Reflection: Film/Festival Presentations – Karen Song (Post #2)

December 16, 2019 at 11:45 pm Leave a comment

The two group presentations in this course allowed me to recognize the extent to which film and film studies is a collaborative medium. Primarily, the film presentation (Mississippi Masala) shed light on how people of different backgrounds and beliefs will view and analyze the same material differently. Of course, this is a given in film and other artforms where audience interpretation and response is just as crucial to the work as the creator’s intent. Through our discussion on the film and some of its debatable or problematic moments in representation, I could see how we collectively tried to find a balance between the message the filmmaker intended to convey and how that came across in its execution. For instance, my group and the class as a whole criticized how the protagonist in our film was presented to be an “exotic blend of spices,” but we also acknowledged how, although some of this was an intentional choice made by the director, much of it could also be attributed to decisions made by outside distributors or marketers unrelated to the filmmaker. Accordingly, the importance of a multi-faceted approach to film studies and critique was made very clear to me. I find that in popular culture it is difficult to curate this environment because much of the public discussion is based on first impressions and surface assessments. As a result, I also see the significance of being able to have these moments in this shared classroom setting through an intersectional, academic lens. 

With regard to the film festival project later in the semester, what I realized most profoundly was how film is ultimately a business industry like any other. Throughout the process, we emphasized the need to highlight “untold stories” and break ground on new representation in the arena of Asian American media, whilst simultaneously bearing in mind the importance of widespread market appeal and promotion techniques that would draw in the greatest audience. Though our festival was not designed for financial profit, we had to weigh the “profit” and our potential for “success,” based on how many people would attend and listen to the narratives that we hoped to share. This led us to take advantage of the hypothetical aspect of the assignment and devise a program featuring recognizable stars and cater activities to have a wider reach for our college audience. In addition to the experience of marketing, the film festival project also opened my eyes to the world of small independent cinema, even within the vastly underrepresented sphere of Asian American film. Had it not been for this class and our access to Visual Communications’ resources, I don’t know if I would have been organically exposed to the work of these lesser known filmmakers and creatives in the industry. This revelation was somewhat discouraging at first, as someone who hopes to work in this field, but it also empowered me to fight for greater representation and encouraged me to contribute to more creative projects, both financially through fundraisers and as an audience member by attending more festivals. Our group’s proposed festival was centered on one cultural group, and resultantly we had to produce a strong case for the potentially limiting program. To combat this, I felt it was necessary to showcase how the narratives, even within Korean American film, had diverse themes and distinct qualities. This was evident in the culturally specific motifs that we extracted from each selected film as well as the broad range of mediums being presented (narrative, documentary, animation). What was unique about my personal experience, in both the film presentation and working on the festival program, was that I was the only Asian American identifying member in our presentation on an Asian American film and the only Korean American identifying member in our presentation on a Korean American festival. I had no issue with this whatsoever throughout the process, as my peers and I contributed equally and worked well alongside each other, but it did lead me to feel a heightened sense of responsibility in the way I conveyed material to the class, given that this is an Asian American studies course. I feel as though it goes back to our larger class discussion on what Asian American representation in the media means, not only on screen, but also in who is presenting, financing, and campaigning for these diverse films to be seen by a wider audience – which often underscores a desire for authenticity. I recognize that viewers, including myself, feel more comfortable with narratives that highlight a certain culture or give a voice to underrepresented groups when these stories are presented by people who reflect that narrative and culture. That being said, there is inherent value to sharing these experiences with people of all backgrounds, and I maintain my belief that working with a diverse group – even in a culturally specific setting – is imperative to having better quality representation in the media.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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