On January 11, 2021, 92nd Street Y hosted an exclusive screening and virtual talk about SKY BLOSSOM with executive producers—David Hyde Pierce, Montel Williams, Jean Tsien; actor Joe Mantegna and director Richard Lui (MSNBC anchor). Hosted by MSNBC Contributor/Columnist Maria Teresa Kumar (Voto Latino CEO). With special pre-recorded comments by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Sky Blossom follows five students over three years, from Latino, Black, Asian, Native, and White American families in the military community. During a year of wide-reaching headlines of George Floyd, these families’ multicultural stories of homelessness, poverty, life and death, and more give us a look into what it means to be a Person of Color, a caregiver, a veteran, and more.
“Viewers often say they cry, but because they are so inspired by the courage the students in the film demonstrate,” director Lui says.
Learn why the Oscars qualified film has rare bipartisan support with Official Honorary Congressional Co-Chairs that include Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell coming together. Hear Pelosi, Pierce, Williams, Tsien, Mantegna, and Lui discuss the film and its personal significance for each of them—along with stories that didn’t make it into the film, the state of caregiving during the pandemic, and what we can do to support these young heroes.
Named by Variety as a Top Contender for the 2021 Awards Season, the feature documentary about caregivers was made by caregivers with 80 percent of the film team having a caregiving experience. The doc shines a light on students who have devoted their lives to taking care of family members with disabilities. These student heroes number over five million.
92Y needs your help. They are facing tremendous financial losses due to COVID-19. Your ticket purchase helps sustain their institution and supports the creation of new, online programming that will bring comfort and inspiration to the community. Please consider donating today at 92Y.org/HelpNow.
A co-production of C35 Films, the Center for Asian American Media, and WORLD Channel, America ReFramed’s FIRST VOTE offers unparalleled access to a diverse cross-section of politically engaged Chinese Americans. The film weaves their stories from the presidential election of 2016 to the 2018 midterms and explores the intersections between immigration, voting rights, and racial justice. Directed by Yi Chen, a Chinese immigrant and first-time voter herself, FIRST VOTE is a rare long-form look at the diverse Asian American electorate. Her thought-provoking journey into the Rust Belt and South captures four Chinese American voters’ ardent first time grassroots political participation ignited by the 2016 rise of “Chinese Americans for Trump.” Until 1952, federal law prohibited immigrants of Asian descent from becoming U.S. citizens and voting. Today, Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in the United States. The film is a timely story exploring what it means to be American through personal stories of America’s fastest growing political constituency’s diverse experience at the polls in battleground states.
The world premiere television broadcast date for FIRST VOTE is October 20, 2020 on the PBS World Channel at 8PM ET (CHECK LOCAL LISTINGS), as part of the channel’s AMERICA REFRAMED series. The film will be repeated throughout the month leading to the November 3 presidential election and will be streaming now on PBS.ORG.
FIRST VOTE is also the anchor film for the PBS World Channel’s Your Vote 2020 (#YourVote2020)initiative – a multi platform initiative exploring racial diversity of voters in this 2020 election. This innovative program kicked off on September 28, 2020 with a virtual live screening for the film FIRST VOTE, hosted by WORLD Channel in partnership with several Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) film festivals. The screening was followed by a discussion of the film with filmmaker Yi Chen and film subjects Kaiser Kuo, host of Sinica Podcast, and Jennifer Ho, director of the Center for Humanities & the Arts at the University of Colorado Boulder. The discussion was moderated by award-winning journalist and NBC/MSNBC news anchor Richard Lui. Additionally, a panel discussion on voter participation featured Christine Chen, APIA Vote Executive Director, Janelle S. Wong, Professor of Asian American Studies, University of Maryland, Jerry Vattamala, Democracy Program Director, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Chavi Koneru, Executive Director, North Carolina Asian Americans Together, and Elaine Tso, CEO, Asian Services in Action, Inc. The event and more about FIRST VOTE can be found here.
Additional events will take place in the weeks leading up to Election Day in partnership with Latino Public Broadcasting, Pacific Islanders in Communication and Black Public Media. More details will be announced as they become available here.
About FIRST VOTE A soon-to-be first-time voter, the filmmaker’s thought-provoking journey into the Rust Belt and South captures four Asian American voters’ ardent first time grassroots political participation ignited by the 2016 rise of “Chinese Americans for Trump.”
FIRST VOTE is a character driven cinema verité style film chronicling the democratic participation of four Asian American voters from 2016 through the 2018 midterm elections. In Montgomery County, Ohio, a first-time voter Lance Chen avidly mobilizes new Americans to vote republican through his Rush-Limbaugh-style podcast and political action committee. In Orange County, North Carolina, journalist Kaiser Kuo returns to the U.S. after living in Beijing for 20 years and is unexpectedly confronted with the rise of Chinese American conservativism in the South, personified by a rags-to-riches business woman, Sue Googe, who after an unsuccessful first run for Congress, becomes a “tough Chinese cookie” for the Tea Party. At the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, critical race theory professor Jennifer Ho takes her activism to the classroom teaching about the complexities of race and racism in the American South.
