March 20, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 28°F

Life & Culture

Festival shines spotlight on Asian-American media makers

Three years since the first weeklong Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival was held in locations around Ithaca, a group of students and professors are working to put on a mini, one-day festival to be held at Ithaca College. They began planning mid-March, though they had been discussing the idea throughout the semester.

IPAAFF is a student-run, student-led festival meant to support Asian-American and Pacific Islander film, video and media makers by promoting films created by, starring or about Asian-Americans. It was created by Katie Quan ’15 and has been held annually since 2015. This year’s festival was put together by past volunteers.

Students in the culture, race and ethnicity class titled IC Pan Asian American Film Festival: The Making of a Film Festival have organized the festival each year. Christine Kitano, assistant professor in the Department of Writing, said Quan worked with Phuong Nguyen, former Asian-American studies professor at the college; Sue-Je Gage, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology; and Changhee Chun, associate professor in the Department of Media Arts, Sciences and Studies, to create the class and festival. Kitano said that this year, IPAAFF is scaled down because the course did not run this year.

“This year is really much more about celebrating that we’ve had four years of this festival and honoring the seniors who have been with us from the beginning,” she said.

Senior Monica Chen said that the course usually runs during the spring semester but that because Nguyen left the college and is now teaching at another institution, it did not run this year. She said the course will be running during Block I in Fall 2018 and will be taught by Kitano and Bradley Rappa, assistant professor in the Department of Media Arts, Sciences and Studies.

“It’s not our full festival,” Chen said. “It’s just kind of a prequel for what’s to come in the fall.”

Chen said she took a course in Asian-American studies during her freshman year with Nguyen and heard about IPAAFF through him. She said she decided to take the course the next year and has been involved since.

“As a writing major, I’m definitely interested in media and media representation and how we create our own narrative, whether it be through literature or through film, TV and different types of media,” Chen said.

Kitano said she has been involved with IPAAFF since its first year because Quan was one of her students, although she was not an instructor that year.

“I saw that this was something she was very passionate about, and so I wanted to help out, and I realized it was something that students really enjoy doing,” Kitano said.

Senior Brenna Williams took the course in its first year, and she has stayed involved with IPAAFF since then. This year, she has two films featured in the festival. One is her thesis film, “Robbery for Dummies,” and the other is a documentary she made for her nonfiction class about her adoption.

“It’s kind of my story of discovering who I am and how I identify with my Chinese past,” Williams said.

Williams said she is excited to have her work shown at IPAAFF and to be involved in the festival again. She said it is important and inspirational for her to see work by other Asian-American filmmakers because they are not typically represented as much in the mainstream media.

“Being a minority, it’s empowering to see others in that position where you want to go,” Williams said.

Chen said IPAAFF is important because it gives people the chance to discuss the issue of inaccurate representation or underrepresentation of Asian Americans in the media while also showcasing their work.

“Having this opportunity to speak about media representation, specifically about Asian Americans and other communities, is really important to start a dialogue, start a narrative, as well as really address some of the issues we see on a larger scale,” she said.

Chen said she hopes people who attend IPAAFF learn about some of the diverse experiences of Asian Americans through the films and following discussion.

“We don’t want to just create this one monolithic narrative of what it means to be Asian American or Pacific Islander,” Chen said.

There will be eight films screened at IPAAFF from 6 to 10 p.m. April 27 in Park Auditorium.

Emily Lussier can be reached at or via Twitter: @elussier17