Asian-American films celebrated in NYC

Updated: 2013-07-26 12:12

By Caroline Berg in New York (China Daily)

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 Asian-American films celebrated in NYC

Brian Yang (left), Allen Lu and Christopher Chen (not pictured) co-produced the documentary LINSANITY about NBA basketball player Jeremy Lin. The film is one of 70 works featured in this year's Asian American International Film Festival in New York. Caroline Berg

Nearly 400 submissions vied for a spot in this year's Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) in New York, which ultimately selected 70 entries.

"They curate such a strong program of films each year," Brian Yang, film producer and actor, told China Daily. "They bring in all kinds of people from around the world."

The festival, which began on Wednesday and will run through Aug 3, will present 26 feature films and 44 short films made for, by and about Asians and Asian Americans.

The program spans six themes, including "Asian American Achievements," "LGBTQ Features," "Remembering the Forgotten War," "Exploring Asian Filmscapes," "Taiwan Cinema Days" and "Celebrating Female Filmmakers - In Memory of Marilou Diaz-Abaya."

The festival aims to provide a comprehensive picture of the Asian and Asian-American independent film world, and this year will include works from or featuring characters from Australia, Canada, the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, The Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Turkey, the UK and the US.

"The festival has grown," said Yang, who has lost count of the number of times he has attended or participated in the annual event, which is now in its 36th year. "I was talking with a friend yesterday about how well attended all the screenings are."

Screenings will be held at the Anthology Film Archives, Asia Society, Museum of Chinese in America and New York Institute of Technology. The festival includes special events and presentations throughout the 11-day event. On closing night, for example, a screening of the North Korea repatriation drama Our Homeland will be followed by an award ceremony and gala reception with the filmmakers.

"The wide range of genres, visual styles and storytelling approaches speaks to the diversity and richness of Asian and Asian-American cinemas," festival curators La Frances Hui and L. Somi Roy said in a press statement.

Among the feature films in this year's program, one will make a world premiere, one will make an international premiere, six a US premiere, seven an East Coast premiere and eight a New York premiere.

Yang has two films in this year's AAIFF lineup. He co-produced the documentary LINSANITY about the Chinese-American NBA basketball player Jeremy Lin, and he also starred in the feature length drama Someone I Used to Know.

"Having a platform like this is great for the artists and filmmakers to share their voice and their vision," Yang said. "You don't make movies to exist in a vacuum, where you're watching it yourself all day long. You want to share it with an audience and [AAIFF] really provides this opportunity."

Outside AAIFF, Yang can be found acting on the television series, Hawaii Five-0. He was also recently the host for a reality show in China called Shanghai Rush, which is China's biggest-budgeted reality show to date.

"Being an Asian American in this industry, you always feel like you're swimming upstream, but I think it's gotten better over the years," the 39-year-old actor said. "Agents are always sending you auditions and scripts, and you're like, 'Another role marginalizing another Asian American.'"

Asians do more than martial arts or deliver food, said Yang, who is Chinese American. He said Asians contribute in a variety of ways, just like any other racial or ethnic group, including working as doctors, engineers and, yes, even basketball players.

"That's always been the gripe over the years in terms of having Asian Americans front and center in the mainstream media's eye," Yang said. "We are three-dimensional characters that are a part of the fabric of this country."

Asians accounted for the greatest population growth among ethnic or racial groups in the US in 2012, 18.9 million people, according to the US Census Bureau.

Yang said he believes change is effected by people in positions of power. In the film world, that is producers, writers, directors, networks or studios. He said these are the people and organizations that have the ability to see the US as a colorful landscape and create characters and opportunities for people who are otherwise in the minority.

"While it remains a challenge, I don't want to harp on the fact that the odds are stacked against us," Yang said. "I think it's important to keep doing and let the chips fall where they may, because you can't spend your career planning or always thinking that you're not getting a fair shot."

(China Daily USA 07/26/2013 page10)