Until 1952, federal law prohibited immigrants of Asian descent from becoming U.S. citizens and voting. Today, Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in the United States. FIRST VOTE is a timely story exploring what it means to be American through personal stories of America’s fastest growing political constituency’s diverse experience at the polls in battleground states.
About WORLD Channel
WORLD shares the best of public media in news, documentaries and fact-based informational programming that helps us understand conflicts, movements and cultures that may be distinct from our own. WORLD’s original content examines issues too often ignored by mainstream media by sharing stories from a diversity of voices. WORLD has won a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award, a National News and Documentary Emmy Award and other national honors — including 1st and 2nd place Native Media Awards, an RTNDA Kaleidoscope Award, a Media for a Just Society Award, two Lesbian & Gay Journalist Awards, two Gracies and an Asian American Journalists Award. WORLD is a growing platform carried by 174 partner stations in markets representing more than 72% of US TV households. It is also available onWORLDChannel.org and social media platforms. Funding for WORLD Channel is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the MacArthur Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts and Artworks. WORLD Channel is curated by GBH in partnership with WNET and is distributed by American Public Television (APT).
About Director Yi Chen Yi is a 2019 Soros Equality Fellow and 2020 DC Arts and Humanities Fellow. She is currently in post-production with FIRST VOTE, a feature length documentary supported by the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Center for Asian American Media, ITVS, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and Southern Documentary Fund. Her last film CHINATOWN, about three long-time residents’ activism for affordable housing in Washington, DC’s historic Chinatown neighborhood, aired on PBS station WHUT and won the IndieCapitol Awards Best Documentary Short. Yi previously worked at the UN Foundation, National Geographic, and Voice of America. She has also produced documentaries for Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, Investigative Reporting Workshop, WAMU 88.5, and Financial Times. Yi holds an MFA in Film and Media Arts from American University and has served as an adjunct professor at George Mason University.
With the passing of Congressman Lewis, America loses a leader, a hero, and a benchmark for our collective moral compass. He leaves us however, with an enormous legacy to celebrate, to honor, and ultimately, a challenge to live up to.
“John Lewis: Get in the Way” Returns to PBS on July 23.
Kathleen Dowdey documentary “John Lewis – Get in the Way” is the first biographical documentary about John Lewis, an inspiring portrait of one man cast into extraordinary times and his unhesitating dedication to seeking justice for the marginalized and ignored. The film spans more than half a century, tracing Lewis’ journey of courage, confrontations and hard-won triumphs.
The son of sharecroppers, John Lewis grew up in rural isolation, seemingly destined to a bleak, segregation-imposed future. But his fate took a different turn, and Lewis rose from Alabama’s Black Belt to the corridors of power on Capitol Hill, his humble origins forever linking him to those whose voices customarily go unheard. A man of the people, a Congressional elder statesman, Lewis is as exceptional as he is ordinary.
At the age of 15, John Lewis’ life changed forever when he heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the radio. It was 1955, during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Lewis listened with rapt attention as the young preacher called for resistance to the harsh injustice of segregation. Notably, Dr. King exhorted those listening to fight not with weapons but with proven tools of nonviolence.
Lewis embraced Dr. King’s spiritual call with a fervor that would determine the course of the rest of his life. A student activist in the vanguard of the Civil Rights Movement, Lewis was arrested and jailed for the first time during the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins in 1960. A front-line general during the 1961 Freedom Rides, he was repeatedly assaulted by angry, unrestrained mobs.
Through never-before-seen interviews shot over 20 years, Lewis, a masterful storyteller, tells the gripping tale of his role in these history-making events. Other key interviewees include civil rights activists Andrew Young, C.T. Vivian, Juanita Abernathy and Bernard Lafayette, plus Lewis’ congressional colleagues Eleanor Holmes Norton, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Emanuel Cleaver and Amory Houghton.
Once an activist pushing from the outside, Lewis, now 76 years old, has become a determined legislator making noise on the inside. Considered by many to be the conscience of Congress, with equal measures of modesty and forcefulness, Lewis strives to persuade D.C. powerbrokers to hear the voices of the unheard. Despite setbacks – and there have been many – John Lewis’ eyes remain on the prize.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs.
Click here for tickets and here more information on the festival.
Lia Chang (Big Trouble In Little China, New Jack City, King of New York) stars in Hide and Seek, a film she co-produced and co-wrote with Garth Kravits (The Drowsy Chaperone, “The Blacklist,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Hostages” ), who is also featured in the film. Hide and Seek addresses the topic of media images that validate beauty in contemporary America. Hide and Seek was named among the top ten films of the 2015 Asian American Film Lab‘s 72 Hour Shootout -Two Faces – Filmmaking Competition, and Chang received a Best Actress nomination for her starring role. Kravits shared camera operator duties with Evan Daves, composed the original score with Tyler Kent, directed and edited the film.
