A weekly magazine-style radio show featuring the voices and stories of Asians and Pacific Islanders from all corners of our community. The show is produced by a collective of media makers, deejays, and activists.
From Sidekick to Lead, Asian Americans in Film. Tonight Powerleegirls Miko Lee and Jalena Keane-Lee Hosts speak with independent filmmakers focused on AAPI stories. Producer Quintin Lee talks about his new endeavor to feature AAPI films with his AsianAmericanMovies.com. We also talk with a documentary filmmaking trio about their film Rifle in a Bag.
No Cut Collective’s Rifle in a Bag at the Asian Reel Festival in Toronto Festival runs November 12 to 19, 2020. Public tickets will be priced $7.99.
Call to Action
We have an urgent action item from our colleagues at Asian Prisoner Support Committee and Asian Law Caucus. Demand that Gov. Newsom pardon incarcerated firefighters Boun and Kao to prevent their deportation and stop turning Californians over to ICE!
Get out the vote for run off races in Georgia. Check in with Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta for how you can get involved.
From Sidekick to Lead – AAPIs in Film TRANSCRIPT
Opening: [00:00:00] Asian Pacific expression. Unity and cultural coverage, music and calendar revisions influences Asian Pacific Islander. It’s time to get on board. The Apex Express. Good evening. You’re tuned in to Apex Express.
[00:00:18] Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:00:18] We’re bringing you an Asian American Pacific Islander view from the Bay and around the world. We are your hosts, Miko Lee and Jalena Keane-lee the powerlee girls, a mother daughter team,
[00:00:28] Tonight from sidekick to lead Asian Americans in film. In 2013, there was this trend hashtag not your Asian sidekick started by the great writer, suey park in supportive Asian American feminism.
[00:00:48]Last year, it began to trend again, this time around Asian Americans in Hollywood. But we are seeing more and more changes with independent filmmakers so tonight we speak with producer Quentin lee about his new endeavor to feature AAPI films with his asian american movies.com. and we also talk with documentary filmmaking trio about their film rifle in a bag so join us tonight on apex express
[00:01:18] Miko Lee: [00:01:18] welcome producer director artist, Quentin Lee to apex express.
[00:01:24] Quentin Lee: [00:01:24] Hi, how’s it going?
[00:01:27] Miko Lee: [00:01:27] Hello, Berkeley and the Pacifica network. We are so happy to have you with us. first your film searching for Anna May. Wong is coming out really soon, November 20th to 26. , I’m sure many in our audience know about our hero Anna May Wong, but for those that don’t, can you just give an overview of who she is and then talk about the film?
[00:01:50] Quentin Lee: [00:01:50] Sure. Yeah. Anna May Wong is actually the first, Asian American movie star back, even from the silent era and, “Searching for Anna May Wong”. Began as a filmmaker named Ziara, Jen came to me and said, Hey, Quinn, I wanted to make a documentary films about Asian American actors.
[00:02:06] And I know, a lot of them, can you hook me up? I said, sure. So we started interviewing everyone from my timeout to Sandra. Oh. To like James Hong. and then we did about 20 actors or so, and then. And then, the filmmaker says, Oh, I don’t know what to do with that. so four year, like four year or two . This film was just sling and, just staying on the editing floor, there’s nothing happening with it. So I took it back. we started in 2017 and started shooting this film again. So the film started off about Asian-American actors in Hollywood and we wanted, and then eventually it drifts into about, if Anna May Wong we’re alive now would she have fared better? What would she have done? we also interviewed the grand niece of Anna May Wong. she’s part of the documentary. So in some way, it’s, it’s a documentary about the struggles of Asian American actress in Hollywood. And also about Anna May Wong and it’s kind like in search of her and her spirit.
[00:03:02] And, but it’s also about, a very specific story about, Natasha Tina Liu, which is our central main character was a young struggling actually is coming out to Hollywood and finding her ways through talking to, more twins actors like Sandra Oh to to Tze Mah to James Hong and also in Search of Anna May Wong. So that’s the film.
[00:03:23]Miko Lee: [00:03:23] I’m wondering what you feel since you’ve made three docs and then you mostly made narrative projects. What is it that compels you to make one or the
[00:03:32] Quentin Lee: [00:03:32] other, it’s just. So I have to say that I’m not a documentary filmmaker because I never set out to really make a doc, but suddenly that’s something that I feel very passionate about. For example, I met, Canyon Sam, who’s an author, almost eight years ago. I was just so fascinated by her that decided to make a short film about her called “A Woman Named Canyon Sam.” She’s one of the first, Asian-American lesbians that came out.
[00:03:57] I thought that was some, something very important about that. it’s all very like almost stream of consciousness kind of way of picking what jobs to make. Cause, And it’s just whatever that inspired me at that moment. for example, I was learning Chinese back, I’d say 10 years ago. I started going to this really interesting Chinese class at the Los Angeles city college. I’m had a really great class and I decided, okay, I’m going to go to make a documentary about that. and I that it’s called “Chinese Class” and that’s on YouTube. , so yeah, the doc is something that I do on the side that I wouldn’t say that’s my main passion.
