Tag Archives: 2021 Sundance Film Festival

Watch Variety Studio Interview: Amy Tan Reflects on Creative Collaboration for ‘Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir’

“Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir” is an Official Selection of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and will premiere on February 2nd.  Producer Karen Pritzker and author and subject of the film Amy Tan discussed the chance circumstances that led to the film’s creation.

Author Amy Tan in a still from the documentary feature Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir. The film was made by James Redford, son of cinema legend Robert, who died from cancer before it was finished. Photo: Courtesy of KPJR Films

At Sundance Film Festival’s Variety studio presented by AT&T TV, Pritzker and Tan, author of the beloved “The Joy Luck Club” and lead singer in the literary rock garage band The Rock Bottom Remainders, remembered the doc’s late director and reflected on its unique cinematography.

Tan said the documentary , which will appear on “American Masters,” didn’t initially appeal to her. It was director James Redford, who died last October at the age of 58 from cancer, who had to convince her to agree to the film.

Tan takes a moment to herself in a scene from the documentary feature Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir. Photo: Courtesy of KPJR Films

“I was trying to wind down my public life and become a private person and not do things anymore, let alone a whole documentary so but it’s testament to how persuasive Jamie is without appearing to be persuasive,” Tan said. “It was a lot about trust … the more we talked I realized that this was an amazing opportunity already to talk to somebody about very deeply personal matters and I don’t think I could have done that with very many other people, certainly not other filmmakers.”

Amy Tan and her mother, Daisy, in a still from the documentary Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir. Photo: Courtesy of Jim McHugh

Amy Tan has firmly established herself as one of America’s most respected literary voices. Born to Chinese immigrant parents, it would be decades before the author of The Joy Luck Club would fully understand the inherited trauma rooted in the legacies of women who survived the Chinese tradition of concubinage.

A still from the documentary feature Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir. Photo: Courtesy of KPJR Films
Tan (left) and her mother in a still from the documentary Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir. Photo: Courtesy of Robert Foothorap

In 1989, Amy Tan’s first novel, The Joy Luck Club, was published to great commercial and critical success. With the blockbuster film adaption that followed as well as additional best-selling novels, librettos, short stories and memoirs, Ms. Tan has firmly established herself as one of the most prominent and respected American literary voices working today. Born to Chinese immigrant parents into 1950’s America, it would be decades before Ms. Tan would come to fully understand how her mother’s battle with suicidal tendencies was rooted in a legacy of suffering common to women who survived the ancient Chinese tradition of concubinage. This very legacy, however, has provided Ms. Tan an inexhaustible well of inspiration from which to work her literary magic. An interweaving of archival imagery, artful animation and live performance from Ms. Tan form the basis for this documentary that allows the audience to journey through Ms. Tan’s life and career in vivid, living colors.

Amy Tan and her mother. Photo: Courtesy of Amy Tan

This, the late James Redford’s final film, epitomizes his filmmaking talent, treading with great empathy into the life story of another and leaving telltale signs of a directorial vision both crystalline and warm. Perfectly implementing the generative listening Tan highlights so deliberately, Redford is responsive and engaged in this dimensional portrait of one of the most important writers in contemporary fiction. Produced by Karen Pritzker. 

Amy Tan (left) and her family. Photo: Courtesy of Amy Tan

See the film: 







Variety Studio presented by AT&T TV at Sundance Film Festival

Amy Tan: An Unintended Memoir Film Animation by Xaviera López


James Redford, director of Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

James Redford 1962 – 2020

Always a voice for the vulnerable, James spent a lifetime leading with kindness and amplifying solutions that provide hope for generations to come.

James Redford was an award-winning director, writer, producer for film and television. In collaboration with Karen Pritzker, he formed KPJR FILMS to produce groundbreaking social issue documentaries that impact change in communities around the world, including The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia, Paper Tigers, Resilience: The Biology of Stress and The Science of Hope, Playing For Keeps, and Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir.

