Film Festival Reflection
I came into this class more interested in the Asian American studies aspect of the class than the media studies/film aspect. However, I have to say that planning and putting on the film festival was a unique experience that added another dimension to the class and made me really appreciate both the medium of film and the people who distribute and create films.
I do think that if the film festival is something that subsequent classes do, there are several things they could learn from our experience. We talked in class about having committees for different parts of the planning process (i.e. publicity, contacting filmmakers, contacting clubs and organizations, logistics) as opposed to having committees for each film program; I think this would be a more efficient and effective approach than the tactic we adopted.
One part of the festival that was, to me, a vital addition was the presence of the filmmakers or people associated with the film. Hearing them (especially the younger filmmakers) talk was extraordinarily inspiring, and at some points even made me wonder what I could do with a video camera, a small budget, and some persistent ideas.
The festival presented us with the opportunity to touch on some more mainstream, or at least more conventional, contemporary films. I think this was almost as (if not more) important of a function as showing us the ropes on managing a film festival; it provided a look into the current status of Asian Americans and film. Granted, none of the films screened in the festival or viewed in our selection pool were blockbusters or Hollywood films, but they gave us a look at the status quo of Asian Americans in film nonetheless. To see the progression of Asian American independent media from counterculture (establishing a spectrum of Asian Americans /in/ media by showcasing the complete opposite of Hollywood’s representation of Asian Americans) to documentary (providing a background and foundation of sorts for the growing Asian American population) to feature films (like Chan is Missing, both exploring Asian American identity and opening Asian American media to the public) and finally to the films of our film festival (narratives and stories where being Asian American is a defining characteristic, but not a foreign or necessarily “searching” characteristic) was absorbing, and the festival format allowed us to even feel like part of it.
The experience of watching the contemporary films in the festival harkened back to my junior English class’ extensive analysis of Richard Ellison’s Invisible Man, and one article in particular that we read by Irving Howe. (This sounds kind of contrived, but honestly, I swear that it really did remind me of this!) In this review, Howe says the following:
“Some reviewers, from the best of intentions, have assured their readers that this is a good novel and not merely a good Negro novel. But of course Invisible Man is a Negro novel — what white man could ever have written it? It is drenched in Negro life, talk, music: it tells us how distant even the best of the whites are from the black men that pass them on the streets; and it is written from a particular compound of emotions that no white man could possibly simulate. To deny that this is a Negro novel is to deprive the Negroes of their one basic right: the right to cry out their difference.”
I feel like this passage applies to a certain extent to all minorities in the United States, and as talking about the films as “Asian American” seemed to push all sorts of buttons with the filmmakers, I was reminded of this – especially the last line. It’s also interesting, however, to note the theme of assimilation that we saw in the narratives set in the United States, and that we have seen in many of the films viewed for the course. This, coupled with the filmmaker’s distaste for the “Asian American film” label, makes me wonder if “the right to cry out their difference” is something the Asian American community is willing to temporarily give up in favor of a right to show how similar it is to Caucasian America.
Anyway, back to film festival talk. I learned from programming and organizing the festival that Professor Ma really saved our lives with all the filmmaker contact! I can’t imagine having to do all that on top on programming the entire festival single handedly. I really enjoyed the group back and forth through email; I thought that was an effective way to get the whole group’s input without having to spend class time on more minute details (that are nonetheless important).
I really liked the mini pizza party we had with the two filmmakers from the shorts program, especially the dynamic that the two filmmakers had with each other; maybe in the future we could do a more extended version of this as a reception of sorts, with more of the filmmakers present and more of the audience present?
Overall, the film festival was a great part of the class, and I think it would be a fantastic idea to continue to put it on in the future, both for the class and for the Asian American, local, and larger community.
Written and posted by Sophie Wang, 12/1/2010
Entry filed under: Uncategorized.