[00:04:27] I was hired to do this doc one time and which was about actually Bruce. Lee’s what Bruce Lee students in Seattle, his name is Taky Kimura. I went with a producer too, to Seattle. We shot everything. then, when I was getting to the editing room, I was trying to edit this doc. I just could not stay awake. like for two weeks, I was just trying to edit this doc. And every time I looked at this footage, because that’s just so much of it, I would fall asleep. and then we had, my producer would have to get another editor to come on board to finish it. So I definitely know my strengths and my weaknesses. it’s very difficult for me to shape 40 hours of footage that I didn’t shoot personally, but on all my personal docs, I would I would cut the doc myself . I remember every frame of that I shot and they just cut it without even doing a paper cuts, but obviously with a project, such and for anyway long, it’s not something that I could do. So I had to pass. I had to let other people do it.
[00:05:22] Miko Lee: [00:05:22] So you basically use the docs as more, a personal kind of acts self-expression and the narrative pieces are more creative and open-ended.
[00:05:32] Quentin Lee: [00:05:32] Yeah, exactly. I think my jobs that definitely it’s a really personal it’s personal self-expression and my narrative films are really what I’m always put together as my bread and butter per se.
[00:05:44] Miko Lee: [00:05:44] And both of those things are coming together on your new subscription streamers site. Asian-American movies.com. Can you talk about that?
[00:05:53]Quentin Lee: [00:05:53] AsianAmericanMovies.com is basically like an Asian American Netflix, even though we have much smaller libraries. We’re just starting slowly growing it. Mostly it’s a lot of library content that I’ve made personally.
[00:06:04] I’m starting to acquire different features from filmmakers and it’s more kind of collective kind of thing. And I started it because I realized that Asian Americans feed films like short films and features have such a hard time getting distribution. So at least that there would be some sites that would stream it and you can find it collectively, find that collection collectively at one site, and currently we’re on the web.
[00:06:26] We can stream it on the web and through, all iOS devices. I-phones iPads and also all Android devices. And I’m trying to move the app to what’s mobile content. so you don’t really need a television to watch it.
[00:06:42] Miko Lee: [00:06:42] That’s cool. Adapting to the times. Are you also working with the bunch of the Asian American film festivals to be able to like camp Fest and all the other ones that are happening all over to be able to, pull in, especially the shorts are almost impossible to watch anywhere.
[00:06:58] Quentin Lee: [00:06:58] Yeah, so basically the precursor of Asian-American movies.com was a company. What’s basically a streaming service, very similar called chop. and we started in 2017. I think the, I think November, 2017, we launched it. And for three years we, we were just not able to get any high traction on it because I think the name chop so is so much ahead of its time.
[00:07:20] There’ll be no way it was. And then my partners on that site were not really, Film distribution people. So they just thought, you know what, it’s time to close it. So I started took over that contract and turn it into Asian American movies.com that more curated and mostly we really, I really select the films to put on.
[00:07:38] And I think we have, we had a larger content on drop, but not everything that I really liked, but this is. This is really content that I can vouch for, and
[00:07:47] Miko Lee: [00:07:47] how do you go about acquiring those projects? What’s your personal criteria? What excites and interests you about a film that you would put it on Asian-American movies.com?
[00:07:55]Quentin Lee: [00:07:55] mostly I films that I find, that are really high quality and really people should see, for example, birth at Penn has a feature on there called face, which actually was a, What’s the New York times critic, pic and also a Sundance film festival winner. It’s about a bilingual in it.
[00:08:12] And it’s called it’s about, three generations of women. And with the youngest daughter actually, dating a, an African-American guy and the mother kind of Fitbit’s it. yeah, so like anything that, for me, it’s. It’s culturally challenging and an interesting, I would try to put it on, it’s hard to talk about eventually.
[00:08:29] I think if you go on the site, you’ll find out the kind of tastes that, what kind of tastes that, what kind of movies tastes that I have and how the content is being created. Curated, Okay.
[00:08:39]Miko Lee: [00:08:39] you were recently shooting a piece during the pandemic, right? Comisery?
[00:08:43] Quentin Lee: [00:08:43] Yes, I did. Shocked I did should Comisery.
[00:08:46] So Comisary becomes another title on Asian American movies.com and co misery was basically a science fiction comedy about these five Asian American friends, a few Asian American friends, that were having the virtual hoppy happy hour together, found out that one of them was actually, an. Died in the future and came back to one of them about an alien invasion during the pandemic.
[00:09:08] So it was really like an absurd kind of absurd, through realistic, but comedic kind of peace. and so that one, we released it on Asian American movies.com and also on Amazon. Amazon instant video for TV. It’s going to be eventually going on. It’s going to go on wider platforms.
[00:09:25] And recently I’m shooting a series called boiler club. So basically it’s about these five gay Asian friends, basically, doing virtual a virtual cocktail hour and basically, it’s the first kind of like gay Asian. TV series out there and each episode is 30 minutes, and it’s all improvised.