He and his father, Robert Redford, co-founded The Redford Center, a non-profit media entity that engages people through inspiring stories that galvanize environmental action. Among many of its functions, the center’s documentary film projects include Watershed, Fighting Goliath, and The Art of Activism, as well as HBO films HAPPENING: A Clean Energy Revolution, Toxic Hot Seat, Mann v. Ford, and The Kindness of Strangers.

James received the 2016 Distinguished Service and Excellence in Film Award and 2016 Partnership with Children Anne Vanderbilt Award. His other awards include the 2014 Wild Care Environmental Award and in 2015, he was named a filmmaker envoy for USC/US State Department’s American Film Showcase as well as inducted into the leadership circle for the United Nation’s second annual Media for Social Impact Summit.

James was committed to storytelling and passionate about his filmmaking. Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir is his last completed film and shows him at the height of his powers.

Amy Tan: An Unintended Memoir Film Animation by Xaviera López


“I had suggested to Jamie that we interview his friend, Amy Tan, for our film Playing for Keeps about the need for adults to cultivate play and fun into their lives. I had seen Amy Tan perform as part of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band comprised of best-selling authors, who I imagined each spent many days alone in their rooms staring at a blank computer screen. Amy’s performance as the lead singer was so much the opposite of the introspective and serious writer I had encountered through her beautiful books.

Jamie’s interview was brilliant. Not only did Amy say everything I hoped she would say about the need for play, but her discussions about how she activated so many parts of her imagination and creativity was a revelation. At that moment, Jamie and I realized that we had to make a film about Amy Tan. Jamie’s thoughtful, comfortable and curious style of interviewing unearthed so many layers of her character. As he was struggling with his own mortality and failing health, he directed this film that literally makes me cry each time I view it. We see Amy’s bravery and humanity in dealing with the many losses, traumas, and joys that she has faced, while still managing to emerge from her personal struggles with work that speaks to everyone and has been healing for her to produce.

I am so glad to be able to share this film with the world and am only sorry that Jamie can’t share the experience of seeing the world’s reaction.” – Karen Pritzker

The WNET Group’s American Masters Pictures Brings Documentaries on Rita Moreno, Amy Tan, Alvin Ailey and Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio to 2021 Sundance Film Festival 

Lia Chang

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.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2021 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

The WNET Group’s American Masters Pictures Brings Documentaries on Rita Moreno, Amy Tan, Alvin Ailey and Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio to 2021 Sundance Film Festival

Three American Masters Pictures documentaries will world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, which runs January 28 – February 3: Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For ItAiley and Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir. These films will have their exclusive U.S. broadcast premieres on American Masters on PBS at a later date. Additionally, Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: This is the Way We Rise, now streaming as part of American Masters and Firelight Media’s documentary short film series In the Making, will screen in Sundance’s Short Film program.

“Premiering a film at the Sundance Film Festival represents the pinnacle of achievement in independent film,” said Michael Kantor, Executive Producer, American Masters Pictures. “Our mission is to empower filmmakers to tell compelling stories about the people who shape our culture: from emerging talents like Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio to icons like Rita Moreno, Alvin Ailey and Amy Tan.”

“2021 marks five years since we launched American Masters Pictures to build on our commitment and connection to the independent film community,” said Stephen Segaller, Vice President of Programming at The WNET Group, whose THIRTEEN unit produces American Masters for PBS. “We are ecstatic that these films will premiere at Sundance and can’t wait to share them with our audiences on PBS.”

Directed by Mariem Pérez Riera, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It follows the star’s rich, decades-long career using vérité footage of Moreno today, archival footage of her roles and appearances, reenactments of her childhood, animation and new interviews. Despite becoming the first Latina actress to win an Oscar, studios continued to offer Moreno only roles as stereotypical ethnic minorities, ignoring her proven talent. Throughout her career, Moreno paved the way for Hispanic American performers by refusing to be pigeonholed into one-dimensional stereotypes. Film interviewees include George Chakiris, Hector Elizondo, Gloria Estefan, Tom Fontana, Morgan Freeman, Mitzi Gaynor, Whoopi Goldberg, Norman Lear, Eva Longoria, Justina Machado, Terrence McNally, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Karen Olivo and Tony Taccone. Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It is produced by Brent Miller, p.g.a., and is a production of American Masters Pictures and Act III Productions in association with Artemis Rising and Maramara Films.

