A True Film Festival Experience

by Roth Empire
2012 Student Delegate

SFAAIFF30I recently moved to the Bay Area, specifically speaking San Francisco, to study film at an art school. It’s been a rough adjustment living in the city, especially since I gave up many of the comforts that I had back on the East Coast to independently pursue my passion. Nevertheless, I do what I love, and I love what I do, and this nomadic experience has further honed and broadened my tools as a story teller. And when I was accepted into CAAM’s Student Delegated Program, it was validating to know that moving to California was the right decision for my professional career.

Through the Delegate Program, the student delegates were given the opportunity to see so many world premier screenings complementary of the program. Some were inspiring, some depressing, but nevertheless, engaging. Many of the films opened up discourses regarding sexuality, family pressure, abuse, women’s rights, romance–some made me shed tears, some made me roll on the floor laughing, and some moved me to get on my butt because some change just can’t wait any longer. And when we weren’t watching films, we were getting the rare opportunity to talk one-on-one with filmmakers, such as Quentin Lee, Patrick Wang, and Mye Hoang. And when the night came, we were either attending galas or getting down in social clubs with other filmmakers and many other folks involved with the festival.

One of my favorite thing about the film festival is the opening trailer for SFAAIFF!

This trailer does a beautiful job depicting the multifaceted diversity of the Asian American and International Asian diaspora. I saw the trailer at least 20 times throughout the festival since it preludes the film, and every single time, I always felt moved and proud to be Asian American, specifically speaking Cambodian American, and realize how important the agency of sharing our stories is. We all have such unique experiences and stories to tell and our heritage is something to be proud of–not something to be ashamed of, as we often tend to assimilate into the dominant culture.

Delegates with Patrick WangIt is furthermore important to tell empowering tales about our community. Personally speaking, I want to see more healthy Asian American male representation.  In the case of Linsanity, it is truly both inspiring and upsetting that Asian American men have been hungry for such a decent role model for so long. In  recent years, there have been numerous Asian American male who have already taken matter into their own hands; telling and producing their own stories, such as Ryan Higa and The Wong Fu Production guys (who were at the Festival Summit), and they are some of the most successful people on YouTube. For me, the next step is, how can we make it more accessible into the mainstream?

Ending on that note, I want to thank Christine Kwon for initiating this great program at SFIAAFF and inspiring more students to partake in more story telling, the other delegates for sharing their inputs, the sponsors, and lastly to everyone working at CAAM (Center for Asian American Media) on and off-screen, for helping bring all these stories to light for over 30 years. Thank you for all that you do.

Signing off,
Roth :)


Chosen from a competitive pool of undergraduate and graduate students, the Student Delegates are a small but diverse group of students who undergo Festival “boot camp.” Guided by Festival staff, students participate in a rigorous schedule of film screenings, discussions, and exclusive meetings with filmmakers and special guests. The program aims to cultivate the next generation of filmmakers, activists, educators, and community leaders. See all of the 2012 Student Delegates here and their blog!

Sponsored by Southwest Airlines.

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