[00:09:43]so it’s a lot of fun, so what Asian American movies.com allowed me to do is to really take a lot of risks in chunks of creating content. because back in the days before you can distribute your own content, That easily, you really have to, weigh you. We really have to like, get money to do certain things and making sure that you contact and sell to like big the distribution company, because otherwise you wouldn’t have an outlet to distributed, but now it seems so with the technology, you can really distribute so much off the content yourself.
[00:10:13] And that gives me a lot more freedom and also, To create content as long as, I can, I feel like we can financially support it.
[00:10:22] Miko Lee: [00:10:22] So both Comisary and Boy Luck Club have been shooting during the pandemic.
[00:10:26] Quentin Lee: [00:10:26] What’s that like? it’s it’s, it’s shooting on sume. it’s definitely a new medium, and I think. back in the days, I really missed the boat on found footage movie, which is you can shoot stuff on iPhones or whatever, leverage projects, and assume with zoom, I was able to get on it right away. So I became the early zoom filmmakers, last and, it’s really, it’s really interesting because it really makes it helps. In the way that the actors are much more comfortable in their own environment at home or something like that. Where’s it going on? Set it’s it can be a really cool format.
[00:11:02] Miko Lee: [00:11:02] So do you feel like the shelter in place is inspiring you to push boundaries creatively?
[00:11:09] Quentin Lee: [00:11:09] Absolutely because I think at the beginning of the pandemic, my professor sent me this article talking about how Newton didn’t waste its time when he was sent home during the pandemic. And he actually created a lot of his work, during the pandemic when he was at home. So I was just very inspired by that.
[00:11:25] I just said, I’ve got to keep creating stuff and I just remember. Before the pandemic app was just right at the pandemic start. I was on a call with these tonight with the Connecticut Canadian broadcast network. And they were interested in this project that I’m co-creating with a comedian in Canada called son of smiley. actually the comedians called ed Hill, but the project is called sun of smiley. and they was saying like, yeah, interested in developing it. And, right now we don’t know what’s going on. And then. And then, and I told ed, I said, Hey, let’s not waste any time. Let’s start writing the scripts.
[00:11:54] Let’s keep creating. And then, and we did, we wrote half the series. And then, finally I think like a month ago in September, I think in the October, we just got the green light from the broadcaster to go ahead and do the series. so had I had, we actually stalled on developing the series would have happened.
[00:12:15] Miko Lee: [00:12:15] What would you say to folks that are stuck creatively in this time?
[00:12:20]Quentin Lee: [00:12:20] I think it’s a really good time for artists, especially for introverted people that you can actually step back. You can have that time to not worry about, maybe getting a day job or something and just you really create. So I would just really encourage, Artists to take that opportunity and to just really try to do, to create as much work as possible so that you’ll be ready when the market opens up and you can start shooting.
[00:12:42]Miko Lee: [00:12:42] Can you tell me what either AAPI artists or activists you look to for inspiration in your work?
[00:12:50]Quentin Lee: [00:12:50] So one of my two, two of my early role models of API artists, one is Richard foam, he’s up in Toronto and he basically. What’s the first sort of like gate agent filmmaker. So I was like really looked up to him and I, because he was creating quite a bit of work, back in the late eighties and nineties, And what I started.
[00:13:10] And then also like Arthur Dong was someone that I’ve always looked up to, he, he made, a bunch of attack Academy winning documentaries. And obviously I’m not like author because I don’t mix. I don’t make, I don’t make as many documentaries. I don’t make as much documentary work as he did. but yeah.
[00:13:25] So those two artists are people that I’ve looked up to.
[00:13:28] Miko Lee: [00:13:28] Have you had a chance to meet them?
[00:13:30] Quentin Lee: [00:13:30] Oh, yes. Yes. I met with Richard when I was just. Before I started film school. I was, I think I met him in Canada once in Toronto. And then with Aqua author, I met him when I came out to LA.
[00:13:42]Miko Lee: [00:13:42] this moment, when we’re looking for a diverse set of voices, how does this speak to you into your work?
[00:13:48]Quentin Lee: [00:13:48] obviously, as much as it’s a challenging time, it’s also a really good time for inspiration. I know that Asian Americans are faced with a lot more discrimination and valid incidents when the pandemic started. we create a cool misery as a response. so in that way, even for something very quite negative, we got inspired and try to do something about it. We should always be finding, as artists, we should always be finding inspiration, even from the most negative kind of like things that happened to you.
[00:14:17]Up next Hear the song
[00:14:18]Forget me tomorrow by Boolean gout. You Leo.
[00:16:33]That was Giullian Yao Gioiello. Singing his original work. Forget me tomorrow. Giullian is featured in music for change. A non-profit organization started by high schoolers to spread awareness, positivity, and hope during these difficult times. They’re currently hosting a series of webinars around AAPI representation in the arts. Some of the artists joining them include our musical interludes tonight. Giullian Yao Gioiello.
[00:17:01] and Jane Liu. We’ll post a link to the webinar series on their YouTube channel in the shownotes catch the remainder of their series on November 21st and December 5th from five to 9:00 PM. Eastern time.
[00:17:15]Next step, we speak to documentary directors and inaugural members of the no cut collective. Isabel renaldi christina haynes and Arya rough we talk about their latest film
[00:17:26]A rifle and a bag.
