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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Asian American Association gets ready for 10th Anniversary Film Festival

Emily Nguyen, a fourth-year economics major, is the co-director for the Asian American Association (AAA) Film Festival, and in her film festival folder she has images of buttons featuring statements that directly deny popular Asian American stereotypes.

The buttons read: “I don’t get red when I drink,” “I am not your translator,” “My eyes are open,” “I’m not a science major,” “I’m well endowed” and “I was born here.”

The AAA Film Festival is an event held for two weeks in May every year at UC Davis. Wesley Kan, a second-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major and the publicity coordinator for the festival, said that each year the group comes up with a general theme and finds movies that follow that theme in ways that relate to the Asian American community.

“It’s a way for people who don’t really know much about Asian Americans to see different sides. You know there’s all these stereotypes about Asian Americans, so this film festival is a way to show that they’re [not true],” Kan said.

Nguyen said that this particular film festival has been put on for the past 10 years.

“This year is going to be our 11th film fest which means it’s our 10th anniversary. Basically our theme this year is celebrating the history of [the film festival] and the things that we’ve done,” Nguyen said.

Part of that celebration will be the return of student films. Nguyen said that the AAA Film Festival is currently taking submissions of five-minute short films either made by or starring UC Davis students. The films will be judged, with the winner receiving a $100 cash reward. However, all the films submitted will be shown in the last day of the festival.

The contest is open to students of any ethnicity, but each should have either an Asian American actor, director or theme.

“A lot of people think, since we’re the AAA film fest, it has to be about the Asian community, but it actually doesn’t. It could be anything,” Nguyen said.

Although each year the festival has a different, specific theme, Nguyen said it is always under the overarching theme of defying stereotypes. The films are chosen with the goal that they will showcase the unique circumstances of the Asian American community as well as how they relate to other communities. This year’s theme will follow that same pattern.

“We just want to show that we are not just a stereotype, that we can break out of that,” said Catherine Chiang, a first-year economics major and liaison for the AAA Film Fest. “A lot of the films that we’re picking right now show that we can think for ourselves.”

The film festival is currently in the planning stages, which began Fall Quarter and include advertising, theme and film selections, fundraising and collecting student films for the contest.

A theme has not been finalized yet, but the selection process has boiled it down to two words.

“We start brainstorming the first week of Winter Quarter, and we just jot down words,” Nguyen said. “We’ll have a bunch of lists of words like ‘food,’ ‘science,’ ‘stereotypes,’ ‘respect.’ We go through it and try to think more about the words that are listed. For this year, the words that came to us were ‘dreams’ and ‘expectations.’ Our theme is going to revolve around that.”

The theme is not the only criteria for choosing films. Chiang said they prioritize independent films in order to showcase those that have been viewed less. Many of the chosen are adopted from other film festivals not affiliated with UC Davis. Kan said that they are often diverse in themselves, with a range of different but relatable topics.

“For picking the set of films we want to balance out drama and comedy,” Chiang said.

Of the films Nguyen said were currently being considered, there is at least one drama, one comedy and one documentary. Each of them are concerned with the conflict between parental or societal expectations and following your dreams, a problem that Nguyen said she has personally experienced.

“I want to be a photographer, but look at me, I’m at UC Davis doing an econ major. But that’s mostly because I have parents that are like ‘you have to go to a good university and do an academic major, you can’t just do an art major,’” Nguyen said.

According to Nguyen, the cost of showing each film ranges from $100 to $500, depending on the production company. Kan, however, emphasized that the coordinators do a lot of work to make the movies free to the viewers.

“We fundraise for the films, because the films that we bring here are not free. We want the films to be free for all students, so we raise money so people can just come and watch them for those two weeks,” Kan said.

Nguyen said they are having continuous fundraisers from now up to the date of the festival, every Thursday at the Memorial Union. The deadline for student film submissions is April 17.



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