CAAM 2010 Film Production Awards

Still from The Mosuo Sisters
The Center for Asian American Media has awarded production grants* to five talented independent filmmakers whose powerful works educate, illuminate and challenge conventional ideas of family, gender, relationships and nationhood.


Center for Asian American Media Announces 2010 Film Production Awards

The Center for Asian American Media has awarded production grants* to five talented independent filmmakers whose powerful works educate, illuminate and challenge conventional ideas of family, gender, relationships and nationhood.

CAAM supports projects that are timely and compelling and represent issues of national and global importance. CAAM seeks to support Asian American talent and projects that have the potential to serve the Asian American community as well as reach a wide audience.

Since 1990, CAAM has provided more than $4.5 million to over 300 projects. Funding is made possible with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Selected through CAAM’s Media Fund Program, the awards support film and media projects by new and established filmmakers through its annual Open Call for Production Funds. Many funded projects have gone on to screen at premier festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca, Hot Docs, and CAAM’s San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. Finished projects reach a national audience through public television on programs such as P.O.V. and Independent Lens, as well as National PBS and other public television networks such as American Public Television (APT) and National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA).

“Although media will continue to change, we believe that strong story-telling will always be an effective means of bringing communities together and make an impact in the world, especially through public media channels such as PBS. We’re thrilled to be supporting this incredible crop of films and filmmakers and bringing them to a national audience hungry for engaging and insightful content,” Sapana Sakya, Public Media Director.

The 2010 awardees are:

– Director/Producer: Marlo Poras

Project Synopsis:
Two spirited daughters from China’s last remaining matriarchal ethnic minority are thrust into the worldwide economic downturn when they lose the only jobs they’ve ever known. Left with few options, Jua Ma and La Tsuo leave Beijing for home, a remote village in the foothills of the Himalayas. But home is no longer what it was, as growing exposure to the modern world irreparably changes the provocative traditions the Mosuo have built around their belief that marriage is an attack on the family. This is a rare window into a story that is at once a telling tale of the human cost of the global financial crisis and a timely snapshot of a minority culture whose singular customs are being threatened by the very forces that are lifting its people out of poverty.

Director Bio:
Marlo Poras began her film career as an apprentice to Thelma Schoonmaker at Martin Scorcese’s Cappa Productions and worked in the editing room on numerous independent features. She was inspired to make her first film, MAI’S AMERICA, while producing HIV/AIDS education films in Vietnam. MAI’S AMERICA aired on P.O.V. to much critical acclaim, winning numerous awards including Best Feature Documentary from the IDA. Her work has screened at numerous festivals, on HBO and has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

– Director/Producer: David Grabias

Project Synopsis:
A suburban dad with no prior military experience plots with a group of elderly war heroes to take over a foreign country… This sounds like the far-fetched premise of a Hollywood thriller, but the U.S. government claims that California businessman Lo Cha Thao sought to amass an arsenal of weapons in hopes of leading a military coup in Laos after learning the Hmong relatives in his homeland were being systematically killed by the Communist Regime. After a six-month-long undercover sting, Lo was arrested with 10 alleged co-conspirators. He now faces trial in Federal court—and a sentence of life in prison. Untangling the threads of Lo’s complex story, the film explores the unspeakable guilt many refugees experience while living the American dream, knowing the tragedy continues for those remaining in the home country.

Director Bio:
David Grabias is an award winning and Emmy nominated documentary filmmaker whose work has aired internationally on PBS, A&E, Discovery, FX, Travel Channel, and National Geographic. With funding from CAAM, ITVS, and the Sundance Institute, David co-produced and directed SENTENCED HOME, which follows three Cambodian Americans through the deportation process in the post-9/11 era. The film aired on PBS as part of Independent Lens. David is currently producing EXTRA CREDIT a project for HBO which explores Muslim identity by following young students who are trying to memorize the entire Qur’an and win an International contest in Dubai.

– Director/Producer: Debbie Lum

Project Synopsis:
Every year thousands of American men go to China to find a bride. SEEKING ASIAN FEMALE is a one-hour documentary that explores this contemporary social phenomenon through an unusual personal story. As a Chinese American woman who was raised believing true love is colorblind, the Director sets out to explore why so many Western men desire Asian women. The film follows Steven, an older white man from California obsessed with finding a young Chinese wife. Over the Internet, Steven meets Sandy a young woman from Anhui, China, who agrees to move to the US to be his fiancé. The minute she steps foot on American soil, fantasy and reality collide, as all three – Steven, Sandy and the Director, are forced to confront the assumptions and judgments we hold of one another. The story reflects the changing relationship between China and America, and offers a new definition of what it means to be American, Chinese, and Chinese American today.

Director Bio:
Debbie Lum is a San Francisco-based director, producer, and editor who specializes in intimate character-driven stories about the Asian American experience. Recently she directed and produced two short documentaries for Wayne Wang about his early two works, CHAN IS MISSING and DIM SUM. She also co-produced and edited the award-winning KELLY LOVES TONY (directed by Spencer Nakasako), which aired on P.O.V. and played at festivals internationally. Her documentary editing credits include, among others, TO YOU SWEETHEART, ALOHA and the nationally acclaimed and Emmy award winning A.K.A. DON BONUS.

– Director/Producer: Hein S. Seok

Project Synopsis:
There are countless North Korean defectors living in China, most of them in secret. If caught by the Chinese police, they are deported to North Korea where they are politically persecuted. This makes it difficult to determine the exact number of North Korean defectors. According to some experts it may be anywhere from 200 thousand to 1 million. As of early 2010, 20 thousand North Korean defectors have officially entered South Korea. Young-soon Kim escaped North Korea in 2002 when she was just 17 years old. She lived in hiding in China and entered South Korea in 2007 after receiving citizenship. The film follows her 3 year journey, beginning with her dangerous attempt to leave China in June 2007, until the present. Young-soon manages to reach South Korea but uncertainity ensues as she makes a harrowing second attempt to smuggle her sister out of the country again and save her sister’s daughter.

Director Bio:
Hein S. Seok was born in Philadelphia but spent half of her childhood in South Korea. After returning to the United States, she double-majored in Art History and Film & TV at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She earned her Master’s degree at California Institute of the Arts. She was then awarded the 2006 Fulbright Fellowship to Korea. Her graduate thesis was the feature-length THE HOUSE OF SHARING, which screened at the Walt Disney Concert Hall (RedCat Theater), DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival, San Diego Asian American Film Festival, GiRL FeST, and We the People Film Festival.


* Awards are pending contract negotiation.

About the Center for Asian American Media:
The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) is a non-profit organization dedicated to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible. We do this by funding, producing, distributing and exhibiting works in film, television and digital media.

For more information, please contact:

Ellen Park, Media Fund Manager
Center for Asian American media
415-863-0814 x106