Finding Myself Through IPAAFF by Priscilla Lee

I’m not one to talk about myself, especially about my feelings, experiences, and stories. However, after the Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival event this past week, I feel compelled to share what being a part of this film festival has meant to me.

My story has always been difficult for me to tell to people, not because of tragedies or hardships (although those reasons add to the fact), but mainly because I feared, and believed, that my many layers and factors would become non-relatable and further isolate me to feel like a foreigner wherever I went.

I was born and raised in Kenya for the majority of my life, living a few years in the United States here and there. At first, I would tell people I am American by citizenship, Korean and African American by blood, but essentially Kenyan, even though I never really felt like I belonged anywhere. Analyzing how I felt for many years as I lived in Kenya, I felt like a foreigner. When my family lived in the United States for a few years, I looked like “a foreigner.” When I visited Korea as a child, I was treated as a foreigner. I struggled with finding where I fit in, constantly changing myself to blend in with different groups of people and letting others define me based on how I looked and acted. To many people, I was referenced as a “bruised banana,” meaning that I am Black and Asian on the outside and “American” on the inside.

It wasn’t until I came to college when I really started to dig into my history and decide what and how I would identify myself as and to find my agency in that identity. Throughout the past three years at Ithaca College, I have grown, and I now contently self-identify as being Korean-African-American, although I still have a long journey ahead of me in growing more and more confident in my identity. There are still hard days when I struggle with trying and wanting to blend in with other Koreans or African Americans, and to a certain extent, looking for their approval. Other times, my own acceptance in the fact that I am mixed race and to belong is not for other’s approval, but my own.

I became a part of IPAAFF through the promotion and encouragement of my advisor, Changhee Chun. He kept insisting we would make history together through this class. Being Asian American and in Ithaca, I felt, in a weird way, a small sense of duty to be a part of the festival. Throughout the semester, I worked day in and day out, with some days being on fire for the festival and proud that we are creating this event and other days questioning what the whole point was. Regardless, the event started and ended.

In the end, no matter how much work I did or didn’t put into the film festival, I am delighted and especially honoured to be a part of the first Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival for three main reasons.

First, it allowed me to meet so many great individuals in the class who have not only encouraged me, and each other, throughout the semester and event, but also allowed me to feel like I have a community of members who have my back when I didn’t have the energy to go through the day. Second, watching the films that were submitted and screened made me realize that “Asian American” is a much broader term than I ever thought about and creating a film about Asian American identity can be just another narrative film. And finally third, it allowed me to realize that my story too, just might be able to reach out to people, so I should not be afraid of sharing it. My many layers that I was once afraid of is now something I am learning to embrace and appreciate about myself and encourage my agency.

Performer Special: The Side B Story by Jackson Li (jaeL)

I’m here to tell Asian Americans the Asian American narrative: Side B. We already know what Side A is; a culture that only equates academic achievement and financial stability as success. We grew up in Side A. American media also knows about Side A very well and even affectionately renamed us as “The Model Minority.” But despite how our communities feel about the Model Minority myth…there is still a rather large sense of comfort about living in Side A.

There’s also a rather large curiosity towards Side B, even if it’s buried underneath layers and layers of fear. If Side A represents the desire to master the math and sciences, then Side B represents the desire to master the arts and athletics. If Side A represents a bright, clear day, then Side B represents a dark, mysterious night. And as the guidance of Side A gets passed down generation after generation, Side B becomes nothing more than a fairy tale.

Asian Americans are raised to fear Side B. You see, Side A is a journey that offers relatively instant tangible gratification and math and science fields sure seem to work in that kind of system. If you study hard, you’re almost guaranteed good grades. If you have good grades, you’re almost guaranteed a spot at a prestigious college or university. If you attend a college or university, you’re almost guaranteed a well-paying job. Almost. Close enough.

On the other hand, Side B is a journey filled with uncertainty. Nothing is guaranteed. Not even “almost guaranteed.” Side B is like growing a bamboo tree: you lay the ground work, you plant the seed, and you water the spot every day for five years without seeing any stalks. You’re also unable to overturn the seeds to see if they’re rooting since you’d kill the plant. And only after five years will the stalks finally begin to grow above ground…granted that you’ve watered the correct spot with the right amount of water for five years.

But unlike Side B, there are plenty of people partaking the growing bamboo. Because there are thousands of bamboo stalks well over 50 feet tall. They are no fairy tale.

However, to most Asian American adolescents, Side B is a fairy tale. Side B is not something that gets brought up at your dinner table conversations with your parents. In fact, Side B is often regarded as hopeless, and so we grow up forever curious, but extremely fearful, about embarking on the Side B journey.

Little did we know that the roads of Side B have already been paved.

There are a lot of Asian Americans who have already embarked on the Side B journey long ago and have found success. In my field alone, I can name a handful of rappers who have pioneered the art for our communities: Chops from the Mountain Bros (the first Asian American rappers to ever get signed to a major record label), MC Jin, Magnetic North and Bambu. There are also a large number of current Asian American rappers that are finding success: Dumbfoundead, Awkwafina, D-Pryde, and Timothy Delaghetto just to name a few.