[00:17:28] Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:17:28] Thank you so much for joining us. I’m such a fan of rifle and a bag, and I’m curious how you all came to that story. and what inspired you with that project? maybe I can start. so Pristina Aria and I, we studied together in a master in documentary film making, and it’s placing Europe in three different countries.
[00:17:53]Cristina Hanes: [00:17:53] once we were done with the masters, we decided that we wanted to keep working together. And for various reasons, one of them being that it was easier for us to go to India than for Aria to come to Europe because of visa issue. We went to India and we started research for the film. we stumbled upon this, surrender Naxalites, settlement. And we were very fascinated by the story, by the topic and by what these people were going through after having being part of the next slide movement. And while we were researching there, we met Somi, which is the main character of the film. And once we met her, we knew that we had a story to tell, and we really, it was through her that we really decided that the film was worth doing.
[00:18:39]Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:18:39] And I love the cinematography. It’s so gorgeous. And with the fixed frames, I’m curious about your approach, in terms of the visual style and also how you all work together as a three collaborative directors.
[00:18:53]yeah, we, our stylistic choices. We’re also, influenced by the conditions in which we were filming.
[00:19:02] Arya Rothe: [00:19:02] So first of all, the characters and the film is spoken, into tribal languages, Gandhi and Medea. so that means, none of us understood, anything of what was being spoken while we were filming. our approach was also influenced by that, not understanding, not understanding the speech of the characters, made us, leave the camera to roll, because, decision, to.
[00:19:33] A film, a character or another would have been taken, quite randomly in this case. so this, approach of ours, played very well in this situation. but it was, also it wasn’t, a stylistic choice that we made, particularly for this film. It’s something that we are exploring as a cinema language.
[00:19:56]And, the sequence shot, the long takes is something that we are very, fascinated, by, because it’s, it has a particular strengths. That we believe manages to capture, that cinematic truth that any documentary filmmaker is striving to get on camera. these two, I think, were the main reasons, that we chose to have the camera still, and to allow also for the space, to unfold.
[00:20:35]in front of the camera, the dynamic of the space, the other, events that could have happened and we might have missed, they all had the chance to, to March in our long take, approach. Yeah, it was really stunning how much, really detailed conversations you all were able to capture at such a emotional and honest conversations too.
[00:20:59]I’m curious more about the visual style that you’re creating and the cinematic language that you’re using, and how that relates to your collective called no cut collective and the meaning behind that name,.
[00:21:10] about the collective, we usually like, saying apart from us not understanding always the language that was being spoken, we also like for a long time, ’cause sometimes, you capture moments that within a shot in itself can become a scene that it has a beginning, middle and end.
[00:21:32] So I think we don’t like cutting. So that’s a dog. We could call ourselves NOCCA. And, about the visual stylistic, emerges, as Christina said, partially from, some constraints that we, And, we faced and also partially because we wanted to capture the stillness and the stagnancy that these characters feel that they are in this extremely thick place.
[00:22:03] And they are at the same point of time, quite stuck there. So that those were some of the reasons.
[00:22:12]And for our listeners who don’t know, what, Jen, what have you mind giving a brief overview of the next lights and the settlement that you all were working with?
[00:22:22] the next slide movement is a giddy, a movement that has been fighting in India for the rights of the attorney communities. since the sixties, since the late sixties, they are very controversial. The Indian state considers them as the biggest internal security trust. on the other hand, like they are, especially in the past, they had a lot of support or so by the intellectual and in general, by the leftist government, over the years, they lost their power, but their, a fight is still ongoing and it’s still quite strong.
[00:22:59] They use generally very violent methods. They are an arm at all effects and in the recent years, many of them. through the, through a surrender policy or from the interstate, I’ve had the chance to surrender to the state to have the record completely cleaned. So they are not, incarcerated. They nothing stands on their head anymore.
[00:23:24] Even if they committed crimes, with, let’s say some sort of a promise of rehabilitation. which not always happens, which is why, as I was saying, our characters are stopped because they have been given the chance to be free in a way, because they are not. Persecuted by the government. But at the same time, they had to run away to leave the movement and to, they don’t have the ability to go back, obviously because the movement, seek a revenge towards the desserts.
[00:23:55]but then the same government that invited them to surrender, promising them to reintegrate them into society is not really doing the job. So they are there. They don’t have formal education because a lot of them are character included have joined the movement when they were very young, like 12 or 13 or 14 years old.
[00:24:13] So they didn’t study, they didn’t work, but in the jungle and bought in the area, therefore they find themselves quite lost and the numbers are high because it’s, the tribal communities are significant numbers in the general Indian population. And, they do face also a lot of prejudice and a lot of, fear from other civilians.
[00:24:38] And that is why, in the case of our characters and in the case of the settlement, when we were filming, they also on one side, they’re forced to live in this small settlements. On the other hand, it’s also a matter for them to feel more at ease. And our settlement. It’s when the one where we filmed, it’s like a piece of land that the government in a way, allowed them to squat on which they built.
