Pass the Remote: ‘National Anthem,’ Steven Chow fest, ‘Who Is Michael Jang?’   

Charlie Plummer, left, and Mason Alexander Park are excellent in director Luke Gilford’s “National Anthem,” a Frameline festival favorite opening at the Kabuki 8 in San Francisco on July 12, 2024. (Courtesy Variance Films)

This week, we cover a former San Ramon resident’s award-winning debut; a film festival honoring the multi-talented Stephen Chow; and an encore screening of the documentary “Who Is Michael Jang?”

After lassoing an Outstanding First Feature award at the Frameline film festival, former San Ramon resident Luke Gilford’s LGBTQ-themed “National Anthem” gallops into the AMC Kabuki 8 in San Francisco on Friday. The gorgeously shot coming-of-age drama revolves around introverted 21-year-old construction worker Dylan (Charlie Plummer, ideally cast) in New Mexico as he discovers who is while he falls for the free-spirited Sky (Eve Lindley) and bonds with the maternal Carrie (Mason Alexander Park), who is nonbinary.

Gilford’s film feels like a mashup of an LGBTQ-friendly country song and an impressionistic indie feature. It’s a calm, observant appreciation of the characters and the welcoming, liberated community they created.

Martial arts fans who like comedy spliced into their action may well want to pay for a $45 all-access pass to “Heart of the Richmond: Stephen Chow Film Festival” at San Francisco’s Balboa Theater, which has partnered with the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in San Francisco and San Francisco Supervisor Connie Chan’s office to celebrate the beloved Hong Kong filmmaker and action star. Now 62, he most recently has worked as a producer and director.

The series runs July 12-14. Tickets cost $14 general; $12.50 for seniors and children. An hour-long 6:30 p.m. reception on July 12 includes traditional Chinese dancing, hors d’oeuvres and Cantonese calligraphy.

“Shaolin Soccer” kicks off the Stephen Chow Film Festival in San Francisco. (Courtesy Balboa Theater)  

Here’s a rundown:

“Shaolin Soccer”: Screening at 8 p.m. July 12, this irresistible 2001 comedy-action film kicked up a lot of interest in the United States when it came out. With Chow announcing a sequel, “Shaolin Women’s Soccer,” in the works, it’s an ideal time to catch or rewatch this crowd-pleaser about an ex-Shaolin monk getting his five brothers together as they exhibit their extraordinary soccer skills.

On July 13, fans might as well plan to spend the afternoon and evening at the theater. First up is 1996’s “The God of Cookery” at 1:30 p.m. Chow plays an arrogant chef who really doesn’t have the skill set, yet he’s a tough judge in a cooking contest. For a rom com, cozy up to 1992’s “All’s Well, Ends Well” at 4:30 p.m., about the romantic exploits of three brothers. One of my favorites, 2004’s “Kung Fu Hustle,” screens at 7:30 p.m. Set in 1940s Shanghai, “Hustle” showcases Chow’s skills as director and actor. He stars as a small-time thief who, with his sidekick, becomes embroiled in big-time trouble involving gangs and a fierce landlady.

July 14 offers a perfect Chow double bill: 1995’s “The Chinese Odyssey Part 1: Pandora’s Box” at 1:30 p.m. and 1995’s “The Chinese Odyssey Part 2: Cinderella” at 4:30 p.m., comedic takes on the Monkey King legend that involve time travel. The festival ends with 1993’s “Flirting Scholar” at 7:30 p.m. featuring Chow as a scholar pursuing a servant girl he’s crushing hard on. For tickets, visit

A standout of 2024’s DocFest was Bay Area-based filmmaker Michael Jacob’s “Who is Michael Jang?” If you missed it, you’re in luck now. The Roxie in San Francisco screens the 42-minute documentary about the San Francisco photographer whose ingenuity allowed him to gain access to exclusive events and to capture striking images of key people, places and things. The film screens at 6:45 p.m. July 11, 1:35 p.m. July 14 and 7:40 p.m. July 18. For tickets, visit

The post Pass the Remote: ‘National Anthem,’ Steven Chow fest, ‘Who Is Michael Jang?’    appeared first on Local News Matters.

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