And thus, it becomes ever more important to not let the story of these individuals’ journeys become fairy tales. Because the fear of Side B stems from being unaware that these roads are in existence.

#FML is my Side B narrative; the first part of my journal throughout this quest. I can’t guarantee that I’ll ever reach the caliber of the artists I previously mentioned…but that matters not. What’s really important is that #FML shall exist and can serve as a reference to my underclassmen and future generations so that they may at least entertain the possibility of Side B without fear.

A line from one of Lupe Fiasco’s songs: “The mind fears what the blinds hide, but I’m here on the blindside.” I’m here in Side B. Come along, take a journey with me into the dark side of the moon.

And if we shed a little light, then our community just might be able to see that it’s every bit just as beautiful as the side we’re all used to.

Why a crane? by Sue-Je Gage

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Katie Quan created the beautiful logo for the Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival that features a crane as its icon. The symbol of the crane has many meanings, such as peace and long life, but it also reminds us of the consequences of war as told through the story of a young girl named Sadako Sasaki. She was one of hundreds of thousands of people in Japan either killed or harmed by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 at the end of World War II by the United States. Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia as a result of the radiation from the bomb, but she remembered a story that if you make one thousand cranes, then your wish will come true. She wished to live and believed with all her heart that her health would improve if she could accomplish making one thousand cranes. Every day, she would fold and fold. The story goes that she passed away after making 644 cranes. Sadako’s classmates continued to make Sadako’s one thousand cranes. They shared her story and built a memorial in her honor at the Hiroshima Peace Park.

Sadako’s story is one that Kaori Teramura heard many times as a child growing up in Japan. For Kaori, the cranes represent hope, peace, and love, as well as our interconnectedness. Kaori has lived in Ithaca, New York for 14 years where she works as a social worker at BOCES. In 1998, when she first moved to Ithaca, she met Han Lin, a Burmese Freedom Fighter, and his family. Han Lin and his family’s inspiring story is captured in Changhee Chun’s film, Honoring Home, which will be featured the first night of IPAAFF on Monday, April 20 at Cinemapolis. Kaori’s friendship with Han Lin and his family taught her about their experiences and she became active with Burmese resettlement in Ithaca. Before Han Lin was diagnosed with cancer, he had met Jun-san, a Japanese Buddhist nun from the Grafton Peace Pagoda near Albany, New York. Jun-san introduced Han Lin to the idea of peace walks to further his movement for the Burmese people. It was Han Lin who introduced Kaori to Jun-san and peace walks. Peace walkers make and carry folded crane ornaments with nanmyohorendekyo, a Buddhist mantra in Japanese which means “may all life be in harmony and peace” written on them. All peace walks have a specific purpose and cause. The peace walkers give cranes to people along their journey. The last two peace walks that Kaori has participated in were for a nuclear-free world and the Two-Row Wampum.

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Chiyo Teramura, Kaori’s grandmother, was born August 6, 1917. She raised and taught Kaori to be anti-war through her stories about the atrocities of war. Chiyo-san was already a widow with three children by August 6, 1945 when the U.S. dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. In December 2009, while Kaori was visiting Japan, her grandmother had a stroke. She prayed for her grandmother to recover and decided to make one thousand cranes. Her grandmother made them with her side by side. Since then, Chiyo-san has continued to make cranes. Whenever she finishes making one thousand, she sends them to Kaori in Ithaca to share. Kaori has shared her grandmother’s cranes with the Grafton Peace Pagoda and with the Ithaca community in support of various causes. On March 11, 2010, Japan was devastated by an earthquake that created a nuclear disaster. Jun-san organized a peace walk and movement to help people in Japan, which Kaori served as an active participant. The Japanese community in Ithaca also wished to do something and held a benefit gathering. Kaori initiated the idea of making one thousand cranes with messages from people in Ithaca, translated into Japanese, to send to people in Japan as an expression of human connection, love, and hope. Satomi Hill and Mimi Melegrito, leaders of the Asian Women’s Network which Kaori is also a member, helped to galvanize many groups in town for this and other causes, including fundraising for the Philippines after the 2013 tsunami.

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Kaori’s grandmother and Tao

Kaori’s grandmother, Chiyo-san, whose name means “a thousand lifetimes,” has made over ten thousand cranes for us in Ithaca. Along with the members of the Asian Women’s Network and the Ithaca College Asian American Alliance, Chiyo-san has contributed her yellow cranes to IPAAFF as an expression of her loving connection to us, the hope of a successful community event, and world peace. Chiyo-san met Kaori’s son, Tao, for the first time this past December during their visit to Japan. They made cranes together, too.

