In 2021, Debbie Lum’s “Try Harder!” is just the 4th Asian American-made feature documentary tackling an Asian American topic to premiere at Sundance in the past 10 years. Asian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S., yet our stories continue to be chronically underrepresented in popular culture, with an even worse track record for documentaries. Generations of Asian American filmmakers have been told by gatekeepers that their particular American stories are too niche and not universal enough for the mainstream. Are festivals and distributors perpetuating a racial blind spot? How do Asian American doc-makers move their stories out of the margins and into the spotlight?
Join Debbie Lum (Try Harder!), Ursula Liang (Down a Dark Stairwell), PJ Raval (Call Her Ganda), Jannat Gargi (Vice Studios), and moderator Donald Young (CAAM) as they examine what it means to tell an American story on Monday, February 1, 2021 at 2:00 PST/5:00 p.m. EST. Click here to RSVP.
Co-presented with Brown Girls Doc Mafia, Center for Asian American Media, and Visual Communications.
The Asian American Documentary Network is a national network of 800+ members working to increase the visibility and support of Asian Americans in the documentary field. A-Doc is committed to sharing ideas and resources, providing mutual support and mentorship, and advocating for equity and diversity in the production and distribution of non-fiction storytelling.
ABOUT OUR CO-PRESENTERS
Brown Girls Doc Mafia is an initiative advocating for over 4,500 women and non-binary people of color working in the documentary film industry around the world. We fight inequality by building community and sharing resources, nourishing our creative brilliance, demanding access and visibility in creative and professional environments, enriching our community with the knowledge to sustain ourselves financially, and by cutting through oppressive industry structures to advocate for our members.
The Center for Asian American Media is a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible. We do this by funding, producing, distributing, and exhibiting works in film, television, and digital media. For 40 years, CAAM has exposed audiences to new voices and communities, advancing our collective understanding of the American experience through programs specifically designed to engage the Asian American community and the public at large.
Visual Communications‘ mission is to develop and support the voices of Asian American & Pacific Islander filmmakers and media artists who empower communities and challenge perspectives. Founded in 1970 with the understanding that media and the arts are powerful forms of storytelling, Visual Communications creates cross cultural connections between peoples and generations.
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.
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
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 (email@example.com). This will be a webinar program; attendees will not appear on camera and will participate via the Q&A box.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 Kim, Benedict Wong, Nina Yang Bongiovi, Janet Yang, and more. Watch video from the Asia Society program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival featuring Lulu Wang, Richie Mehta, Justin Chon, and Anita Gou.