My picks for 19th Annual Polish Film Festival (Oct. 17-25, 2018)


by Tom Nguyen

October is always teeming with great film festivals in Los Angeles! It’s as if all the cinephiles, like myself, suddenly needed a break from an overstimulating summer of competing activities, and cocoon ourselves inside a myriad of film screenings this month as a Fall transition. Next up: 19th Annual Polish Film Festival, which opened Wednesday, October 17, 2018, at Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, with a gala screening of Squadron 303, based on the true history of Polish pilots who shot down three times more Luftwaffe planes during the Battle of Britain than other Allied pilots.

The film festival continues through Thursday, October 25, at two primary venues: Laemmle Noho 7 Theatre in North Hollywood and Laemmle’s Monica Film Center in Santa Monica. There will also be free screenings at CSU Northridge and USC campuses and Hellada Gallery in Long Beach. Here are my picks (in order of appearance at the festival): Continue Reading →

Cambodia meets Mali: Dengue Fever and Tinariwen at the Fonda Theatre

Story and Photos by Ruth Tesfai

I first remember hearing about Tinariwen when I was studying abroad in London. My friend was raving about them and was upset that he couldn’t get tickets to their show. I was curious but didn’t bother checking them out until 3 years later. I remember thinking, “I’ll probably regret this.” And I did. Because they’re good…REALLY GOOD. And so began my love affair with Malian music. It’s similar but different. Foreign but familiar. In what seemed like divine intervention, they performed live in my city a couple months later. It was an incredible night. Their music truly transcends time and space – it’s a spiritual experience. Hassan’s energy on stage is pure joy. Abdullah’s skills on the guitar, fire. And you can’t forget their percussionist, Said. His drumming moved everyone into a trance! Though that night was perfect,  the band was missing their lead and founder, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib. He chose to stay back home for the U.S. tour for undisclosed reasons. I was bummed but wished him well and hoped he would rejoin them for a future tour. Continue Reading →

Racism rears its ugly head all across SoCal following the election of Donald Trump

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by Tom Nguyen

Following the election of Donald Trump, it didn’t take long for reports of blatant racism and hate crimes to start coming in from around the country. These incidents immediately took me back to my youth, as a Vietnamese refugee growing up in Orange County, historically the most conservative county in a blue state. Racism and prejudice were common and often blatant but becoming less of a worry as I entered college.

Then in 1996, my high school sweetheart’s cousin was viciously murdered by a white supremacist, a hate crime that drew widespread coverage and outrage. Looking back, the murder was an aberration at a time when white skinhead gangs once prevalent in OC were losing their foothold and hate crimes in OC by 2000 would drop to a 10 year low. Racism became less of a concern for me as white flight from many OC cities and growing Latino and Asian populations were changing OC into a more diverse place.

After moving to Long Beach, then Boyle Heights, I never looked back. Until this week. The last almost 10 years of covering LA’s diverse communities and cultural arts scene gave me hope and optimism that we had moved forward, past an era where I or anyone of a minority group would have to worry about violent extremists and hateful bigots.

The election of Donald Trump has quickly shattered that sense of progress, normalcy and security. His xenophobic, racist, homophobic, misogynist rhetoric has opened the floodgates on unabashed targeting of anyone he and his supporters deem foreign, or an outsider, or a perceived threat to the preeminence of straight white males. This is what Muslim communities have been contending with in a post-9/11 nation, with an increase in hate crimes specifically against Muslims or anyone mistaken as Muslim in just these recent years.

Living in a globally diverse Southern California region doesn’t make us any less immune to this type of deplorable and frightening behavior. Here are incidents I’ve gathered this week, mostly on social media. Most heartbreaking to me are young children being targeted by their fellow classmates and in one case, even a teacher. It is triggering to me on so many levels, back to memories of arriving in this country in the 70s as a 5-year-old child. Like any child, I had no concept of race and why certain kids taunted and bullied me and just remembering the innocence lost because of acts like these…it’s utterly heartbreaking and unacceptable!

