For too long I’ve been giving Lee Ann Kim and the gang at the San Diego Asian Film Festival grief for not bringing enough name talent to their annual event. Every year finds me on the phone with artistic director Brian Hu pitching John Woo, Tsui Hark, and/or Jonathan Demme’s regular DP, Tak Fujimoto. What do we get in return? Two years ago they honored Nancy Kwan, admittedly a big name...were JFK still in office.
When asked what celebs would be gracing this year’s red carpet, Brian broke into a big grin and proudly announced, “Dave Boyle.” Not that I have anything against Dave Boyle. On the contrary — in my book, the independent filmmaker is batting 4 for 4. But this marked his fourth appearance at SDAFF, and the guy’s only directed five features. Still, a new Boyle is cause for rejoicing, and when the stack of screening links arrived in the Gmail, Man from Reno was the first I streamed.
The credits opened on the name “Pepe Serna.” Pepe Serna? What part of Hong Kong does he hail from? Had I mistakenly popped in a Latino Film Festival screener? A lightbulb went off. Pepe Serna had a small part in Dave’s second feature, White on Rice. He’s also put in something like 300 appearances in features and TV shows, making him one of the hardest working character actors of this or any other generation. (The New Centurions, Vice Squad, Scarface, Red Dawn, The Rookie, an appearance on The A Team, and American Me form the perfect Serna sampler.)
Interview with Pepe Serna & Dave Boyle
I paused the screener long enough to call Brian and ask if Serna would be making a personal appearance. Sunday morning found me poolside at the Doubletree Hazard Center talking to the men from Reno.
At age 70, Serna shows no signs of slowing down. Here’s a man in love with his calling. The sold-out SDAFF screening only made it sweeter! Dave has been working hard at self-distributing his films — something he addresses at length in the video. For those unable to snag a seat for last Sunday’s presentation, here’s hoping Man from Reno will land a distribution deal and make its way to a local theatre soon.
Thanks go out to SDAFF for bringing these two gifted talents to town. Next year, let's talk Tak! Until then, enjoy the interview.