Asian American Festival Bridges Culture in Seattle

Photo by Sherry Zheng

Photo by Sherry Zheng

This past February, audiences enjoyed the Seattle Asian American Film Festival, which screened at the Northwest Film Forum over four days. Media Inc. spoke with the co-directors of the festival, Vanessa Au and Martin Tran, to hear about the festival’s contribution to the Seattle film and cultural landscape.

Media Inc: Tell us a bit about the Seattle Asian American Film Festival. It had been on hiatus starting in 2007, and then it was resurrected in 2013. What about the festival has changed?
Vanessa Au and Martin Tran: Since SAAFF’s resurrection, we’ve made several changes. We kick off every festival with an opening night party featuring live performances from local Asian American musicians, artists and dancers. We’ve also tried hard to bring the filmmakers to the festival so that they can network with one another and meet the audience, whether that’s during post-film Q&As, panel discussions or in the theater lobby. Finally, we’ve spent a lot of time doing outreach to the Asian American community through our co-presenters program. We get at least one API (Asian Pacific Islander) nonprofit group to promote each program and in turn provide them with a table to distribute info about their organization and a few minutes at the start of the screening to tell the audience about their org.

Photo by Amy Zhong

Photo by Amy Zhong

MI: What are some of your goals with the festival? How does it contribute to the Seattle community?
VA/MT: One of our top goals is to contribute to the Asian American community by bringing attention to various organizations and bringing community organizers to the festival. Some of the groups who’ve participated as co-presenters include API Chaya, Asian and Counseling Resource Services (ACRS), Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) Seattle, Vietnamese Friendship Association, Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) Greater Seattle, Trikone, International Community Health Services (ICHS), and others. We also use the opening night party to feature local live Asian American talent.

MI: What were some highlights about this year’s festival?
VA/MT: The biggest highlight this year was the number of filmmakers that were in attendance. It was amazing to see them meet one another and the greater Seattle community, be it at official events like our Opening Night Party, Filmmaker Brunch, VIP party, and Q&As after their screenings, to more casual settings like the lobby of the Northwest Film Forum, or in our VIP Lounge or at an impromptu dinner the last night of the fest. It was just really wonderful to see people coming together, and to share our wonderful city with these visiting filmmakers.

Photo by Amy Zhong

Photo by Amy Zhong

MI: Can you speak about some of the Northwest filmmakers that were showcased in the festival?
VA/MT: Every year we do our best to showcase local filmmakers, and we were lucky to have so many great short films to share. Tadd Mitsui told a touching story about a man and his place in our ever-changing city in The Car Doctor Pat Abe. Jade Justad brought such a beautiful visual eye and drew out naturalistic performances from her young actors with her short film, Creased, about a young Asian American woman struggling with self-image and what it means to be beautiful, let alone “normal,” in this world. She brought a deft touch to the issue of Asians having the double eyelid surgery that makes them look more “White.”

We also showcase films from ACRS Southeast Asian Young Men’s Group, shepherded by Joseph Mills. This year we screened Model Minority Stereotype by Minhkennedy Pham and Chanthadeth by Chanthadeth Chanthalangsy. Both films spoke to our perceptions of identity, on both very personal and political levels.

MI: Thanks so much for sharing about the festival. We look forward to it in 2017!

More information about the Seattle Asian American Film Festival is available online at www.seattleaaff.org.

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