The second annual Asian American Film Festival at the University of Massachusetts hosted by the Yuri Kochiyama Cultural Center will feature three separate guests, including two filmmakers and a Hollywood actor and YouTuber, across the span of three evenings.
The AAFF’s theme this year revolves around intersectionality, particularly gender identity and sexual orientation and how it pertains to members of the Asian and/or Asian-American community, as well as dialogue on the societal expectations associated with these identities, according to the event’s page.
The first of the three individuals highlighted at this year’s festival is Katytarika “Katy” Bartel, an artist, educator, photographer and organizer based in Boston as well as an award-winning filmmaker, who identifies as queer and mixed-race Thai-American.
Bartel’s documentary film series “RE(ORIENT)” was an official selection of the Boston Asian American Film Festival in 2018 and has also screened at the International Center of Photography in New York City, according to YKCC organizer Lily Tang, a junior political science and BDIC major.
Tang added Bartel is the co-founder and co-director of the Boston-based art collective, “ANGRY ASIAN GIRLS,” which works to promote and uplift the narratives of Asian and Pacific Islander youth and that Bartel, who goes by both she and they pronouns, also is a youth worker at Castle Square Tenants Organization, where she runs a social justice-informed media and design internship for high schoolers.
The YKCC will screen two of the three films in the “RE(ORIENT)” series including one centered around ANGRY ASIAN GIRLS co-funder Dahn Bi Lee-Hong and her process starting a nonprofit for activism and community space for Asian women and what it was like being an Asian woman at Simmons College in Boston, a private women’s college that is a predominantly white institution according to Tang.
The second film by Bartel focuses on singer-songwriter Haezy.
“She’s someone who’s really creative and she uses her like songs and poems as like a way of activism,” said Tang. “Activism can look different ways and what representation can look like in different ways and that being creative, you can use your creativity to kind of push forward a message and also talking about how being a musician also is a way to draw community and using her voice in the musical sense to highlight issues.”
Bartel will screen two of her films within the “RE(ORIENT)” series on floor 10 of the Murray D. Lincoln Campus Center in the Amherst Room on Nov. 6. Her appearance will be co-hosted by UMass Kappas and the Women of Color Leadership Network, according to the event’s Facebook page.
The second speaker will be Korean-American director Patrick G. Lee, who identifies as queer and goes by either he/him or they/them pronouns. Lee currently works as a documentary filmmaker, writer and community organizer and his reporting has appeared in publications such as Mother Jones, ProPublica, The Atlantic and CNN.
“He’s interested in building collaborative, community-based approaches to filmmaking that reject traditional hierarchies of authority and that equip queer and trans people of color with media-making skills,” Tang explained. “Patrick has made films about Asian American coming out stories, LGBTQ self-representation and queer Asian history.”
Tang added that Lee is, “Raising awareness on LGBTQ Asian [Americans], oftentimes their stories are not as visible” and “The complexity of those two identities [and] how it intersects.” In 2018, Lee helped to organize “KQTcon,” the first national Korean queer and trans conference in the country.
Lee will screen two of his films “Searching for Queer Asian Pacific America” and “Unspoken.” The first film is “a five-part docuseries for NBC Asian America on queer and trans Asian Pacific American history,” according to Lee’s website. In part of his series Lee delves into the history of a journal article photograph depicting Asian American college students holding an LGBTQ pride banner that reads “We’re Asians Gay & Proud,” as they joined in the first march on Washington for gay and lesbian rights in 1979.
“It’s really cool to kind of like see that [for] Asians [to] be a part of [the LGBTQ] movement and to also like remember like that LGBTQ Asians have always been in America,” said Tang “but it’s just that their history isn’t as like mainstream and their activism isn’t as highlighted within like this greater narrative.”
Lee’s other film, “Unspoken” focuses on second generation Asian Americans who are LGBTQ and who come out to their immigrant parents.
“They’re not able to like mix their like LGBTQ and Asian identity and how like having those two things together makes their relationship with their immigrant parents like even more complicated,” Tang said. “So, it’s like all these intersections of like identity issues and how like through this film they’re able to kind of like be empowered by like knowing that there’s other people who are like struggling in the same and different ways as them.”
In reference to the chronology of Lee’s films from a historical to a more modern perspective Tang noted, “There’s still the same mission, like the mission there hasn’t changed and I think that there’s something that’s really empowering like knowing that you’re continuing the work of an older generation and that’s what like young people today are still doing. So, there’s a lot of work to be done, but there’s a lot of progress in it as well.”
Lee will make an appearance on Thursday Nov. 7. Lee’s evening will be co-hosted by the Taiwanese-Chinese Student Association and the Stonewall Center.
On the final day the YKCC will welcome Hollywood actor and YouTuber Mike Bow. Bow, who currently has nearly 100,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, is a regular collaborator in fellow YouTube channels such as “LeendaDProductions,” with one million subscribers, and “Wong Fu Productions,” with over three million subscribers, the latter of whom made an appearance on the final day of last year’s initial film festival.
Bow has had personas in several parody videos including Wong Fu’s “Asian Bachelorette,” which has racked up over 11 million views, in which he played the “Soondooboo” Bachelor, and an alternate version of the well-to-do male lead “Nick Young” from last year’s blockbuster “Crazy Rich Asians” which is instead parodied to “Crazy CHEAP Asians.”
On his own channel and Instagram account Bow makes comedic sketches around topics in the Asian American community. He has made acting credits in TV shows and movies such as “The Maze Runner,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “S.W.A.T.” as well as his most recent work as one of the Asian male love interests in the teen drama “Turnt.”
Bow’s appearance will be in the same location as Bartel’s in the Amherst Room and will be co-hosted by the Asian interest fraternity Pi Delta Psi and the Asian American Student Association.
Bow will lead a discussion breaking down stereotypes about Asian men, such as that they are considered “weak” or “nerdy,” according to Tang, as well as the flip side of how to avoid toxic masculinity.
“It’s obviously not like inclusive of everything that’s why hopefully the festival continues and that we can continue to explore different stories [and] different narratives,” said Tang in her hopes for the continuation of the festival in coming year. “Obviously like there’s this year [which] is more complex so hopefully in the future of the film festival can explore the nuances and complexities.”
Each evening is free of charge, meals will be served and attendees will have the chance to meet and talk with the speakers. The YKCC will also give out prizes including Apple AirPods, an Amazon Fire tablet, Korean cosmetic products and metal Boba straws.
Each speaker will be present from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on their given night.
Chris McLaughlin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @ChrisMcLJournal.