Co-founded by social entrepreneur Emile Cambry, Jr. and poverty law attorney Todd Belcore, the pair choose to addresses major issues and hardships around the world, with world premieres, Q&As with directors and panelists and proactive brainstorming sessions to remedy issues presented in the films.
Q & A with Lia and Garth What inspired you to tell this story? Kravits: Our film was created as part of the Asian American Film Lab’s 11th 72 Hour Film Shootout filmmaking competition, where
filmmaking teams have just 72 hours to conceive, write, shoot, edit and submit a film based on a common theme. The winners were announced during the 38th Asian American International Film Festival in New York last July. The theme for 2015 was ‘Two Faces’ and was part of a larger more general theme of ‘Beauty’. It only took Lia and I about 30 minutes to come to an agreement on the basic concept and main character. Lia suggested that the ‘Two Faces’ be the two faces of one person. From there our ideas snowballed. The truth is, given the semi-controlled mayhem that is inherent with these kind of time constraints, we were so focused on the story telling and the shooting/editing that it really wasn’t until the screening and subsequent audience response that we realized the impact of the message we’d created. Of course, it was our intention all along to address the issues of beauty, the challenge women face et al, but we didn’t set out to make a ‘message-y’ film. That being said, we’re both very happy that our story has resonated with so many of the people that have seen it.
Chang: I began my career in the arts as a model, before adding my hats as an actress, a photographer, a journalist and now, filmmaker. I’ve seen and experienced it all. While the film is a work of fiction, I know many people, not just women, who have felt the way my character feels in the film, a certain kind of invisibility. I am grateful that my parents, Bev Umehara and Russell Chang, instilled a healthy sense of self-esteem in me from an early age.
What challenges did you face in making this film? Kravits: Other than the challenges already mentioned, I think the biggest challenge was getting the story told without the help of dialogue. One of the first decisions I made, as the director of “Hide and Seek,” was that our film would be silent and use underscoring of original music that I was planning on composing. The decision was mostly predicated on knowing how time consuming the editing of dialogue can be and given the various locations we shot in, I didn’t want to worry about having to mix room tones in such a short amount of time. The challenge with this, however, is that the large part of the storytelling responsibility fell to our lead actress, and co-creator of the film, Lia Chang and her ability to convey the whole story with just her face, basically. I’m happy to say that not only did she succeed in this capacity, but it also earned her a Best Actress Nomination at the 72 Hour Shootout competition.
What inspires you to create as an artist? Chang: The importance of inclusion and gender parity. The lack of positive images of Asian Americans in mainstream media. All of the mediums that I create in – as an actress, a photographer, a journalist and a filmmaker – are all forms of storytelling. I consider myself fortunate that I am in the position to decide which is the most effective way to tell our stories. Seizing the reins by producing our own films and creating multi-dimensional characters as opposed to the many stereotypical roles that were offered me early in my career as an actress is what drives me. I have a very low boredom threshold.
Kravits: I think I can speak for Lia when I say that we both feel very strongly about telling stories from an individual’s perspective. We have each come from very different backgrounds and had vastly different experiences coming up in the ranks of this industry. But what we do share is a wealth of fantastic experiences with all of the characters we’ve met along the way. We are inspired daily by the people in our lives. Some stories we know well and some we learn as we go. Being able to shape and share these stories into new perspectives and new ideas is incredibly gratifying.
What’s your next project? Kravits: We have several irons in the fire. We are developing a musical short film and a sci-fi fantasy film and a narrative film.
Chang: We formed Bev’s Girl Films to create films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. The narrative film we are working on is based on the story of my mother, Bev Umehara, for whom our film company, Bev’s Girl Films, is named after. It is a passion project that I have wanted to make since her unexpected passing in 1999. The film is about my mother’s calling which came late in life, at 47, when she made the sudden transformation from a humble hardworking secretary and mother of four, into a labor activist, a respected union leader, and a role model for rank-and-file workers, women of color, and for all Asian Pacific Americans. I can also be seen in NoMBe’s “Kemosabe” music video by Matthew Dillon Cohen.
Garth Kravits is an actor, singer, musician and composer and award winning filmmaker. On television, Kravits has guest starred on “30 Rock,” “The Blacklist,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Hostages,” “Tin Man,” “Civil” and “The Carrie Diaries” and played opposite Keanu Reeves in the feature film Sweet November.
The Chicago International Social Change Film Festival (CISCFF) features eye-opening, inspiring films from all over the world that allow attendees to see stories of hope and hardship from the perspective of those dealing with them firsthand.
CISCFF is also an innovative vehicle for change that allows attendees to turn their inspiration into change by providing them with access to the filmmakers, organizations and action opportunities dedicated to resolving the issues highlighted in the films featured.
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.
The Indonesia Channel: Here’s the latest on the explosions on January 14, 2016, that killed at least seven people, reported by Dalton Tanonaka.
Dalton Tanonaka is an award-winning journalist with a career based in Asia for more than 20 years. Most recently, Tanonaka was the creator and anchor of English-language programs for Indonesia’s news channel Metro TV. He previously anchored news, business and talk shows for CNN, CNBC and NHK.