Facilitating Discussion and Creating Representation by Emily Ramos

In my senior year of college, a new course was developed: Asian American Film and Film Festival. This course was created to give a voice to those often left silenced in mainstream media. Throughout the course we had readings that taught us how to critically analyze the portrayal of Asian Americans in film. Through the course of five days, Ithaca’s first Pan Asian American Film Festival (IPAAFF) aims to open up a discussion about stereotypes and tropes that flood mainstream media and provide a space for alternative narratives to dominate and highlight the diverse experiences of Asian Americans.

IPAAFF is revolutionary because it is going against the norm in our white hegemonic society. We are providing an outlet for alternative narratives told by the oppressed. Everything we consume in media is through the white man’s lens as he controls the power, politics, money, influence, and media companies in the United States. As oppressed people within the U.S., it is very important for non-whites to create our own forms of media, as seen with past social movements such as The Black Panther newspaper, Palante! newspaper, and strategically televised marches and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As a leader of the student organization, PODER, I think it is important to note that IPAAFF isn’t just Asian Americans who are advocating for their voices to be heard and for their experiences to be accurately and authentically represented in our society; it is for all voices. The mainstream media is corrupted and controlled by the elite and won’t show true representations of our people. They are only focused on reinforcing their dominant ideologies that marginalize and simplify our experiences, which leads to issues of identity and can often cause tensions within our communities and cross culturally. We have to create our own forms of media to get the truth out there. Not only does IPAAFF create a safe and open space for dialogue, but it also teaches us valuable skills as we produce this film festival.

Before I began the class I knew nothing about film festivals, except that we would be showing films. But, there was really so much to do in so little time. From getting film submissions, to making trailers, marketing materials, raising funds, planning out other events during the festival, and reaching out to people — it was a lot. I am glad I was able to have this experience and learn about the inner workings of planning a film festival. Although I didn’t know much going in, I learned a lot coming out of it and am positive that managing the film festival will be another challenge of its own.

We are definitely excited to make IPAAFF possible. We hope there is a great turnout and that the film festival has a large impact on the community as a whole. We hope IPAAFF will continue each year just like other annual community traditions like FLEFF and Apple, Chili, and Porch Fest.

Buffalo Wild Wings Success

Thank you to all who came out to Buffalo Wild Wings or ordered from Buffalo Wild Wings using the IPAAFF coupon on Thursday, April 2. The event fundraiser was a success and we were glad to see large groups of people and lots of happy faces! We thank you all for your continued support and contribution to IPAAFF and hope to see you at our festival and events from April 20 to 24th.

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Film Preview: “Spilled (Soy) Milk”

Don’t miss out on the film screening of Changhee Chun’s Spilled (Soy) Milk on April 20!

The film is a documentary about the lives and experiences of Asian Americans right here in Ithaca, NY.

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Check out his film, Spilled (Soy) Milk on the first day of our festival!

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About the filmmaker: In his scopious career, Changhee Chun has completed collaborative productions on several feature films for major Korean production companies. In 1995, he signed on with Samsung Broadcasting Center (SBC) as a director and producer. Creating over thirty television documentaries and commercials, including the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Chun gained a broad expertise of the technical and conceptual aspects for film and video production. As a freelance film director Chun developed over thirty commercial films, music videos and documentaries.

Chun continues to develop personal principles of characteristic film art, principles that encompass the challenge to students and filmmakers alike to contribute engaging art to mankind.

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How I Can Relate to IPAAFF by Rudy Outar

The Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival is an opportunity. It is an opportunity for Asians and Asian Americans to present something very close to them. They get to present their ideas of the world: how they perceive it and how they feel they are being perceived.

It is also an opportunity for me to help make history for the city of Ithaca, New York and potentially the entire upstate region. That is what this film festival is about. It is about giving people a chance to do something great, whether it be showing us their films or helping to organize the event.

I am not Asian or Asian American. I was born in Venezuela in South America and my parents are from Guyana, a small country adjacent to Venezuela. I come from a West Indian culture, which includes practicing Hinduism and listening to reggae. All that being said, it does not mean I cannot relate to some of the issues that face Asian Americans, which includes under and misrepresentation.

I want to play my part and help a minority group achieve their goals. Even something which may seem as small as a film festival for a small city in an obscure region of New York can have a monumental impact.

IPAAFF has given me a chance to work with some really great people, both professors and students alike. It is amazing to see how people of so many different cultures, Asian and non-Asian, can come together and create this film festival. This will be the first Asian American Film Festival for the city of Ithaca and it is amazing to see how many people really want this to happen. This is going to be an experience for everyone involved that we hope will leave an impact on people.

With this film festival, I hope to create a stronger bond between the community of Ithaca, including all the schools: high schools, universities, and colleges, and all of the surrounding area. I want this film festival to amaze people into wanting to create change, so minorities and Asian Americans can feel proud to be who they are.

We’re Getting Noticed!

Thank you to The Ithaca Voice for helping us spread the word about our event! The article highlights the mission of the Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival and includes the trailer calling for film submissions. Stay tuned for additional updates. We’re looking forward to reading more articles outlining our event!

Check out the article below:

http://ithacavoice.com/2015/03/ithaca-pan-asian-american-film-festival-slated-april/