[00:25:02] There’s this small village that is self-sufficient in a way, and it is close by to another village, but all the people that live there don’t really go mingling. Let’s say with the other civilians, if you allow me to stern and. So it is a complicated situation that involves many people, which is also what we wanted to do to try to bring awareness to with the film.
[00:25:27] It’s not only something that concerns our family. So me and Graham and the kids, but it’s an issue that. Involves like a lot of people throughout India, there are areas that are more, involved than others, but it’s something that it’s quite relevant and it’s considering the next light movement. And the next slide, let’s say the stories about the next, the moment the surrendered conditions is not even well covered in the mainstream media in India, which are still mainly focusing on the acting Naxalites, let’s say, and on the struggle between them and the state.
[00:26:04] And how did you all first meet? So Mia and her family and build trust with her. we arrive in this, region, because we, met, as three. we met, Arias family friend. who is dr. he’s, dr. Belonging to the tribal community, in this region. And he’s actually the first, doctor from this, community.
[00:26:30]so thanks to him. We arrived in this region and because he’s a very highly regarded, in the community and he was, well-known also by the people from our settlement and through other contexts that, he made possible, we managed to, let’s say gain the access, but it wasn’t. yeah, it wasn’t an access per se because the people were, Open to receive us in the first place or to understand why we are there.
[00:27:04]but for sure, we wouldn’t have been so welcomed without, this introduction that, was, that they helped us with. that’s how we managed to be in that region and to have this access.
[00:27:20]Jalena Keane-Lee: [00:27:20] And I know that no cut collective is obviously a very collective and then also focuses on documentary as something that’s trans cultural.
[00:27:29] I was wondering if you could speak a little bit to what that means and how you practice that as a team.
[00:27:35]Arya Rothe: [00:27:35] so because when we were studying together, we were. 23 people from different countries. And we were traveling to multiple countries where we didn’t speak the language necessarily, and you’re dying to make sure that is so it was actually during that time during our masters, that this foundation got built, where we realized that we could connect with people and make films and form a relationship.
[00:28:05] Irrespective of, diverse cultural backgrounds or, different languages that we speak, like that was cultural backgrounds that we come from. So that’s how, it started. And then the three of us, when we met and started making this film again, it was real permission of the same thing that we could.
[00:28:28]so I could speak with, so me, but irrespective of that, Isabella and Christina also have a very deep bond with her. And, there is something about documentary cinema and human relations that can really very easily transcend all of these barriers that appear to be big in the beginning. that’s how we thought that we could continue with this.
[00:28:50]Spirit of this collective, that we are all, that we can keep on collaborating with people from different countries. And we can keep on exploring cinema and not necessarily restrict ourselves by the usual norms that are put on documented. You know what I mean?
[00:29:10]One thing to what I said, I agree a lot with this last sentence in the sense of, often I would say rightfully documentary filmmaking is, let’s say a documentary filmmaker are supposed to. Only make films about the culture or the country where they’re from in the fear of missing therapy team or appropriating concepts, cultures, things that maybe they don’t know.
[00:29:39]and many times in also in the history of cinema has been true. But we believe strongly that it’s not a rule. That it’s something that can be done. I would say gracefully or meaningfully. And, we’d all the, because it’s not an easy thing. Like for us coming from a very different world. It took us like quite a long time to be sure that we are, we’re interpreting as bright as, as deeply as possible.
[00:30:08] Another culture such as different as the Indian one. But yeah, we believe that it’s doable and that people shouldn’t necessarily filmmakers shouldn’t necessarily shy away because sometimes at least in our experience doing this film, we weren’t a little bit discouraged. My let’s say the industry, if you want to call it like that, because we were three from three different countries, making the film about, something that not necessarily it’s our personal experience.
[00:30:41]but yeah, we believe that with a lot of effort and, openness, it’s doable.
[00:30:48] And I think all the care that you’re talking about really comes through in the film because it’s so tender and beautiful the way that it’s put together. So I really applaud you all for that. I’m curious about how that translated to your post-production process.
[00:31:02] And then also if, Sophie and her family have seen the film and what their reactions were.
[00:31:07]yeah, I’ll start with, the question about the post-production. yeah. Okay. yeah, we, from the shooting phase, the filming phase, We, we knew that we have to, allow these long takes to, to speak for themselves in the final editing.
[00:31:30]so we were, very careful and we were, trying to, trigger scenes or, collaborate with, our character based on also previous, scenes that we have shot in order to build the film as much as possible from the filming state. And in the editing, the process was quite smooth. We had to, again, work, in long distance, except for the filming stage.
[00:31:57] We couldn’t really meet the three of us in a physical space, but, we were working ground distance. for the development stage, for the, in between shooting for fundraising, because we took care of all the production of the film. We are also the co-producers. what I heard back and, in the editing, we were forced to, once again, work long distance because of financial constraints.
[00:32:27]but we, yeah, we collaborately, like we did also before, Define the structure. And, it came together, quite easily also because, we had a chronological, logic that we wanted to follow because this is how the events unfolded and, Yeah, we managed to do it, quite fast, I would say.
