Skip to main content

Southeast Asian films highlight diversity in this year’s Seattle Asian American Film Festival

Never Forget (2016)

February 15, 2017

This week we are featuring an article by our MA student Adrian Alarilla to get you excited about the upcoming Seattle Asian American Film Festival.

Growing up in the Philippines, I consumed a lot of local media that oftentimes featured people who looked like me, a fact I took for granted until I migrated to the United States. Only then did I realize that Hollywood has a dearth of Asian American representation. In fact, according to a New York Times article by Amanda Hess, “Though Asian Americans make up 5.4 percent of the United States population, only 1.4 percent of lead characters in a sample of studio films released in 2014 were Asian.” Due to this, many immigrant kids grew up without film characters that looked like them and that they could look up to.

In an effort to counteract this #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the Seattle Asian American Film Festival (SAAFF) is the only film festival in Seattle to provide a space for Asian American voices, perspectives and histories by screening independent films that reflect the diversity and richness of the city’s Asian American community. This year, SAAFF is going strong and celebrating its five year anniversary.

Some of the films in this year’s lineup are made by and are about Southeast Asian and Diasporic Southeast Asian subjects. There is “Never Forget,” a visually stunning and heartwarming story of a young nurse who must travel back to her homeland in Southern Vietnam to attend her family’s funeral. In “Nước” (Water/Homeland), a queer Vietnamese American teen attempts to piece together and understand their mom’s experience as a Vietnam War refugee. In “Painted Nails,” we witness the American dream crumble when Van, a Vietnamese nail salon worker, discovers her health problems, including two miscarriages, are the result of toxic chemicals in the products used in her salon. In “Meh’s Tammakhoung,” a young Lao-Cambodian man grows closer to his grandma through her Tammakhoung (papaya salad) recipe. Toronto-based musical group Datu’s music video for their song “Bones” plays with Filipino superstition, mythology, and ritual, clashing indigenous kulintang beats with North-American swagger. And in our opening Night film “A Taste of Home,” Singaporean filmmakers Tay and Val explore some of Seattle Chinatown’s historical establishments Chinatown that give them a taste of home even though they’re far away from their homeland.

Of course, there are many more films that you can check out as well. Come celebrate the diversity of Asian American with SAAFF, which takes place at SIFF Cinema
Egyptian on February 23, 2017 and the Northwest Film Forum from February 24 – 26, 2017. For more information, and to buy tickets, check out SAAFF’s website. I hope to see you there!