What is Asian American film?

Here are some responses from our staff:

Author: Tommy Gonzalez, Film Selection & Technical Operations Committee
I would define Asian American film as a category of cinema that can deal with Asian American themes, specifically with diasporic groups, relations between America and Asian countries or other issues related to the Asian American experience. Asian American film is also cinema created by filmmakers that have lived the Asian American experience. It is an unexpected vantage point to analyze film because it deals not with aesthetics or necessarily the time period in which the film was created, but rather with the heritage and culture the work is entered into. Asian American cinema, while a category, is as diverse as cinema itself in all other aspects. It is a category of cinema defined by its giving a voice to group in society that is not often given the attention of mainstream American culture. However, its value and contributions to cinema as a whole have been substantial nonetheless.

Author: Desmond Lee, Outreach & Special Programs Committee
I would define Asian American film as a film genre that expresses common themes seen in Asian American culture or Asian culture. For example, a common theme is the concept of parents sacrificing a lot for their children to succeed in life, such as migrating from one country to another. From this theme, an Asian American film can also showcase the conflict they go through as a minority.

Lastly, I feel an Asian American film does have to be made by Asian American to be considered an Asian American film. In films made by Asian Americans, the Asian American themes will resonate more strongly. But, the whole cast and crew does not in fact have to be Asian American. One could try to make an Asian American film without an Asian American cast and crew but I feel the Asian American themes will not be present.

Author: Katelyn Monaco, Marketing & Publicity Committee
Asian American films are created by, written by, directed by, or star Asian Americans with the aim to tell authentic stories. The same principles about what constitutes Black theater applies to what constitutes Asian American films. They need to be “about us… by us… for us… and near us” (Xing 33). I also agree with the Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) criteria that any movie created by an Asian American constitutes as an Asian American film regardless of its “length, genre, or subject matter” (Xing 33). You cannot separate a creator from their background or the historical context in which they create their work.

Xing, Jun. Asian America Through the Lens. Altamira Press, 1998.

Author: Suzanne Tang, Film Selection & Technical Operations Committee
Asian American film is film that tells the Asian American story and/or gives Asian Americans a voice whether it’s on-screen or off-screen. It doesn’t necessarily have to star an all Asian or Asian-American cast and/or crew, but it needs to contribute to the Asian-American community in a progressive way. Having Asian-Americans on and off screen means their voices and talents are being acknowledged and can, therefore, help move away from the stereotypes Asians have typically been boxed in. The issue is that Asians haven’t gotten the privileges and representation in film necessary to explore film beyond just telling the Asian-American story. There are a lot of documentaries by filmmakers and it is the genre most Asian-Americans go towards because it’s typically used to tell the stories not told or represented accurately. And though that is great, it is also important to reach the point in which Asian-American filmmakers can tell creative stories that don’t necessarily play off of stereotypes or the dissection of. A common misconception of Asian-American film is that it needs to be about Asian-Americans or by Asian-Americans. But it is really about representation. Because of the lack thereof, we need the categorization and outlets to gain such representation. The point in film that we should reach is to have Asians play roles that are specifically made for just Asian – they should be considered for the roles regardless of race and to have filmmakers make any film even if it doesn’t necessarily have to do with Asian-American culture.

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