Going into my freshman year at Ithaca College, I was a little nervous, but mostly excited. I felt ready to be independent and thankful for the opportunity to learn more about the things that I cared about. What I didn’t anticipate was the feeling of isolation. I like my alone time, but I had taken having direct access to my family at home for granted. I made some new friends, and shared great experiences and conversations; however, this kind of deep discussion didn’t happen in all of my classes. I saw professors dance around tough issues and people avoid eye contact. I understand that being sincere and opening yourself up to sharing can be hard, but I think that it is important and can be cathartic. There are many different ways to begin and further facilitate that discussion, and I think the Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival will be one very important tool and example.
Watching some of the first submissions to IPAAFF, I got emotional because I recognized myself and my family in some of the characters. It was striking since I could probably count the number of Asian protagonists in film and television I had seen before on the fingers on one of my hands. But what was really moving was how all the people in the submissions were so different and multi-faceted. It was so eye-opening to contrast these fully-formed characters from the token stereotypes I was used to seeing. Each of them was shaped by their individual experience. When I related to them, it wasn’t because they all seemed like one-dimensional clones, but more like friends.
This type of representation will be valuable to people of all sorts of intersectional identities, definitely not just Asians. The way that stories are told in films can truly bring out emotions and feelings that affect the audience. You can discover new information and find compassion for others. You can be entertained and informed. Most of all, you learn that no matter how different or similar you are to any other person in the world, they are still a person with valid experiences and narratives. I’m already so passionate about IPAAFF, despite this being only the second year of the festival and only my first year working on it, because I truly believe that anyone who attends it or is a part of it will grow from the experience.