37th Asian American International Film Festival Press Conference

Article by kevin Young
Photo credit Xue Liang

The Asian American International Film Festival held its opening press conference on July 23rd signaling the start of the film festival. AAIFF is now in its 37th year and looks forward to many more years of film screenings to come. The festival is housing films from over 21 countries including 18 feature films and 33 short films of various genres. A panel of directors, actors, and animation artists all sat down to talk about their films.

Lesley Qin

“We try to tell stories about the Asian American experience that people don’t get to see often,” said the Executive Director of AAIFF, John C. Woo. “Our mission is to deliver an interactive entrainment experience to all the different ethnic groups that New York has to offer.”

John C. Woo

“This year we have a very exciting line up depicting some of the most immediate issues around the world. All of this year’s films are very diverse and unique,” said Lesley Qin, program manager for AAIFF. One of these immediate issues is depicted in the festival’s opening film Sold.

Seirah Royin

Actress Seirah Royin, who plays the NGO worker Mrs. Tripathi in Sold spoke about the significance of this film. Sold will screen opening night, July 24th at 7pm and will have an encore screening on July 26th at 5pm. Sold’s award-winning director Jeffrey D. Brown, producer Jane Charles, and Seirah Royin will all be in attendance for the opening screening.

“Jeffery read the novel Sold and after one sitting felt inspired to create a film adaptation. The film does address the sensitive topic of child sex trafficking and is told through the eyes of a 13 year-old Nepalese girl,” said Royin. “One thing that we stress is that human trafficking does not only happen in India and Nepal. This problem exists worldwide and we want to bring this awareness to the world so that collectively we can all come together to end human trafficking.”

The festival prides itself for screening films about historic topics that are widely unknown to the general public such as the coalition of Filipino American farm worker unions depicted in the 30 minute documentary Delano Manongs.

Marissa Aroy

“After unjust labor laws were passed, Filipino Americans co-founded the united farm workers union in California. My goal for creating this film is that it will be shown in schools,” said Delano Manongs’ Director, Marissa Aroy. “I want other Filipino Americans to learn about this history that is stemmed from people like themselves, because I didn’t learn about any type of Asian American history when I was in school.” Delano Manongs will be screened on Saturday, August 2nd, at 3pm along with two other short films.

Hui-Ching Tseng

The festival will also be holding workshops instructing people on how to create film animation art on July 26th, July 28th, and July29th at 9:30am. The animation artist, Hui-Ching Tseng will be headlining these workshops. Tseng hailing from Thailand has conducted many international workshops for children from Korea, Greece, Spain and numerous more nations.

The films that are going to screen will bring out a variety of emotions from the audience whether its humor, happiness, anger, and sadness. One of the more somber films is Fred Ho’s Last Year, which literally follows Fred Ho in 2013, his last year of life fighting cancer. Fred Ho is an award-winning Asian American jazz composer, author, and political activist.

Steven de Castro

“I found out about Fred Ho from reading his book. I found out that he has had so many surgeries since the time I read the book, so I thought he must already be dead. I sent an email to find out and the response I got was shocking,” said Fred Ho’s Last Year Director, Steven de Castro. “He wasn’t dead or laying in bed, but very much on the run rehearsing for a concert in Harlem. Once I decided to do the feature film about him, I found it hard to keep up with him. He had done more as an artist in one year than most people do in their entire lives.”

Cinephiles will be overjoyed watching all of these exclusive films. AAIFF strives to deliver Asian films that aren’t shown in America’s mainstream theatrical market. What started as a small festival now showcases over 200 films.

“The founders of AAIFF noticed that Asian Americans weren’t being represented accurately on camera. They are being represented as gangsters, or bar girls,” said Executive Director of AAIFF, John Woo. “The founders put out a call in 1978 and 64 entries showed up of all genres. That was the first festival to recognize the filmmakers of Asian descent. Since then the festival has grown.”

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