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“These Stories Need to Be Seen:” ODU Asian American Film Festival Showcases Diverse Experiences

By Jonah Grinkewitz

The deadly shootings at three Atlanta spas in March 2021 brought national attention to violence directed at Asian Americans.

Even before then, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found that hate crimes against Asian Americans in the U.S. increased by nearly 150% in 2020.

In response, ODU's Department of Communication and Theatre Arts is hosting a film festival that showcases diverse Asian American experiences.

"These stories need to be seen and need to be told," said Priya Vashist, an assistant professor in the department. "I think there is a big need for Asian Americans to be represented on screen because films play a huge role in humanizing these people."

Vashist co-curated the event with Avi Santo, associate professor and department chair.

The festival runs March 13 to 15, almost exactly one year from the date of the Atlanta shootings.

Seven sessions will screen feature-length and short films from Chinese American, Filipino American, Indian American, Korean American and Taiwanese American filmmakers.

Vashist said it is important to show that not every Asian American experience is the same.

"All of these people come from different countries and their cultures differ in a lot of ways. They speak different languages, they eat different foods, but they are always put under this one umbrella of Asian," Vashist said.

A filmmaker herself, Vashist explores this theme in her short film "Yet So Far," which will debut at the festival.

Set and shot in San Francisco, it tells the story of two Asian American women who are in love and navigating the complexities created by their identities - one is Indian American and the other is Filipino American.

The festival also includes recent films such as "Minari" (2021), "Yellow Rose" (2020) and "The Farewell" (2019.)

Several of the films, including "Yet So Far," will be accompanied by Q&A sessions.

Luisa A. Igloria, Louis I. Jaffe Endowed Professor and University Professor of English and Creative Writing at ODU and the 20th poet laureate of Virginia, will moderate a discussion on the feature film "Yellow Rose" and the short film "A Work of Love: Preserving Fil-Am History," both focused on Filipino-American experiences.

The event will also feature a keynote presentation by David Oh, associate professor of communication arts at Ramapo College of New Jersey and the author of "Whitewashing the Movies: Asian Erasure and White Subjectivity in U.S. Film Culture." You can also tune in to the talk virtually here.

The festival is free and open to the public.

Here is a full list of the films, times and locations:

"Minari" by Lee Isaac Chung and "Si" by Thomas Percy Kim (moderated by Kim) - March 13, 7 p.m., Yetiv Auditorium at ODU Batten Arts & Letters building

"The Namesake" by Mira Nairand (moderated by Nicholas Abbott, assistant professor of history at ODU) and "Herselves" by Kristy Choi - March 14, 1 p.m., Rivers Room at ODU Webb Center

"Yellow Rose" by Diana Paragas and "A Work of Love: Preserving Fil-Am History" by Ramon Domper (moderated by Luisa Igloria) - March 14, 4 p.m., Rivers Room at ODU Webb Center

"Margarita with a Straw" by Shonali Bose and "Yet So Far" by Priya Vashist (moderated by Vashist) - March 14, 7 p.m., Yetiv Auditorium at ODU Batten Arts & Letters building

"Tigertail" by Alan Yang and "A Cure for All Things" by Katherin Chou - March 15, 1 p.m., Diehn Center for the Performing Arts, Room 1202

"Spa Night" by Andrew Ahn and "Lonely Blue Night" by Johnson Cheng - March 15, 4 p.m., Diehn Center for the Performing Arts, Room 1202

Talk with David Oh - March 15, 6 p.m., Diehn Center for the Performing Arts, Room 1202

"The Farewell" by Lulu Wang and "Dol" by Andrew Ahn - March 15, 7 p.m., Diehn Center for the Performing Arts, Room 1202

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