Sign up for our free newsletter

Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.

This fest’s eighth annual edition is all over town, with screenings at multiple venues. Included are five programs of shorts and eight documentaries, but the three films offered for preview are all fiction. The most interesting is Stephane Gauger’s Owl and the Sparrow (at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, at the United States Navy Memorial Theater), set in contemporary Ho Chi Minh City. A 10-year-old girl flees her uncle’s woodworking shop and becomes the catalyst that unites two lonely grown-ups, an elephant trainer and a flight attendant; while the resolution is glibly upbeat, the depiction of life in the former Saigon adds a fascinating documentary aspect. Opera director Chen Shi-Zheng’s feature film debut, Dark Matter (at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Landmark E Street Cinema), is a low-budget film with a top-flight cast: Meryl Streep and Aidan Quinn play supporting roles in this story of a brilliant Chinese student who clashes with his adviser at an American university. Based on an actual incident, the script isn’t entirely convincing, but the portrayal of how Chinese students are exploited is striking. With David Ren’s and Kern Konwiser’s Shanghai Kiss (at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, at the United States Navy Memorial Theater), the views of Shanghai in post-Maoist development frenzy are vivid, but this film seems the least rooted in reality. It’s the parable of a Chinese-American aspiring actor who must choose between his ancestral land, incarnated as an elegant Chinese beauty, and L.A., embodied (a little creepily) in a vivacious 16-year-old blonde. The series runs through Saturday, Oct. 6, at various venues; see Showtimes for this week’s films; see apafilm.org/ for a complete schedule. $5–$20. (202) 330-5496.