I think it’s crucially important that we raise awareness whenever these are reported as a reminder for us be vigilant and watch out for one another. If you have heard of other incidents, please let us know. If you have been victimized, please report it to your local law enforcement as well as to the Southern Poverty Law Center which monitors hate crimes and hate groups. And lastly, if you witness acts of hate, please don’t be a bystander and intervene if it is safe to do so. Watch this video in response to a similar increase in hate crimes following Brexit in UK:

Los Angeles:
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West Hollywood:
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Weekly Highlights: Mbongwana Star, Ibeyi, Bombino, Imarhan

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by Tom Nguyen

It has been an incredible April month for LA fans of music from Africa and its diaspora, as many new bands performed for the first time here, as well as returning favorites. After I saw Songhoy Blues (read my previous review), I was looking forward to seeing Mbongwana Star from the DRC, a new band with former members of Staff Benda Bilili.

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A lot of Staff Benda Bilili fans like myself were saddened to hear of the band’s acrimonious breakup but according to a Guardian interview, Yakala “Coco” Ngambali and Nsituvuidi “Theo” Nzonza have not wasted any time dwelling on it, as they take their music to a whole other level with Mbongwana Star. The music is raucous, energetic and full of the infectious soukous dance rhythms Congolese music is known for. Add to that the hard-charging electric guitar riffs and drums, and you have a combustible, unstoppable dance party! Here’s a taste of what went down at The Roxy:

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Top Picks for the 14th Annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

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by Tom Nguyen

The 14th Annual Indian Film Festival (IFFLA) returns to ArcLight Hollywood April 6-10. The festival is one of my favorites of the year and opened last night with a sold out screening of “Angry Indian Goddesses”. The festival this year features three world premieres, two North American premieres, and ten U.S. premieres and will close Sunday, April 10 with “Waiting”.

More features and shorts from women filmmakers will be presented this year by IFFLA than ever before, including Deepa Mehta’s gangster drama “Beeba Boys”; Leena Yadav’s “Parched”, a piercing examination of India’s patriarchal culture through the stories of four women; Ruchika Oberoi’s genre-bending triptych, “Island City”; and Rinku Kalsy’s documentary “For the Love of a Man”, about the fierce devotion shared by South-Indian superstar Rajinikanth’s fans.

Also featured are two LGBT titles, Hansal Mehta’s politically-charged “Aligarh” and the short “Daaravtha” (The Threshold) by Nishant Roy Bombarde, which are bold and compelling statements from filmmakers in a country where homosexuality is a criminal offense under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

Tamil cinema has recently emerged as a force on the world stage, and this is exemplified in the two engrossing Tamil features in the program: “Visaaranai” (Interrogation) and “Kirumi” (Virus).

A lot of great cinema from such a rich and diverse region of the world! Here are my top picks (in order of appearance at the festival): Continue Reading →

Top Picks for Pan African Film & Arts Festival 2016 Feb. 4-15

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by Tom Nguyen

Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF), the largest, most prestigious Black film festival and largest Black History Month event in the US, is one of my most anticipated events of the year! The 24th annual event is February 4-15 at Cinemark/RAVE Cinemas 15 in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza and features a staggering lineup of 150 films from around the world on Black life and culture.

PAFF co-founder, actor and activist Danny Glover recently criticized the Oscars and Hollywood for its lack of diversity. In a Variety interview, he remembers growing up in the 60s and 70s and being able to see great films from around the world in cinemas. “It would widen my whole sense of myself and my relationship to the rest of the world. That’s what the movies and art is supposed to be about!” Glover says and that’s been PAFF’s mission for over 2 decades: to showcase films from the Black diaspora from around the world that usually don’t get a chance to be watched by wider audiences.

The other half of this grand event is the large arts & crafts festival, featuring over 100 artists and vendors, showcasing fine art, crafts and fashion from around the world. So give your eyes a rest between films and head over to find great unique gifts and fashion. Support artisans and small businesses like Amaechina Doreen of ByouBnatural, who will be featuring her handcrafted Art Doll artwork and Wamuhu Waweru of Infinite Miss, featuring crafts and fashion from her travels to her native Kenya, South Africa and most recently Indonesia.