[00:32:51] And we were also lucky because our, lucky and grateful that our characters, yeah. Could understand or solver, intentions and intentions, and they were involved, actively, in the film.
[00:33:09]And, regarding the question about, Somi, maybe audio wants to, reply to that one. But, so me was the first one to watch the film actually. So when we finished editing, we went and showed her the film and, she liked it a lot. she was very happy that, for her, the film. That it’s more a story of a mother and then a fighter or then a surrender next in age.
[00:33:39]she liked the fact that, it was incorporated because that was also her wish, too. Who showed that? How many challenges she has to face as a mother in her present right now. And, she also said a very nice thing when we asked her if we can screen it around, any, we show the film and if it would be okay with her, she said that her film is.
[00:34:04] Just an example of one mother and one mother struggle, but there aren’t many women like her who are struggling and who are trying to raise their kids and are faced with some or the other backlash from the bureaucracy. She felt that she could become that voice for the many that may be to her story.
[00:34:25]people will become aware of the fact that there is a whole community that is, going through what she is going to with her family.
[00:34:33]So beautiful. And, speaking of that, getting the message out and showing the film, what has your experience been obviously with the very unusual, premiere and festival run this year, and also how is a COVID-19 and everything happening now, impacting Sylvia and her family and the settlement.
[00:34:55]so yeah, for us and for the film, for sure. It wasn’t probably the best year to premier, but we were lucky we were among the lucky ones. we had a lot of fellow filmmakers that had to even have the world premier online. While we had it in Rotterdam, which was, one of the last festival happened, been, full power this year.
[00:35:18] So again, in that sense, we were lucky. It did a little bit, effected us. it actually affected us a lot. The film is traveling, so this is good. We sadly don’t have That deep connection with the audience while watching the film, which is a PT, because we can understand that is a film that raises, several questions regarding the characters, the background, how we did it, like first, like the first one is usually, how did you do it?
[00:35:44] The three of you, blah, blah, blah. Which is always nice to interact with. So in that sense, yeah, sadly we are missing that part. We hope maybe next year some few festivals are left and we can see some people in real life. so the, at some point, like while we were in hardcore lockdown here in Europe, in India, the situation was still in the beginning.
[00:36:06] Like in March, April, the situation was still okay. but now, not anymore. And I guess audio, maybe can say more about that. so for now, so me and her family, they’re spending a lot of. Jungle the Lake where you see her and talk already. You see her many times in the film, so they spend a lot of time there and they don’t really interact much outside of the, settlement anyway.
[00:36:36]and since it’s a very small village for now, it seems to be, contained. And there are no more cases. There were a few, a couple of months ago, but that would, everybody’s safe and sound.
[00:36:50] Yeah, that was really nice. I was also struck by how. so much of the film is, filmed outdoors and a lot of it at night too. which I know can be sometimes challenging for filming
[00:37:03] yeah. we actually, yeah, I wanted to catch it to having the film, the passage of time through these, different weather conditions, which were a bit hard to have, because we were mostly filming in one season the dry season, but, Yes, because for them, we noticed, since the first week when we, visited them every day and we discussed with the camera without the camera that, in every courtyard, there was a fire being late.
[00:37:39]where each family or other neighbors would join and they would, recollect what happened during the day or other events that they have heard. And it seemed like the nighttime, Nike days, many times, is, time and space. A time that creates a space for, reflection and a more in depth conversation.
[00:38:06]it like it, the darkness in a way. yeah, three girls this in us as humans. And we found this, very fascinating. And we, yeah, we. But he recorded and captured these conversations and as they were happening, but we also wanted to trigger a few that we thought would be, would keep this line of the in-depth conversation by the fire that the characters have, but we weren’t inspired by what we saw that was, they’re happy they were having, every evening.
[00:38:44] Yeah. And we were filming in a very limited, let’s say area.
[00:38:49] It was just this, settlement, which is just like a street on paved street that leads to the jungle. And, the Lake that you see in the film is very close by or to the settlement. So we were quiet. Let’s say we were filming quite limited in this space. So yeah, it had to be, it, yeah, it needed the, let’s say the, weather conditions that we could get.
[00:39:20] And we were just lucky to have a few more missed the mornings or, sometimes rainy, which was very, rare to happen. In order to instill some change that would, also help us, to build, atmosphere of the place and also to reinforce the emotional feelings of the characters based on the discussions that we’re having.
[00:39:47] I think you really captured the essence of the space really beautifully. One of you was saying something about being there without the camera, and I’m wondering how often you were there without the camera. And if that was a critical part of gaining trust with the family. yeah, actually we will because, We knew as the stories started happening in front of us with those education, we knew the storyline we wanted to follow.
[00:40:16] So we also by habit. We don’t just film everything. We like to think what we are filming. So there were many hours that we had when we were not filming and, sitting by the fire and talking to the family, cooking with them, eating with them. And I think that, did help us a lot in building the trust.
[00:40:39] Also, it was an amazing experience for us to go through it. And I think, Yeah. Yeah. I would say that and revisiting them over and over again, because we went back quite a few times. We made the film over the period of three years. So that also helped us a lot in gaining so mistrust that she realized that we were not there just to get like a new bite on her, but we were there to stay and we were invested and yeah.
