’s interest in this music and why they think there are so few musicians of Afro-Latino descent in LA. I wanted to especially hear from some of the bands who’ve used their music and platform to highlight anti-blackness in Latino communities and to work towards more solidarity between Black and Brown communities. Folks in these bands are passionate about their music and its history, but also willing to talk frankly on heavy issues that go beyond the music. I want to thank each of them for their time and make sure you catch them at one of many upcoming shows: All of them are playing free shows, with 3 of them at Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles starting this weekend and 2 of them at South LA Power Fest on September 2nd! Continue Reading →

‘Gook’: Q&A with Ava Duvernay and why Independent Filmmaking and Representation Matters

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by Tom Nguyen

The indie film ‘Gook’ by director/writer/actor Justin Chon (‘Twilight’) opens in LA theaters today, and has been highly talked about, not only for its provocative title. The story of two Korean-American siblings who own a store in a predominantly African American Los Angeles neighborhood, and the consequences of their friendship with a young black child during the first day of the LA riots, won the Sundance Film Festival’s NEXT Audience Award and was acquired by Samuel Goldwyn Films for national release — a rarity for an independent film written, produced and directed by and starring folks from a minority community…but I’ll get into Hollywood’s diversity problem and Chon’s astute observations later.

The film shot in black and white follows one day in the life of a street-wise Eli (Justin Chon), intent on keeping his late father’s shoe store afloat, despite daily struggle in Paramount, a suburb next to Compton. His brother Daniel (a very funny David So of Youtube popularity) is more interested in aspirations of being a singer than helping Eli mind a store long past its better days. Kamilla (a brilliant 11-year-old Simone Baker making her debut), a young girl from the neighborhood, is the heart and soul of the movie, as an orphaned girl drawn to the store and the brothers, looking for more parental love and affection, than she receives at home from a sympathetic but absent older sister, Regina (Omono Okojie) and stern older brother, Keith (a very intense performance by Curtiss Cook Jr.).

The film is a humanizing, honest snapshot of complex race relations in a lower income Los Angeles neighborhood that isn’t often portrayed on screen. While the film starts out with what could have been tired cliches, like Eli’s multiple encounters with Latino gangsters or the racist Korean store owner across the street who pulls a gun on Kamilla, there’s a purpose to Chon’s depiction of the simmering racial tensions of this multi-ethnic community — the day happens to be the acquittal of white police officers in the Rodney King beating trial and as the riots start in nearby South Central, those tensions boil to the surface, with moral dilemmas and serious consequences for each character. Continue Reading →

So you love Chicano Batman. Here’s 6 more amazing LA indie bands to watch.


by Tom Nguyen

LA’s underground Latin indie and rock scene is the most vibrant and explosive I’ve seen in years. Sure, Chicano Batman put the scene on the map and kudos to them…Coachella twice and 3 back-to-back sold-out shows this September wow! They’re such the hip, in-demand darlings right now, eager fans chased them to their cars after their performance to an over-capacity crowd at One Colorado in Pasadena this summer. I see posts on Facebook like a 60-something white CSULA professor gushing about playing their music to her class and wondering why her Latino students hadn’t heard them yet…so I had to ask her besides the Johnnie Walker commercial she saw, can she name any of the many talented and unique bands with Latino musicians playing amazing music in LA right now? Nope.

So Chicano Batman bandwagoners, take note. It took them nearly a decade of playing before the white mainstream music industry noticed, and LA Weekly recently wrote a great piece about LA’s Latin alternative music continuing to break down barriers, thanks in large part to visionary promoters like Viva Presents and Qvolé Collective. The thriving multicultural scene can be summed up by Qvolé’s motto…The Future is Latin. So in addition to great acts promoted by Qvolé like Buyepongo, Brainstory, Cutty Flam, here are six upcoming independent bands I think you should check out: Earth Arrow, Sin Color, The Altons, Twin Seas, Weapons of Mass Creation, Welfair. Continue Reading →

