IPAAFF Creates the Intersection of Identities by Jessica Acosta

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.

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.

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.”

T-shirt sale!!

The time is finally here! Come and buy your very own IPAAFF t-shirt this week! One t-shirt is $15, but you can buy 2 for $25.

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We will be tabling outside of North Foyer of Emerson Suites from 9 am to 3 pm on Wednesday and in the Campus Center lobby from 9 am to 3 pm on Friday!

We hope to see everyone wearing the IPAAFF t-shirts next week at the festival!

 

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.

Film Preview: “Love Express”

Love Express_DannyJiveAlthough “Love Express” takes place on a train, it is a love story and emotional journey between the two characters. Directed by an inspired writer and self-taught New York City filmmaker, “Love Express” takes viewers back to the Hong Kong cinema of the 1990s. Click here for further details on the film, “Love Express,” and be sure to check out the screening on Thursday, April 23!

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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.