[00:41:10] And does the government have a plan to develop a program for the next lights, for the people who have already turned themselves in or is, are, is everybody still in this unknown status? so many in our family? not clearly. So this setting that policy is not very old, so government does have a plan, but, the new challenges keep coming up.
[00:41:34] Each kind of catering to a different type of a case. So there are a lot of cases like so ms. Case, and actually, we they’d finally managed to get the, cost certificate for the ado for so ms. Kid and, that kind of started this conversation that, the kids have surrendered and XLF shouldn’t. Like they should not need cost certificate of the parents.
[00:41:58] They should just be granted. So now they are, thinking of making that exam exemption for the. Kids in their surrender program itself. I’m not sure if it has been implemented yet, but the last I heard was that they were definitely thinking about doing it and making it a law that allows these kids to get cost certificates without that, parents document.
[00:42:24] And is that a process that you helped so many in our family with attaining the documents?
[00:42:30] the film did, triggered and it helped. A little bit of the process in general for Swami, for sure. And maybe hopefully for others. because yeah, when we met her the first time, and then when we went back and told her that we would like to make a film with her, she was just starting to figure out how to enroll her kids in school because the kid was just turning six and she was facing the first issues.
[00:42:57] And, we did We did in a way, let’s say with the tool of filming, we did accompany her into the process, trying to as much as we could facilitate it for her. So we went like the first. That one of the first shot that you see in the film in one of these, governmental offices, it was like the first time that were going to ask for information and figured out if there was a way, they knew that they had this issue with the certificate, but that was like the first time that we’re trying to solve it.
[00:43:29] And they did it with us less. we did it with them and, so yeah, in a way we, and we follow it quite closely, even when we were not filming. We were keeping an eye on the situation. And also it also in this case, we have to thank the doctor that is in the film that Christina referred to earlier, because you also helped us a lot into finding people to talk to figuring out a little bit, this bureaucratic, mess.
[00:43:58] And yeah. Yeah. And I just want to add that the bureaucratic, process was much longer and harder than it comes out in the film. And yeah, like Arianna Nisa were saying we accompanied them and, we didn’t film all the time. also sometimes we couldn’t, when we, had to meet a more high ranked officers, it was.
[00:44:23] Not possible to film, but nonetheless, they listened to us. and to, so me and we try to explain the situation and they were not aware, of the obstacles that they were facing. and as, ISA an, I were seeing many others go through it and a generation of children are, now, leaving the struggle that doesn’t allow them to, get educated.
[00:44:52]it was actually, quite refreshing to see that they did take it into consideration and they want to implement it in a national legislation, but let’s see how this will play out.
[00:45:09]I just have one more question and I’m wondering how you see filmmaking as a form of activism.
[00:45:18]I’m not sure if I can answer this on behalf of all of us, but, I’ve been, they financially. the teams that we deal with, or at least the teams that we have dealt with in the rifle in the bag have, are extremely social political. But, for us, we are not interested in making a propaganda out of the issues that we are dealing.
[00:45:42]we would like to. Be more curious about it. That definitely when you visit an issue of when you visit a place or when you interact with a character, you do go with your assumptions, our prior knowledge on the situation that is there in the place. But at one point of time, it’s quite nice. I think to fulfill questions rather than to answer it.
[00:46:10] And, that questioning is what I would say. We are interested in if I don’t know if it qualifies as activism per se, but, that is the kind of political art that really interests us. I would say.
[00:46:32] Yeah, no, I’m, I agree quite a lot. Like of course then in the industry, in the kind of stories that we choose, there is clearly, an interest in, social political issues in the state of the world and stories that maybe are not, known in the mainstream or not covered or needs to be highlighted.
[00:46:53] So in that sense, it might be considered as activism. And I personally believe that any kind of film is needed in a way, as long as it’s well done as much as possible. Like there are activist, film acting as documentary as are a big part of the documentary world. And I believe that they are very much needed.
[00:47:11] But yeah, it is not necessarily what we pursue as filmmakers and at least, in my opinion, like on me personally, as an audience, in my experience, I’ve always had more effect of film that is maybe more personal, less, less, let’s say less, obviously pursuing a cause, even if it’s the cause that I agree with and that I pursue myself.
[00:47:37] In films. I generally rather watch personal stories that as I mentioned, not necessarily are making a propaganda that doesn’t need to be doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad word. Like maybe they’re making the veranda or something. I agree with, or they are doing it, let’s say the right way or towards the right goal.
[00:47:56] According to my belief by the, yeah, I guess that given the. given that all fields are needed, we do prefer like more personal stories, that questions thing, but curiosity, maybe challenge the preconceived opinions you had rather than, if that’s what activist film is intended to you, if that’s what you intend with activist film.
[00:48:26] I wouldn’t say we, We are doing, activist films. We for sure have, our beliefs that are there in the film and they can’t be hidden and they are, yeah, something that is present, even if we don’t want necessarily to make activist films.
