Those who thought “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was the only Asian American film with a distribution deal discovered a whole new world at Yale’s third annual Asian American Film Festival this weekend.
The festival, which lasted from Thursday to Sunday and was sponsored by the Asian American Cultural Center at Yale, offered a variety of lengths and genres of films, from students’ short works to full-length professional productions.
Ameer Kim El-Mallawany ’05, who serves as special events coordinator at the cultural center, joined Clair Kwon ’05 in organizing the festival.
“We show a lot of films at the festival that you wouldn’t get to see otherwise because they are being provided directly by the filmmakers,” Kim El-Mallawany said. “So just by being at the festival, everyone is supporting the Asian film movement.”
Saveena Dhall, assistant dean of Yale College and the director of the Cultural Center, said she hopes the event encourages many organizations and groups of people to get involved with the group.
“We try to get different communities to come together for this event because these movies are worthwhile for everyone to see,” she said.
Kim El-Mallawany said he was impressed with the turnout at the festival.
“There were lots of — unfamiliar faces, which means the evenings were very successful,” he said.
The festival culminated with a Sunday screening of acclaimed filmmaker Mina Shum’s third feature film, “Long Life, Happiness, and Prosperity.” Shum spoke at a Master’s Tea before the screening and hosted a question and answer session after the film.
“I have been to a lot of Asian American film festivals in big cities,” she said. “But I am so impressed by the fact that one is being hosted at this school, and it says a lot about the emergence of the Asian American film movement.”
Shum discussed the numerous rejections she faced before her success, and the challenges to minorities in the media today.
“In order to make a hit film, I would probably have to write a part for a star who probably wouldn’t be Asian American,” she said. “It’s a sad, sad state of affairs, but unfortunately it’s the truth right now.”
Jennifer Paton ’07 studied Shum’s work in her introduction to film class. Paton said she loves Shum’s work and appreciated the honesty of her lecture.
“Shum’s words applied to anyone who’s interested in any kind of creative work, and she made it clear [that] it’s not an easy task, but it can be done,” Paton said.
Each day of the festival had a theme and consisted of a showing of a series of films followed by a panel or open discussion. Friday’s theme, titled “Love Across Borders: Interracial Romance,” included an hour of short student films by Fade to Yellow, Yale’s Asian American film collective.
Nathan Kitada ’05 started the group last semester. He said while its members have varied backgrounds and filmmaking experiences, all of them claim their Asian American heritage is part of their artistic identity.
“We are just getting on our feet and deciding what direction we want to go in,” he said. “And it’s been great to get all this support and input from each other.”
The student films lasted from three to 30 minutes and varied from rap videos to mock commercials to dramas.
Cultural Center member Dorothy Finnigan ’07 said her favorite part of the festival was seeing students’ films.
“The work that is being produced by young people within the Asian American community brings up a lot of interesting issues,” she said. “Because film is so leading-edge, the media is how this generation can transmit ideas.”
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