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San Diego Asian Film Festival kicks off tonight | VIDEO

SAN DIEGO – The 13th annual San Diego Asian Film Festival, the largest such event in America’s Finest City, starts tonight with the award-winning documentary, “Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey.”

Director Ramona Diaz is expected to attend the screening at the historic Birch North Park Theatre.

The documentary is described as the "all-American rock band Journey’s search for a new lead singer, and their controversial but utterly spectacular find: a formerly homeless cover-band frontman named Arnel Pineda of the Philippines."

Most of the films will be screen from Nov. 2-9 at the Mission Valley UltraStar Cinemas, 7510 Hazard Center Drive in San Diego. Other films will be shown at UCSD, Cinepolis Del Mar and the Museum of Photographic Arts, as the festival expands locations to reach a broader audience.

The San Diego Asian Film Festival is one of the largest film exhibitions of its kind in North America, and this year is screening more than 150 films from 20 countries.

The centerpiece film, to be shown on Sunday, Nov. 4, is “Eden.” Jamie Chung (“Hangover 2” and “Sucker Punch”) and Beau Bridges (“The Descendants” and “Brothers & Sisters”) star in the narrative film, based on the true story of Chong Kim, a Korean-American who was kidnapped into an international sex trafficking ring. Chung, Kim and director Megan Griffiths are expected to attend the screening.

The closing night selection, to be screened on Sunday, Nov. 9, is the West Coast premiere of the Japanese romantic comedy, “Love Strikes!”

Director Chung Chang-Wha will be the subject of a tribute. Festival organizers cite this:

"In 1972, Warner Bros. sought a film to capitalize on America’s excitement for TV’s Green Hornet and Kung Fu. Enter Chung Chang-wha, a 19-year veteran in the Korean film industry turning out spectacular melodramas, swords-play films and costume pictures. The result was “Five Fingers Of Death,” which under Warners’ watch became an international sensation that remained on the North American box office charts for nearly three months. For a foreign production in a xenophobic market, the film was an unprecedented success that precipitated a two-year kung fu craze. Today, it continues to be emulated in films like “Kill Bill” and “The Man With The Iron Fists.” Chung brought a jolt of energy to Hong Kong (and beyond) with his craft and his cosmopolitan smarts. For his art, for his passion, and for his imprint on world cinema, the San Diego Asian Film Festival will award Chung Chang-wha its Lifetime Achievement Award."

On the social front, the festival’s Gala Awards Dinner remains one of the hottest events of the fall and will be presented on Saturday, Nov. 3, at Town & Country Hotel, 500 Hotel Circle North in Mission Valley.

More than 700 people are expected to attend the gala, including actor George Takei, one of the stars of “Allegiance: The Musical,” which recently had its world premiere at The Old Globe. Performances at the gala will come from “Allegiance” cast, Culture Shock and Goh Nakamura. Proceeds will benefit Reel Voices in support of at-risk youth and other programs. Comedian Randall Park will host the gala.

For a full listing of movies and events associated with the San Diego Asian Film Festival or to purchase tickets, click HERE.

Connect with the film festival on Facebook and on Twitter.

The San Diego Asian Film Festival is presented annually by the Pacific Arts Movement, formerly the San Diego Asian Film Foundation, a non-profit media arts organization specializing in Asian and Asian American cinema.