Filmmaker Emily May Jampel discusses queer Asian short film at the AACC
Jampel speaks about how her award-winning short film explores the intersection of queer and Asian identities.
Stephanie Hu, Contributing Photographer
At a screening and talkback on Thursday, filmmaker Emily May Jampel reflected on how moments of queer joy inspired her to approach her short “Lucky Fish” with an optimistic tone.
The Asian American Cultural Center and Queer & Asian at Yale invited Jampel to discuss her award-winning short film about a queer coming-of-age moment between two Asian American teenagers. “Lucky Fish” has been screened at film festivals around the world including the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Outfest Los Angeles and the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival 2022. The screening and discussion with Jampel were in celebration of Pan Asian American Heritage Month.
“My shorts are all about, in different ways, exploring identity,” Jampel said at the event. “I’m not the type of filmmaker who knows how to write something entirely outside of myself.”
The themes of intersectionality and identity feature strongly in the short. It tells the story of an unexpected encounter between two queer Asian-American teenagers while eating with their families at a Chinese restaurant. While discussing their respective struggles with identity, they share an important coming-of-age moment.
This representation of queer Asian identities in media is rare, according to both attendees and the filmmaker herself. Jampel did not recall seeing many films she could reference when coming up with the idea for “Lucky Fish.”
“I think it’s a very new concept to me because I’m so used to seeing these two spaces apart and divided,” Mandy Zhang ’26, who attended the screening, said. “It was kind of the way I approached navigating my identity up until I found spaces like this.”
Jampel shared how similar feelings and experiences affected her own filmmaking journey.
She recounted a memory of queer joy when she met a photographer she admired, Ren Hang, while coming to terms with her own identity. Her experience conducting a photoshoot with other Asian-American young adults brought her a sense of connectedness she tries to replicate in her own filmmaking.
“‘Queer’ can mean so many different things to each person and Asian can mean so many different things to each person, but there’s also a common thread in there that feels very special,” Jampel said. “I remember how special it felt to be with people that had that sense of commonality for a purpose, and when I was putting together a cast, I was looking to create that feeling.”
For the organizers of this event, creating a space to simultaneously embrace both queer and Asian identities was equally important.
Diza Hendrawan ’25, one of the organizers of the event, told the News that the film’s focus on queerness tied into the theme of this year’s PAAMH, which was “Pride, Power, and Possibilities.”
Hendrawan recalled watching “Lucky Fish” for the first time at the Asian American International Film Festival’s queer shorts showcase. Among all the shorts in the showcase, it stuck out to her the most, so she was excited to have an opportunity to bring the film screening to Yale.
“This short is played in a lot of queer festivals and a lot of Asian festivals, but there’s no festival that has both of those, and they’re both very core parts of the short.” Jampel said. “So it felt like you were the perfect audience for it.”
The month of May is federally designated as Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.