Whether it is being relegated to the role of the “model minority” or being automatically associated with martial arts, the portrayal of Asians and Asian Americans in films has been limited. Trying to break these boundaries in mainstream media is the UC Davis Asian American Association Film Festival.
The AAA Film Festival is going on now until May 16, screening all films for free in 194 Chemistry. Today at 7 p.m. will be a showing of the Chinese 2007 film Dark Matter.
Now in its fifth year, the mission of the film festival is to shed light on the social experiences and issues of Asian Americans – a community that is largely underrepresented or ignored within the mainstream.
“The mainstream media kind of clumps Asian Americans together,” said AAA Film Festival co-director Angelina Yu, a senior human development and Asian American studies double major. “Our films really highlight the diversity within the [Asian and Pacific Islander] community, because ‘Asian American‘ reflects so many different ethnic groups.“
The film festival also works to dispel the common typecasting of Asian Americans that are the result of such a narrow portrayal within the media. Co-director Hilland Chiu, a junior sociology and psychology double major, explained that these films could help create a better understanding devoid of any stereotypes through “creat[ing] a new perspective of how they see [Asian Americans].“
Important topics within the Asian American community are addressed in the films, Chiu added. Tonight’s film Dark Matter, directed by Chinese director Chen Shi-Zheng, deals with the challenging transition of an outsider to life in America. It follows a Chinese physics student who has to adjust to a new lifestyle when he is enrolled in an American university.
The AAA Film Festival also gives UC Davis students a chance to showcase their own work. Student filmmakers were invited to submit short films that will be screened at the end of the festival on May 16. A panel of judges from the Asian American studies and film studies departments will award a prize to the best film.
“Our main goal was to encourage students, whether in groups or individually, to produce films,” Yu said.
Chiu said that there has been a definite expansion of the Asian and Pacific Islander community within the mainstream media. Besides the rising commercial success of Asian American actors like Kelly Hu and directors like Justin Lin, Chiu also added that the availability of screenings of such films has spread across the country.
“A lot of festivals have been [held] around the country over the years,” Chiu said. “Before, it was just in San Francisco. It also caters to non-Asian audiences.“
Senior biological sciences major and AAA Film Festival fundraising coordinator Johnny Wu said that people both inside and outside of the Asian American community could also benefit from the screenings.
“[We showcase] films that Hollywood might not greenlight that portray Asians and Asian Americans in a different light,” Wu said. “We’re a multifaceted group and we’re not just one face.“
The AAA Film Festival continues now until May 16. For more information and a schedule of films, visit aaafilm.org.
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