Directed by the late James Redford, Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir tells the story of the author whose first novel, “The Joy Luck Club,” was published to great commercial and critical success. With the blockbuster film adaption that followed as well as additional best-selling novels, librettos, short stories and memoirs, Tan firmly established herself as one of the most prominent and respected American literary voices working today. Archival imagery, artful animation and live performances from Tan create a vivid, colorful journey through Tan’s life and career. Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir is Redford’s last completed film and a testament to his artistry and dedication to the craft. Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir is produced by Cassandra Jabola and Karen Pritzker, and is a KPJR Films production.

A still from Ailey by Jamila Wignot, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jack Mitchell.

A visionary artist who found salvation through dance, Alvin Ailey confronted a world that refused to embrace him and was determined to build one that would. Directed by Jamila Wignot, Ailey is a feature-length portrait of the life and work of  this brilliant, enigmatic and tenacious man. Ailey’s commitment to searching for truth in movement resulted in pioneering and enduring choreography that centers on African American experiences. This resonant biography grants artful access to the extraordinary man who founded one of the world’s most renowned dance companies: the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The documentary is an immersive portrait told in Ailey’s own words through the creation of a new commission inspired by his life. Ailey is produced by Lauren DeFilippo, and is a production of Insignia Films in association with American Masters Pictures, ITVS, XTR, Impact Partners, and Black Public Media.

In This is the Way We Rise filmmaker Ciara Lacy documents Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, a Kanaka Maoli wahine poet, activist and academic, and her continued work towards justice for Hawaii’s native population. The short is part of the In the Making series, which is a production of Firelight Media in association with THIRTEEN’s American Masters for WNET.

About American Masters Pictures
Founded in 2016 by executive producer Michael Kantor, American Masters Pictures is WNET’s theatrical imprint for documentaries co-produced by American Masters, the award-winning biography series that celebrates our arts and culture. American Masters Pictures partners with filmmakers, distributors and sales agents on non-broadcast releases including film festivals, theatrical, online, DVD, VOD and OTT, with PBS as the exclusive U.S. broadcaster of all films as part of the American Masters series. Films include Miles Davis: Birth of the CoolN. Scott Momaday: Words from a BearToni Morrison: The Pieces I AmSammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be MeBombshell: The Hedy Lamarr StoryItzhak, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of YouMaya Angelou: And Still I Rise and Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable. Since 1986, American Masters has set the standard for documentary film profiles, accruing widespread critical acclaim: 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 14 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards and many other honors. The series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET. American Masters Pictures will be represented by three films at the Sundance Film Festival in 2021: Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For ItAiley and Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir.

About WNET
WNET is America’s flagship PBS station: parent company of New York’s THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey and its news division, NJ SPOTLIGHT NEWS. Through its new ALL ARTS multi-platform initiative, its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each month. WNET produces and presents a wide range of acclaimed PBS series, including NatureGreat PerformancesAmerican MastersPBS NewsHour Weekend, and the nightly interview program Amanpour and Company. In addition, WNET produces numerous documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings, as well as multiplatform initiatives addressing poverty and climate. Through THIRTEEN Passport and WLIW Passport, station members can stream new and archival THIRTEEN, WLIW and PBS programming anytime, anywhere. 


Jan. 29: Asia Society at 2021 Sundance Film Festival: Janet Yang Moderates Virtual Panel Discussion Featuring Amy Tan, Miya Cech, Sushmit Ghosh, Debbie Lum, Leonardo Nam, Baz Poonpiriya, Rintu Thomas, and Christopher Yogi

For the third consecutive year, Asia Society Northern California will host conversations honoring Asian filmmakers and talent at the virtual 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

Academy Governor-at-Large and executive producer of The Joy Luck Club Janet Yang will moderate this virtual program. Speakers include Amy Tan, Miya Cech, Sushmit Ghosh, Debbie Lum, Leonardo Nam, Baz Poonpiriya, Rintu Thomas, and Christopher Yogi. 

