By Yen Le
Saturday, as the second full day of programming for SFIAAFF, was full of stimulation and inspiration. Notably, the UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL panel introduced the CAAM Fellows and the impressive projects they and their mentors were working on. Moderated by Karin Chien of dGenerate Films, the Fellows also shared their collective wisdom for fellow Asian Americans trying to break into writing, directing, or producing. Special Guest Anne Lai, produce-in-residence at Sundance Institute stressed the importance of finding a mentor with a “generosity of spirit” and superb listening skills to really help identify what is you want to achieve and help you get there.
The panel prompted me to consider the type of mentors I need to find to help me on my path. I want to pursue documentary and film production in China and help improve access for emerging Chinese filmmakers. I spoke with Karin Chien whose distribution and production company works in China about future opportunities.
We have screened many amazing works at this festival. The most powerful piece I have seen so far has been Ross Tuttle’s short documentary RESIDENT ALIENS. It tells the stories of three young Cambodian-Americans that were deported to Cambodia after committing felonies in the US. The documentary chronicles their trauma at being deported from a country they considered home, their culture shock and harrowing road to building a new life in a foreign country. The subject matter, although heavy, was juxtaposed with the charisma and the dark humor of the three main characters which made it that much more compelling.
I chatted with the director, Ross Tuttle at the Festival Social Club on Saturday night and I was shocked to learn that he currently has no distributor for it. This story deserves a much wider audience because it forces the audience to ask uncomfortable questions about what America really stands for. It challenged me to to wonder about how the US government defines “American.” The deportees lacked citizenship (they had resident green cards) but how far is that from interning other Americans of “dubious” ethnic backgrounds?
Another theme running through “Resident Aliens” is the globalization of hip-hop and the appeal of American urban youth culture to developing countries, which “SAIGON ELECTRIC” also exemplifies.
Yen is a participant in this year’s Verizon Student Delegate Program.