From the riches of the Asian American film fest

The 26th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival is starting up full steam today, after Thursday’s gala at the Castro Theatre and a party at the Asian Art Museum. Dozens of new features and documentaries will be screened mostly in the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas (1881 Post St.) and the Clay Theater (2261 Fillmore St.) through March 23.

Tickets are $11 general and $9 for students for most screenings. Call (415) 865-1588 or visit www.asianamericanmedia.org for details.

Here’s a handful from among the promising films.

A Gentle Breeze in the Village: It’s a heartwarming, but unsentimental drama about the coming together of a big-city (Tokyo) eighth-grader and teenagers in the picturesque, innocent countryside. (4 p.m. today and 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Kabuki)

Yasukuni: Chinese-born Japanese resident Li Ying’s documentary is about bitter controversy between Japan and Asian countries occupied by the Imperial Army during World War II. The Yasukuni Shrine honors the country’s two and half million dead, including some major war criminals responsible for Japan’s aggression. (4 p.m. today, at the Clay)

Amal: This Canadian film by Indian director Richie Mehta presents a view of modern India through the eyes of a rickshaw driver and a millionaire-turned-homeless man. (9:45 p.m. Saturday at the Kabuki, 6:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Clay; 7 p.m. March 21 at San Jose Camera Cinemas 10)

Option 3: It’s the world premiere of a fascinating local film by Richard Wong, director of “Colma: The Musical.” “Option 3” follows a mysterious call on a cell phone through the streets of San Francisco. (5:45 p.m. Sunday at the Clay; 9:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Kabuki)

Desert Dream: The exotic product of South Korea, Mongolia and France, Zhang Lu’s movie is a large-scale, yet intimate family drama taking place on the vast Mongolian steppes. The film represents a complete change in the work of the director of the memorable “Grain in Ear.” (9:15 p.m. Monday at the Clay)

Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame: It’s the U.S. premiere of Hana Makhmalbaf’s film. Set in Bamian, the Afghanistan town where the Taliban destroyed ancient statues, the story follows the lives of children in the area. (12:45 p.m. Saturday at the Castro)

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