Closing remarks by Kevin Rudd, Asia Society CEO & President, 26th Prime Minister of Australia.

Find the Asia Society page on the 2021 Sundance Film Festival website here. This event will be complimentary and open to the global community.


Friday, January 29, 2021 from 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. PST/8:30 p.m. EST

5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. PST   Main Program

  • 5:30 p.m. – 6:15 p.m. – Documentary Features with Amy Tan, subject of Unintended Memoir, Debbie Lum, director of Try Harder!, Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas, co-directors of Writing with Fire
  • 6:15 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. – Narrative Features with Miya Cech and Leonardo Nam, stars of Marvelous and the Black Hole, Christopher Yogi, writer/director of I Was a Simple Man, Baz Poonpiriya, writer/director of One for the Road

7:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Pacific    VIP Reception

VIP Reception to follow the program for Groundbreaker and Innovator Members with Direct Access to Speakers

Click here to RSVP.

Please continuing checking the event website for updated speaker information.

Link to join virtually via Zoom will be emailed the day before and an hour before the program is scheduled to begin by Rexille Uy, Director of Programs (ruy@asiasociety.org).  This will be a webinar program; attendees will not appear on camera and will participate via the Q&A box.

Amy Tan
Amy Tan

Born in the U.S. to immigrant parents from China, Amy Tan grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in a succession of twelve homes by the time she graduated from high school. In 1985, Amy began writing fiction as an incentive to cut back on her heavy freelance workload.  She attended her first workshop at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and then joined a writers group led by writer and creative writing teacher Molly Giles.  In 1987, Amy went to China for the first time, accompanied by her mother.  When she returned home, she learned that she had received  three offers for a book of short stories, of which only three had been written.  The resulting book, The Joy Luck Club, was hailed as a novel and became a surprise bestseller, spending over forty weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List.  

Amy  served as Co-producer and Co-screenwriter with Ron Bass for the film adaptation of The Joy Luck Club, for which they received WGA and BAFTA nominations.   She was the Creative Consultant for Sagwa, the Emmy nominated PBS television series for children, which has aired worldwide, including in the UK, Latin America, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and Singapore.  Her story in The New Yorker, Immortal Heart, was performed on stages throughout the U.S. and in France. Her essays and stories are found in hundreds of anthologies and textbooks, and they are assigned as required reading in many high schools and universities.  Amy Tan has been nominated for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the International Orange Prize, and has won many awards including the Commonwealth Gold Award.

Miya Cech
Miya Cech

Ingénue rising starlet Miya Cech is making her mark in Hollywood. Born in Japan, Cech was adopted as a baby and raised with her three siblings in Northern California. She broke into the entertainment industry as a model at just four years old. In 2015, Cech made her television debut as a guest star on the CBS drama Hawaii Five-0. Shortly after, she appeared on several other series including: Nickelodeon’s The Thundermans, season six of FX’s American Horror Story: Roanoke, and the ABC comedy American Housewife.

She currently stars as ‘Samantha Sawyer-Wei,’ a young girl who is a part of a group of kids that are accidentally launched into space, in Nickelodeon’s newest series The Astronauts. She also stars as ‘Sammy Ko’ in the film Marvelous & The Black Hole, which was accepted into the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. The coming-of-age comedy touches on unlikely friendships, grief, and finding hope in the darkest of moments.

Debbie Lum
Debbie Lum

Debbie Lum is an award-winning independent filmmaker based in San Francisco. Her projects give voice to the Asian American experience and other unsung stories. Lum’s award-winning Seeking Asian Female (SXSW Film Festival, Best of Fest‚ AFI Discovery Channel/Silverdocs Film Festival, PBS’ Independent Lens May 2013) was her feature-length directing debut. For years she worked as a documentary editor; credits include A.K.A Don Bonus (winner national Emmy), Kelly Loves Tony (nominated for Best Documentary by the IDA), which she also co-produced, and To You Sweetheart Aloha (Audience award LAAPFF). She has also written several short comedies, Chinese Beauty, A Great Deal!, and One April Morning. She has a B.A. from Brown University, an M.F.A. from San Francisco State University and completed the CPB Producer’s Academy at WGBH. 

