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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Pac-Arts' Spring Showcase Preview

 April 8, 2021 at 10:52 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Tomorrow PAC arts is holding a virtual launch party for its upcoming spring showcase where it will reveal its full lineup, but artistic director, Brian, who gives KPBS arts reporter Beth Armando, a sneak peek at his songs. Our elders taught me program that he created in response to recent anti-Asian violence. Speaker 2: 00:24 Brian, as the artistic director for the San Diego Asian film festival, you have decided to curate some titles, both just in terms of a list of films to suggest to people and some films that you're actually going to be showing at the spring showcase in reaction to what we've seen as a rise in anti-Asian hate crime. So talk a little bit about what motivated you to create this list and kind of what you were thinking about in terms of the titles you were selecting. Speaker 3: 00:54 Yeah. I mean, I'm just a little bit of a background that when we, when we look at the victims of anti-Asian violence and bullying and abuse, especially in places like New York city in the Bay area, so often it's the elders and, and sort of many people's take on it is that elders seem to be the least likely to fight back. And there's something about them that makes certain racists feel like no, one's going to fight for them either. And I'm not saying that like it, film series is a way of fighting back for them, right? Like the, this kind of existential problem of like that your life is in peril. Isn't going to be fixed by people watching movies. But I feel like we to combat this notion that, that like our Asian elders are somewhat less than human, right? I like so much of the depiction of that is sort of in this old yellow peril discourse of the fact that they're sort of like sewer rats or something like they're in the streets, like you can stomp them out or something. Speaker 3: 01:48 And that to me is a hugely disturbing. And I think it's tied to the fact that people just don't see them as human, but, and that's where movies, I think can play a part and this isn't going to be solved right away. But I feel like if more people are aware of sort of the old people's like w like where they come from, what does it mean when we can have subtitles for the words they say, what are their hopes and dreams like for their, for their families, for themselves, their love stories or anything like it's infinite and as opposed to one dimensional in the most humanizing way possible. So that's, that was the motivation. That's the initial motivation. And then the, secondly soon after these reports about anti-Asian violence was sort of becoming mainstream. I mean, I heard from news outlets who were trying to make lists of like, like 10 films about the Asian American experience about like, you know, reminding us of your history. And that's great, right? Like, it's great to hear that people are talking about the Chinese exclusion acts and like the Chinese massacre of 1871 and things like that. And then like anti-Asian lynching, which is not part of the mainstream discussion in history at all, but it's sort of like, where's the, where's the joy in all this, right? Where are the stories that are gonna make kind of feel with our hearts of kind of Asian humanity? Um, and, and so I feel like another part of this impetus was to give a space for joyous representations. Speaker 2: 03:10 So Brian, you're calling this program songs, our elders taught me and you created one list of recommendations of films that people can seek out on their own. And this is a great list because it has filmmakers like Wayne Wang, who was one of the first Asian American filmmakers to kind of cross over into the mainstream. So talk a little bit about the choices you made on this recommendation list. Okay. Speaker 3: 03:32 I think we're very lucky that so many of these films are actually widely available and these days we're watching films at home and the problem is we don't know what to choose. There's just too much to watch, like deep in the depths of our Netflix and Amazon prime. Like we get what's recommended to us through some kind of algorithm, but the algorithm doesn't know for instance, that we are interested in things that are not, um, on the tip of our tongues. And so I wanted to create this list of, of classics and the classics to the Asian American film festival. So filmmakers like Wayne Wayne, who aren't necessarily considered like, like an art tour in the way that American script says he is, even though they're like careers, parallel each other. Yeah. So to, to, to bring out a film like Janice missing by Wayne Wayne, or like Ang Lee's pushing hands, which very few people have seen, but is available on canopy. And yeah. And so just to remind people that these films are, are there, they are accessible. Speaker 2: 04:26 So the complete lineup for the spring showcase is not going to be released until Friday, but you are willing to reveal a few of the titles in this program songs. Our elders taught me. Speaker 3: 04:36 Yeah. So, I mean, yeah, it is true that many of these films about Asian elders are accessible, but I think it's also important for us as historians and curators to think about what is no longer in circulation. And so I challenged myself to find some films, not just like a recall the titles, but actually find the films and make them accessible digitally, um, on streaming. So, I mean, I'll just be reveal some of these titles here, one of these films is called the wash. This is a 1988 film, starring Mako, Nobel McCarthy. So something it's legends of Asian-American cinema, who people like if you watch, if you're cooking of grew up on Hollywood films, if you watch the films in the sixties and seventies, you'll recognize these as actors who were always in the background, never had a chance to be the leading stars of a romance. Speaker 3: 05:24 And so this is the thing I remember watching at the media library at UCFD on VHS. I was doing some research because it was the only way to find this movie. Obviously, if this was in person festival, we'd find that 35 millimeter print, right? Like that, that still exists. But I got on the phone call with the director, Michael Bruno, and he told me if you can find the laser disc, you can play this movie. And given his permission, like we went on eBay, somehow dug this up, got a laser disc player, find a way to convert this as high quality as, and to make accessible film that has never been available on streaming. And then when people watch this film, they realize that this is a film about a Japanese American retirees who long-time married, but realizing there may be a world beyond marriage. Speaker 3: 06:14 And this is like a lovely sentiment that conjures up all kinds of demons within this marriage. And it's just like a perfect little drama that we would never be able to see. Otherwise you can't stream a VHS tape. Uh, so that's, that's one of these films. Now, the film is cosmopolitan. I've talked about Nisha Sinatra who more recently made late nights, starting Mindy Kayling and Emma Thompson. But cosmopolitan, I mean, this is a fun one. We played at the San Diego Asian film festival back in probably 2004 or something. And it was released on DVD years ago, long out of Prince. They told us if you can find the DVD, you can show it. And luckily at the Asian film festival archives includes this DVD and we can now watch the something that's, you know, about like, uh, elderly, Indian American living in New Jersey who starts to become curious about one of his, his neighbors played by Carol Kane and then, and yeah, and other films that are very hard to find, never been released on DVD that we had to go and go straight to the filmmakers to even get these digital versions. Speaker 3: 07:12 Your full lineup for the spring showcase has not yet been released, but where can people find this information? So we're, we're doing this big launch on Friday afternoon, but starting Friday evening, you can go into our website S D a F f.org, where you'll get the full lineup of not just this series on our Asian elders, but also the entire spring showcase lineup, which will be about 15 films, including new films, old films, Asian-American films, as well as films from throughout Asia, from Iran to Japan, as well as a few other surprises, which I'm not ready to reveal just yet. So just come check out our website on Friday night. Well, great. I look forward to the spring showcase and thank you very much for talking about it. Thank you. Speaker 1: 07:55 That was Beth Armando speaking with PAC arts, Brian, who the spring showcase lineup will be announced tomorrow on Facebook, Twitch and YouTube, and then be available online.

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Pac-Arts is holding a virtual launch party tomorrow for its upcoming Spring Showcase where it will reveal its full line up. But artistic director Brian Hu offers a sneak peek at his "Songs Our Elders Taught Me" program that he created in response to recent anti-Asian violence.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments