First Convening of Asian American Filmmakers in the South

Attendees at the Diverse Voices of the American South convening in Durham, North Carolina.

On Tuesday, CAAM hosted a convening of Asian American filmmakers, community organizations, and media arts organizations based in the American South: “Beyond Borders: Diverse Voices of the American South.” The convening took place in the studio at UNC-TV in Durham, North Carolina. The gathering was the first of its kind, sponsored by JustFilms, Ford Foundation and in partnership with UNC-TV, the Southern Documentary Fund and A-DOC.

Many attendees expressed excitement at seeing a group of Asian American filmmakers from the South in one room. Clearly, there was a hunger to connect with others. Working as Asian American artists and filmmakers in the South, many expressed feeling isolated. “That’s exactly why CAAM wanted to do this, to bring everyone together, because there hasn’t been a space like this before,” said CAAM’s Talent Development & Special Projects Manager Sapana Sakya.

The day kicked off with welcome remarks from CAAM’s Director of Programs Donald Young and UNC-TV’s Rachel Raney and Executive Producer of Reel South, Tim Tsai from A-DOC, Naomi Walker from SDF and Chi-hui Yang, Program Officer of JustFilms, Ford Foundation.

An opening exercise was led by Thomas Allen Harris, producer of Family Pictures USA, a PBS series that CAAM has funded. Harris’ exercise, having people look at family photos and sharing them within a group, took things to a storytelling and personal level.

The keynotes were from Professor Jennifer Ho, who teaches Asian American Literature at UNC Chapel Hill and Dee Davis, President of the Center for Rural Strategies. Lunch was catered by Vimala’s Curryblossom café and owner and community activist Vimala Rajendran spoke about the intersection of food, community and media. The three panels were a community panel, filmmakers showcase, and media arts organizations panel.

Raney mentioned that the South is having a moment; far more people are interested in the region, but the question of longevity and sustainability remains. The convening is a part of a larger effort from CAAM to hear what communities want and to help build infrastructure and support for makers. CAAM looks forward to more collaborations and continuing to build with communities in the region.

Thank you to our panelists:

Community Panel:
Cat Bao Le, Executive Director, Southeast Asian Coalition
Chavi Koneru, ED, North Carolina Asian Americans Together (NCAAT)
H’Abigail Mlo
Manju Rajendran, AORTA
Ricky Leung, NCAAT
Moderated by Christine Chen, Executive Director APIAVote

Southern Filmmakers Showcase Panel:
Leena Jayaswal
Ligaiya Romero
Jennifer Crandall
Matthew Hashiguchi
Saleem Reshamwala
Yi Chen

Media Arts Organization Panel:
Clint Bowie, New Orleans Film Society
Darcy McKinnon, NOVAC
Mimi Pickering, Appalshop
Chloe Walters-Wallace, Firelight Media
Anjanette Levert, Stonehouse Residency
Moderated by Naomi Walker & Rachel Raney