Our Festival Matters by Hai Lin

I am an individual blessed with unique opportunities and experiences and the Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival is one of them. It is through each of our individual experiences that has allowed the IPAAFF committees to intersect. For me, it was my experience as a Chinese-American growing up in the Bronx that initiated my involvement with IPAAFF. Growing up, we are saturated with infinite images and ideas that can either come from various media outlets, people in our everyday lives, or a combination of both. We’ll pick which one resonate with us and run with it.

As an adolescent, I had difficulty identifying with the images coming from my television box. I wasn’t white so television shows like “7th Heaven” and “Full House” didn’t resonate with my youthful mind. I loved basketball so you would think, “well, you should’ve watched ‘One Tree Hill,’ it had a lot of basketball in it.” However, just like the other shows it was difficult to relate and see myself in it because 1) I didn’t have blond hair or blue eyes 2) the show took place in the South (a tad bit far from NYC) 3) I just couldn’t see myself winning high school basketball games. I just couldn’t for some reason, and thinking about it now makes me shake my head.

The only time I would see someone who looked or resembled me on television was on several rare instances. One of them was when I was in the third grade and I remember flipping to “American Idol” (back when it was the craze) and watching a fellow by the name of William Hung perform Ricky Martin’s She Bangs. After the audition I was more ecstatic than amused by the performance because for the first time I saw an Asian American person speak to me through the television box. I remember going to school the next day all ready to discussed what happened last night but everyone beat to it. As soon as recess started one of the kids from the fourth grade called me over to their usual hangout spot by the swings. Now, as a third grader that probably was the highlight of my week: having a fourth grader call you over. The conversation went something like this:

Fourth Grader: “Yo kid” *motions me over*
Me: *Walks over apprehensively*
Fourth Grader: “You know William Hung?”
Me: Yeah?!
Fourth Grader: “Lemme hear you sing that song he sang last night”
Me: “Uhh…”
Fourth Grader: “She bangs, she bangs, oh she moves, she moves (proceeds to sing it mockingly and walks away)

That was the identity I had throughout elementary school. It wasn’t until I began playing basketball that everyone started to call me Yao Ming. It might’ve made sense and I could see where everyone was coming from: Yao Ming = basketball, Hai = basketball, and therefore by transitive property, Hai = Yao. Good. Sometimes I even got Jet Li because of the resemblance of my last name “Lin” to his. Other than that I shared no identifiable traits with these men and didn’t see myself doing the things they did.

However, what I really appealed to me at the time was the model minority myth. It wasn’t something that picked up from television, but an idea or general consensus among my peers in Saturday Chinese School. I was pretty much a straight A student from elementary school and up until the beginning of high school, with strict parents and an affinity for mathematics. I strongly believed during that period of my life that Asian Americans were innately superior and gifted intellectually than other races. Obviously, that idea is false, as I later discovered in high school that my classmates started receiving higher grades than me in Geometry class and that would later carry over to other classes too. These events ruptured everything I knew my whole life and I went into the “find yourself” phase of high school. I realize now that ever since the inception of the first form of communication in America, the only image of Asian Americans would either fall on the spectrum of exotic and foreign or the model minority. If you’ve been fed the foreign and exotic image your whole life, wouldn’t you try to identify with the more positive one, the one that would give you some aspects of inclusion and acceptance? I know it did for me, but you know how that goes.

The Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival presents an opportunity to show everyone that our experiences aren’t just restricted to aspirations to the top colleges, but much rather a complex relationship with ourselves, with society, and with our family. Through that, I hope the films highlight some of the experiences that Asian Americans face and hopefully strikes a chord with the audience. Ultimately, I want someone in the audience to say to themselves “Hey, that’s me up there, I can relate, I’m not alone.”

Why a crane? by Sue-Je Gage

Crane

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.

Reflecting on the IPAAFF Film Selections by Brenna Williams

Ithaca Pan Asian American Festival shares a variety of films that are related to Asian American culture and people in some way either from the themes of the films or by its director. We have gotten forty-two submissions of features and shorts of all genres, all watched and reviewed by the Film Selection committee, a committee I am proud to be part of. All of the submissions had something different to say, commenting on Asian American identity and stereotypes. Some were serious, while others made me laugh and all of them made me think critically about my own Asian American identity.

I am proud to be Asian American. I was adopted so I don’t have a deep connection with my birth country and by being part of this festival, I have learned a lot of Asian American culture through the analysis of media, where in some Hollywood films, Asians are projected stereotypically, while the films selected for this festival confront those stereotypes. I hope with this festival, it allows for the community to think about how they interpret Asian Americans, creating discussion about the films. This festival will be a success this year, and it will hopefully become an annual event that people will flock to Ithaca for, something I can look to forward to each year I spend at Ithaca College, knowing that Asian Americans are being represented.

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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What IPAAFF Means to Me by Kathlyn Quan

“What film has changed your life?”
“Joy Luck Club. It was the first time I ever saw someone who looked like me and challenged her identity on TV. I’ve never had that feeling before.”

That was one of the questions I was asked during my interview at San Francisco’s Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). I went into the organization, only able to list exactly one film about Asian Americans. After my internship, I had a list about a page long.

Being able to work at CAAM allowed me to be inspired, encouraged, and excited about all types of Asian American films whether I related to them or not. Even growing up in a diverse area of California, I was simply never exposed to these kinds of films and festivities that centered around Asian American culture and identities. Being able to be a part of something bigger was what I spent so many years discovering and learning about for my last year at Ithaca College.

When I came back to school, I knew I wanted others to be part of this community too. I wanted my friends and everyone around to feel the excitement of history and academia, passion and community all thrown into a week’s worth of celebration. As progress has developed on Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival, I am constantly challenged, frustrated, humbled, and appreciative of everything and everyone around me.

I learn every day about how businesses and organizations work, why hard work is so important, and most importantly, what it means to collaborate and work as a team. Projects such as IPAAFF show the best and the worst in people; I certainly know it has done that to me, but honestly, I’ve learned so much from these experiences and my teams.

Working with them reminds me why these festivals are so important. They bring people together about subjects that affect everyone. The more conversations we involve ourselves in, the more aware we become of these problems that do not belong to any one group. They differ between people, but injustice and inequality exists everywhere. While IPAAFF cannot represent them all, it opens a safe space for people to discuss and learn about everyday problems, solutions, and misunderstandings. Through dialogue, we face them together and that makes all the difference.