[00:48:48] But it’s, equally important, even if the film stands for very good causes that you show multiple angles and, sometimes contradictory, perspectives on the issue. you’re trying to maybe convince people of, and many times, I think activist, funerals lack this. And, although I, we there cause, and I stand by it and I read by it.
[00:49:19] We should just be well-informed of all of the angles and try to find solutions based on them.
[00:49:27]rifle and the bag is so beautifully done and emotional and impactful. so we’ll be sure to put in the show notes, the links for people to watch it at the Toronto Asian film festival. And then what else do you all have coming up for the film and as a collective.
[00:49:43]right now we are actually collaborating with, some of our friends from school and we are, but we are collaborating as co-producers and we are currently, co-producing a film from Nepal and another project, from India and yeah, we see, how we can. Keep on nurturing the spirit and find more collaboration and find different ways to collaborate.
[00:50:09] So that I feel like Anna bag was one way of collaboration. We are very much open to molding ourselves according to what the new project needs. And the hope is that we keep finding interesting projects to stay with.
[00:50:26]That sounds great. We look forward to all the films and different collaborations and projects ahead,
[00:50:31] it’s very, rarely these days that we get the chance to talk about the film also in a longer format. So thank you so much for the opportunity and being with station to discuss and really nice questions.
[00:50:49] Also, I’m still thinking about some of them. So thank you. Thank you so much for the beautiful work that you all create.
[00:50:57]Next up listen to firefly by jane Liu.
[00:51:01]That was Jane Liu singing her original song. Firefly. Jane is featured in the music of change webinars series check out our show [email protected] for links to the series
[00:53:10] Miko Lee: [00:53:10] We have an urgent action item from our colleagues at Asian prisoner support committee and Asian Law Caucus that we’d love to share with our listeners. Boun Keoun and Kao Saelee, our refugee incarcerated firefighters who worked really hard to protect the state over the many fires that we’ve had this year on October 2nd, one was seriously injured, fighting wildfires.
[00:53:31] And days later, the California department of corrections rehab called ice to have him arrested under a policy defended by Governor Newsome. And prior to that, governor Newsome sent Kao Saelee to ice. And has ignore calls for an hundreds of thousands of people to pardon him and hope the transfers cow and boys are just two of hundreds of Californian’s turned over to ice by CDCR during the COVID pandemic demand that governor Newsome part in Boun and Kao to prevent their deportation.
[00:54:03] And stop turning Californian’s over to ice. These are people that have worked really hard to protect us as firefighters will have more information on how to get involved in our show [email protected]. Thanks to you all that voted now go out there and get out the vote for contested races in georgia Check-in with Asian Americans advancing justice in Atlanta. For how you too can get involved
[00:54:28]You can watch Quentin’s film searching for Anna May Wong at the know-how seven theater from November 20th to 26. And then [email protected]. And you can watch a rifle and a bag at the Asian real festival in Toronto. The festival runs from November 12th to the 19th. And public tickets will be [email protected]. And we’ll put all those links in our show notes as well.
[00:55:01]It was so great getting to hear the really different approaches to filmmaking from Quentin and from the no cut collective team. It seemed like, you know, Quentin’s approach, um, was, you know, maybe not necessarily wanting to make docs, but kind of falling into these passion projects and then capturing tons of footage while I’m the woman from no cut. Collective seemed to be.
[00:55:25] You know, having this really deeply emotional connection and spending a lot of time without the camera and being really careful and intentional about when they did turn the camera on and what they were capturing. So that was really interesting just to hear. And I think, you know, especially in this time,
[00:55:44] Of COVID and of being distant and everything going on. We haven’t really gotten the opportunity to watch movies like we normally would. And at the same time, we’re probably watching more movies than we ever have for a lot of people. So it’s this interesting balance of a lot of times the in-person experience of getting to watch a movie in the theater, like sometimes the best part about it is getting to discuss it afterwards with your friends.
[00:56:12] Or like hearing people comment and talk about it and leaving the theater, talking about it. So it was really nice to get, to have some of those discussions. Now, even though we’re distanced through this platform, And I hope that, you know, all the listeners out there will let us know what Asian American stories and films.
[00:56:32] They’re watching and what they’re thinking about them. Because really, this is what we need to reclaim our stories and to reclaim our narrative. We need to be the ones telling our own stories and telling them with care and nuance and things that are really interesting.
[00:56:48] So to any other young storytellers out there, just like Quentin was saying to any other, you know, creators out there. We know of course is a really hard time, but it also, it’s such a beautiful opportunity to, to create and to make the world that we want to see and envision. The possibilities for our future
[00:57:09] Miko Lee: [00:57:09] Thank you so much for joining us. Please check out our website, kpfa.org to find out more about we are the leaders and the guests we spoke to and how you can take direct action. We thank all of you listeners out there.
[00:57:20] Keep resisting, keep organizing. Keep creating and sharing your visions with the world. Your voices are important. Apex express is produced by Preti Mangala-Shekar, Tracy Nguyen, Miko Lee Jalena Keane-Lee and Jessica Antonio. Tonight’s show was produced by your hosts, Miko Lee, and Jalena Keane-Lee thanks to KPFA staff for their support and have a great night