This review, just like Sevdaliza, is better late than never

by Cindy Ly Rozas

Sevdaliza, the Iranian born Dutch musician, dancer and visual artist that’s mesmerizing the music world with her unique avante gard glitch pop, performed her first U.S. show to a sold-out crowd at the Echoplex in Los Angeles this past Monday night. Originally scheduled for an earlier March date, Sevdaliza’s imminent L.A. debut was delayed by the administration’s travel ban, which directly affected nationals of seven muslim majority countries, including Sevda Alizadeh’s native Iran. The travel ban, which went on to inspire the track Bevin, was one way for Sevdaliza to transform her frustrations and disappointments with our current state of affairs into art.

Sevdaliza is actually really great at transforming. She transformed from child refugee to star basketball player on the Dutch national team. From then, only 4 years ago, Sevdaliza transformed herself into a producer and musician, DIY’ing every aspect of her career so far. Just this past April, she transformed the release of her first full length album, into a surreal visual experience; “ISON” manifested in physical form.

It’s hard for any international artist to tour the U.S. without a full length album behind them, but Sevdaliza could have totally done it solely based on the strength of her singles and EPs she’s been steadily dropping since 2014. Industrial R&B with a futuristic aesthetic.

Continue Reading →

More than just a Free Summer Events List! 2017

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by Tom Nguyen

Let me be frank: I’m not a fan of these lists of free summer concerts all the big publications and cool kids come out with every year, for many reasons:

  1. Like how do you call yourself the “The Ultimate List” when you’re missing great free events like Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks in Leimert Park, Central Avenue Jazz Festival in South LA and Watts Towers Day of the Drum (that’s in its 136th year???) just to name a few. I’ll tell you why: These folks who deign to be authorities on Los Angeles either don’t step foot in communities of color or don’t care to include POC events.
  2. Then just because you have events in POC and immigrant communities doesn’t make it a culturally relevant and genuine event. Chinatown Summer Nights for example: seeing KCRW DJs spinning for a bunch of hipsters wearing Chinese coolie hats like a costume, while the neighborhood of mostly immigrant and poor folks is gentrifying, makes me want to puke.
  3. Yes there’s a lot of great free concerts bringing in great international acts as well as featuring local talent…Grand Performances, Skirball Cultural Center and Levitt Pavilion (kudos to Spaceland for their curation this summer!). But if you only focused on free free free, you’d miss out on other venues and nonprofit orgs like Hollywood Bowl, Ford Theatres, JACCC, MOLAA putting on amazing shows.
  4. Not every worthy band gets selected to play these free summer concert platforms, so I think it’s important to support our local bands during the summer as well as amazing visiting acts coming through.
  5. Where are the cultural and community festivals? Where are the film festivals? Again with those free lists…it doesn’t take a genius to just look at a bunch of calendars and compile them into a list. But if you’re not interacting and participating in communities of color and immigrant diaspora, you’re going to miss events like Hollywood Carnival, Nisei Week Japanese Festival in Little Tokyo, Cambodia Town Film Festival in Long Beach, 21st Annual Feria Agostina de Los Angeles in MacArthur Park, and so much deeper appreciation and awareness of the diversity of LA.

So if you only care about free concerts, read no further, and don’t even bother with those other lists…just go to socalsummerconcerts.com. I don’t know who puts that calendar together but it’s very convenient. Now if you do care about a wider range of summer events in LA, and you do care about supporting both local bands and venues who work hard to put on cultural relevant and important shows, then welcome. I spent a good week initially putting this list together and I will never call it a complete or ultimate list…I will continually add to the list as I hear of more events. And if you want a reminder of more awesome upcoming events as well as ticket giveaways to many of these shows, subscribe to our newsletter!