There are also special events and programs for everyone, including special screenings for children and seniors, a fashion show, community forums and talks. Don’t miss the special conversation with Nate Parker, whose film Birth of a Nation made recent headlines at its Sundance premiere and got acquired by Fox Searchlight.

So without further ado, here are my film recommendations (and yes I really do make an effort to see 20-30 films every year here!)…let the film marathon begin! Hope to see you there and let us know what you think of this year’s films and festival, using #PAFFNow on Twitter and Instagram!

Dramatic Features

Narrative films including the opening and closing films of PAFF. I’m really impressed with the films from South Africa this year!

America Is Still The Place (LA premiere): PAFF’s opening film is based on the real life story about a giant oil spill on the beaches of northern California and the institutional racism that Charlie Walker has to overcome in order to finally achieve the “American Dream.”

Miles Ahead: The PAFF closing film is about legendary Miles Davis, portrayed, written and directed by Don Cheadle.

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Top Picks for NYE 2016 in Los Angeles!

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by Tom Nguyen

When I’m considering where to spend New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles, I look for 3 things:

  • Great live bands or dance music we typically cover on this site.
  • It won’t break the bank (Some free, most under $40).
  • Whether big or small events, I’m looking for good vibes, not pretentiousness.

If you’re looking for the same, here are my recommendations (in order of cost) all across LA: Downtown, Silver Lake, Hollywood, Mid City, Santa Monica and Long Beach: Continue Reading →

Interview: El Dusty brings Cumbia Electronica with Tejano Roots to LA with MLKMN, Kinky and Enjambre

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By Oscar Bautista/Photos Courtesy of Press Junkie PR

Hailing from Corpus Christi, Texas, Dusty Oliveira or as he’s better known DJ Dus aka “El Dusty” is a specialist of sound who has been mixing for years to create great combinations of sound.

Taking inspiration from old school rhythms and beats, he produces a unique sound of dance music all with a magnetic cumbia flavor.

El Dusty, along with friend and collaborator MLKMN, Kinky and Enjambre will be performing for us here in L.A. with a show coming up Thursday, December 17 at the Fonda Theater.

EnClave LA had the opportunity to speak with Dusty in hopes of giving LA audiences an insight on his introduction to mixing, his inspirations, and the amazing community of musicians emerging from the Corpus Christi music scene: Continue Reading →

Film Festivals, Foreign Oscar Entries and Special Screenings Galore! November 11-17

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by Tom Nguyen

Unfortunately, a bout of flu kept me from AFI FEST. If you also missed (or decided to avoid) all the buzz, fanfare and crowds surrounding a lot of new films from around the world, have no fear! As AFI FEST winds down this week, there are multiple more film festivals and special screenings all over SoCal, especially for fans of foreign cinema! It’s one of those weeks where everyone seemed to schedule their festivals on the same week…there are 3 Latin American film festivals alone! Here is a list of notable ones and descriptions from their sites:

FESTIVALS:

19th Annual Arab Film Festival @ Harmony Gold, Nov. 13-15, $10-12/film
AFF is the largest independent annual showcase of Arab films and filmmakers in the country. The festival has an international standing and is considered one of the most important Arab film festivals outside the Arab world. It strives to present the best contemporary films that provide insight into the beauty, complexity and diversity of the Arab world alongside realistic perspectives on Arab people, culture, art, history and politics.

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Top 10 Picks at AFI Fest 2015!

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by Tom Nguyen

AFI Fest presented by Audi, hands down the most anticipated film festival each year in LA, returns to Hollywood November 5-12! The festival will kick off with the world premiere of Angelina Jolie’s By the Sea, which stars her and her partner Brad Pitt, as a couple in crisis in 1970s France. All told, there are 127 films (74 features, 53 shorts), representing 45 countries, in all kinds of categories.

It’s a one-of-a-kind festival where the general public can get free tickets to attend star-studded gala screenings, catch the films everyone is buzzing about on the festival circuit, and be among the first to see the work of emerging and first-time filmmakers from around the world. Here are the top 10 films I’m excited to see: Continue Reading →