The Future of Asian American Film Festivals (Film Festival Report Part 5)
So what exactly is the future of Asian American Film Festivals in today’s Internet driven postmodern world? This is obviously hard to foresee, but I think the Internet’s effect will generally be positive as it lowers the barrier of entry for media makers. As Jasmine has pointed out in her project, there is already a large Asian American presence on the Internet in the form of various videos hosted on sharing sites such as YouTube. Indeed the Internet has no true filter, so anything anyone produces can be uploaded, but the real question is whether or not anyone is watching. This lowered barrier of entry might lead to Asian American media being relegated to relatively small audiences. (The signal to noise ratio on the Internet is generally large.) Also media is not produced in a vacuum, so it is likely that artists in general will largely imitate was it popular and within their means. This can lead to a homogenization of media. One only needs to look at the top daily YouTube videos to see this. Many of the top videos are simply video blogs done in front of a green screen with amateur digital effects. However it should be noted this isn’t really that much different from what traditional Asian American media has dealt with. As Kayo Hatta said, “One of the frustrating things within the Asian American community sometimes can be that they don’t see something as worthwhile until it’s validated by the mainstream”. So you could have a case where a given Asian American online video is not popular among the Asian American community until the wider Internet community votes it up on digg or shares it a lot on Twitter, etc.
Of course with any lowering of the barrier of entry comes additional criticism. Current Asian American media producers may feel threatened or dismiss the newcomers. The question of legitimacy will arise. I fail to see how this will have a significant impact in a media world where more and more people are consuming media online, whether that is via streaming or downloading. I believe in general the Internet public doesn’t think too deeply about how “legitimate” a given media maker or content provider is, they are just looking for entertainment. Indeed, the fact that a lot of online videos are made for embedding or messaging (email, facebook, twitter, digg, reddit, etc.) to one’s friends show this. And the recommendation of one’s friend is the best marketing a given work can hope for as it adds a personal touch. The Internet also provides for direct communication between media makers and consumers. This can lead to many interesting interactions, such as crowd sourcing the production of a given work or raising funds via online donations systems such as Kickstarter. It also will lead to immediate criticism, but once again criticism is not new to Asian American media. What is specific to Asian American media is that there will always be “cultural critics”, those who deem a work is “not ethnic enough” or “too ethnic”. They perform what Charlotte Brundson calls “redemptive readings” which point out the inconsistencies in a given text to salvage the work for a particular audience. You can already see this at work when people criticize a work as not being ethnically accurate via online comments.
As stated in my previous post, I don’t think any online recognition can truly replace physical world recognition. Still, I think the idea of a “virtual” film festival is intriguing and I wonder if it only a matter of time before we see the idea take off. There are already some in existence and I am sure there will be more. Not only would a virtual film festival be cheaper than a real film festival, it is likely to represent the independent nature and grassroots, “do it yourself” mentality that has been the defining characteristic of the Asian American media movement since the 60s. Perhaps this is not such a weird idea after all.
-Written and Posted by Jonathan Soon