Our Cultural Picks for Los Angeles: June 14-20


by Tom Nguyen

Folks, I decided last night that this will be my last weekly curated list of events. I’ve been putting out this list, without fail, week in and week out, holidays or not, illness or not, since 2011…first within the Couchsurfing.com Los Angeles forum to help travelers get a deeper sense of LA, then on my humble first blog, and finally here the last 4 years.

It was never really widely read and that’s ok…I don’t do this for any popularity and I’m so grateful whenever I meet someone who’s been following my site and is a fan of my curation of LA’s cultural scene. Focusing on under-acknowledged, vibrant and rich happenings in LA’s communities of color and immigrant diaspora will always be my passion and labor of love.

However, the sacrifice that it’s entailed…never being able to go out on Mondays and Tuesdays to devote hours and hours of weekly research until 5am, is starting to take a toll on my well-being, as I also juggle my startup company CultureGap.LA, a people of color and immigrant company, passionate about promoting the cultural arts all over SoCal.

So friends, it’s time for me to hang up my cultural hat here. Thank you so much for the folks who’ve supported my work! After I put out my list of summer events later this week, you can still find me most active on our Instagram and Facebook, subscribe to our newsletter for ticket giveaways, and if you love to write about the arts, can shoot decent pictures and want to attend shows, shoot me your resume and writing samples to tom at enclave.la. Peace out and enjoy the Summer!

MUSIC

The Altons Present: Final Summer Of Luv
Eastside Luv Bar (Boyle Heights)
Wed. June 14, 8pm, Free, 21+
So all things must come to an end and why not end it with a BANG.
Join us wednessday June 14th for the final night of our East Side Luv residancy. We will be joined by some good friends . Vinyl Frontier Crew spinning all night!

Teebs
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (Little Tokyo)
Thu. June 15, 6:30pm-9:30pm, Free, All ages
Spaceland Presents x MOCA | The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles x Alpha Pup Records Present: Teebs at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA + Milo (Rapsmith), Josef Leimberg, (DJ) NOBODY Continue Reading →

Our Cultural Picks for Los Angeles: June 7-13


by Tom Nguyen

With all that’s going on this week, I still consider it a “quiet” week before all the free summer concerts everywhere start to kick into full gear! Support the homies this week: one of my newest favorite bands Earth Arrow, Sister Mantos, Nancy Sanchez CD release party, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Quetzal, Sin Color and La Junta, and the Brazilian music community is joining forces to put on Choro and Afro-Roots and Funk + Forró Dance Party. Another Brazilian band Boogarins are here, plus we’re giving away tickets to Los Cafres and Locos por Juana with Tropico Modular, a Palenke Soultribe side project. Hola Mexico, one of my favorite film festivals, and Mixed Remixed, the largest celebration of interracial, mixed race experience in the nation, are happening in downtown, as well as many more great cultural and outdoor events all over SoCal, like Dia de San Juan Puerto Rican festival in Long Beach, CicLAvia from Glendale to Atwater Village, Playboy Jazz FestivalLA Pride, the many art walks & more!

MUSIC

Earth Arrow, Sister Mantos, Oscura Luna +dj Selvatica
The Offbeat (Highland Park)
Wed. June 7, 9pm, Free, 21+
One of my newest favorite bands, Earth Arrow…socially conscious and defiant, unabashed and fiery, watching them perform is what one friend described as “what it must have felt like being in radical Oakland in the 70s!” They describe themselves as “a Los Angeles Afro-cuban hip hop based band focusing on reviving ancient african and indigenous rhythms and dance .Earth Arrow is a reflection of the fire that burns in the hearts of all who live in colonized lands across the world. A pioneer of indigenous blues sounds, they set out to defy expectations and explore new realms of emotional intensity while incorporating modern hip hop and jazz sabor. Ancient and modern, the guitar licks, piano solos, and percussions hail from the ancestors and channels their visions for the future. Humbly playing to spread truth, justice, and light over the lands. The 6th sun is here.”