Leonardo Nam
Leonardo Nam

Born in Argentina to Korean immigrant parents and raised in Sydney, Australia, Nam attended Sydney Technical High School and studied architecture at the University of New South Wales, before deciding to move to New York City to pursue his dream of becoming an actor.  Whilst in New York, he studied drama with theatre legend Uta Hagen at the critically acclaimed HB Studio and worked with the New York Public Theater/Shakespeare in the Park company, as well as Sigourney Weaver and Jim Simpson’s The Bat Theater Company.  His breakout role came in the Paramount Pictures comedy The Perfect Score, starring Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, and Erika Christensen.  Since then, he has gone on to star in a string of movies, namely The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 1 and 2, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Vantage Point, He’s Just Not That Into You, and One for the Money.

Leonardo Nam can currently be seen reprising his fan-favorite role as Felix Lutz for season three of the critically acclaimed, award-winning HBO series Westworld.  The series, based off the 1973 Michael Crichton movie of the same name, takes place in Westworld, a futuristic amusement park intended for rich vacationers and looked after by robotic “hosts.”  Since the show’s breakout debut in 2016, the series has garnered over 150 award nominations, 47 wins and counting.  Season 3 is currently available to stream across HBO platforms.

Janet Yang (moderator)
Janet Yang (moderator)

Academy Governor-at-Large and a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning Hollywood producer with deep roots in China, Janet Yang has worked with some of the most formidable directors and actors in the world. She came to prominence through her collaboration with Steven Spielberg on Empire of the Sun (Warner Bros).  That was followed by a long partnership with multiple Academy Award-winner Oliver Stone—where she served as Executive Producer on the iconic The Joy Luck Club (Disney), and as a Producer on the Golden Globe-winning The People vs. Larry Flynt (Columbia Pictures). Her most recent project, Over The Moon (Netflix), is an animated feature based on her original story inspired by the Chinese moon goddess. Iconic animator Glen Keane directs the movie.

Among her many other credits are: the Sundance award-winning Dark Matter with Meryl Streep and Chinese star, Liu Ye; The Weight of Water (Lionsgate) directed by Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow; Fox’s High Crimes with Morgan Freeman; a Chinese adaptation of the acclaimed Disney franchise High School Musical; and cult favorites Zero Effect, by Jake Kasdan, and Shanghai Calling with China Film Group.  Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Yang holds a B.A. from Brown University in Chinese studies and an M.B.A. from Columbia University. She is currently a visiting scholar at the University of Southern California.

Christopher Yogi
Christopher Yogi

Christopher Makoto Yogi is from Honolulu, Hawai’i. His debut feature film, August at Akiko’s, had its world premiere at International Film Festival Rotterdam and was listed in Richard Brody’s “The Best Movies of 2019” in the New Yorker. Yogi has participated in the Sundance Directors and Screenwriters Lab, Catalyst, IFP Film Week, Film Independent Fast Track, New York Film Festival Artist Academy, and Berlin International Film Festival Talents.

Kevin Rudd
Kevin Rudd

The Honorable Kevin Rudd is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Asia Society, as of January 1st, 2021 and President of the Asia Society Policy Institute. He served as Australia’s 26th Prime Minister (2007-2010, 2013) and as Foreign Minister (2010-2012). He is also a leading international authority on China. He began his career as a China scholar, serving as an Australian diplomat in Beijing before entering Australian politics.

Watch videos of three panels hosted by Asia Society at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival featuring Daniel Dae KimBenedict WongNina Yang BongioviJanet Yang, and more. Watch video from the Asia Society program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival featuring Lulu WangRichie MehtaJustin Chon, and Anita Gou.