Boogarins w/ Jjuujjuu
Bootleg Theater
Thu. June 8, 8pm, $12-$14, 21+
Boogarins’ Fernando “Dino” Almeida and Benke Ferraz began playing music together as teenagers in the central Brazilian city of Goiânia– recording psychedelic pop in their parents’ gardens, filtering their country’s rich musical history through a very modern lens.

Nancy Sanchez: American Novio CD Release
Resident (Downtown)
Fri. June 9, 8pm, Free, 21+
Its finally here! I am so excited for this release of my new album American Novio. I am so grateful to all the musicians, Eugene Toale and Mares Entertainment for making this happen. Come celebrate this release along with our friends El Haru Kuroi and DJ Glenn Red.

Brazilla presents: Choro and Afro-Roots
Zebulon LA (Frogtown)
Fri. June 9, 9pm, $15, 21+
Braziilla is a blessing to protect the musical legacy of the Brazilian diaspora into Los Angeles. Brazilla is a collective of musicians and artists involved with music. Most of us are Brazilian although not all. Our mission is to protect and expand the influential legacy of our mother culture in all its diversity and radically. Continue Reading →

Our Cultural Picks for May 31-June 6


by Tom Nguyen

The first week of June is exploding with events! Don’t miss Los Cambalache at Aratani World Series season finale. Julieta Venegas, Hot 8 Brass Band from NOLA, acoustic guitarist/singer Jennah Bell, and avante-garde group Filastine & Nova at Zebulon a new venue with really eclectic programming of world musicMy favs Selenamos and YANGA are at La Cita and Cuban music fans, don’t miss Cuban American Music Festival with a stacked lineup: Los Van Van signer Yeni Valdes, DJ Guajiro, Charanga Cubana, Changui Majadero, Rumbankete and the Arsenio Rodriguez Project. Also San Miguel with dance teacher Katie Hernandez at The Mint. More places to shake your booty at NuTropic, CuLosAngeles, WOMXN Sound of Cumbia with Cuicani, TheLIFT, and bring the whole family to FandangObon and Viver Brasil’s Samba in the Streets dance & drum series. 12th annual Lummis Day is happening and please support artists, artisans and vital causes in our communities of color at Barrio de Artes with La Junta, Caracol END of Spring MarketplaceFree Red Fawn! FundraiserSave Eastside Café Fundraiser BrunchAlternative Facts: music, poetry, & art show.

MUSIC

Jennah Bell
Hotel Cafe (Hollywood)
May 31, 9pm, $10, 21+
In 2012 Jennah Bell, a young singer-songwriter with a guitar and a fierce folksy sound, stole the hearts of the leaders of okayplayer.com…After listening to the recording, okayplayer.com decided to release it as a live EP under its record label. It was a decision that spoke to Bell’s promising sound and musical sophistication. Now at age 26, her music has evolved even further. Her latest EP titled Anatomy is proof of that growth. With a range of melancholy and sweet tunes, the five-track project is the equivalent of a warm slice of apple pie. ~ Beyond Classically Beautiful on Huffington Post

Selenamos w/ Yanga, Dj Fresko
La Cita (Downtown)
June 1, 9pm, $10, 21+
Hi Folks, Selenamos is back to La Cita Bar this June 1st with Yanga, and friends…Selenamos?? #letsSelena #Cumbiaritmos Celebrate the first day of June with some tropical rhythms! Come dance Cumbia, Afro Caribbean rhythms and much more. Dj Fresko and guests will be playing the best tropical music on vinyl

Aleks Syntek Invites You To Discover The Music Of San Miguel
The Mint (Mid-City)
June 1, 8:30pm, $10-$15, 21+
En esta noche especial presentaremos mi nuevo álbum “Un Poquito de Amor Everyday” Producido por Cecilia Noël, Colin Hay from (Men At Work) y Un servidor. Tendremos el placer de tener como invitado especial al gran Aleks Syntek. También contaremos con la presencia de Kati Hernández (Cuba’s Dance Star in LA) Continue Reading →