tv Asian Pacific America with Robert Handa NBC May 13, 2018 5:30am-6:01am PDT
only at jack in the box. ♪ i'm robert handa, your host for our show here on nbc bay area and cozi tv. today, our show focuses on caamfest36, the 36th annual celebration of art put on by caam, center for asian-american media, a very important showcase for asian-american artists and storytellers. this year's theme, "culture in every sense." we'll talk about caam as well as the festival and its big attractions, including a world premiere of "bitter melon," a sort of dark comedy along the lines of "home for the holidays" set in san francisco. then, we'll hear from the creative forces behind a unique documentary film, "drawn together: comics, diversity and stereotypes," revolving around three comic creators. and our finale will be the caam fest finale, an art performance, the fascinating "aunt lily's flower book: 100 years of legalized racism," written and produced
and performed by the legendary team of brenda wong aoki and mark izu. all that on our show today. well, let's go right to the top when it comes to talking about caam and its festivals. with us is a returning guest, the festival and exhibition director, masashi niwano, a bay area native who has been associated with caam for almost a decade and is also an active filmmaker. and also with us is the writer and director of a film, "bitter melon," making its world premiere at the festival, h.p. mendoza. this is the third feature by this filipino-american filmmaker from the bay area. welcome to the show. masashi niwano: thank you, thanks for having us. robert: great to see you again. give us an idea, first of all, for people who aren't familiar with it, give us a quick overview of the festival, as well as what we can expect this year. masashi: sure. so, caamfest is the nation's largest film festival that showcases and celebrates asian-american stories. with our big move from march to may, you know, our big tagline this year is "culture in every sense," and that's what's connecting all of our unique programs. we have over 100 unique programs in san francisco
and oakland, film, live concerts, foodie events. and our goal is that the people who come to our festival, they can celebrate and enjoy culture in all of these different senses. robert: h.p., the broad spectrum of looking at it as art, not just a film festival, really is kind of a unique form, isn't it? h.p. mendoza: it really is. i mean, i feel like there--i mean, we've seen that happening at other festivals where they started branching out into let's say vr or technology, but there's something really special about this, i think. i think we're going to see like this unique marriage of technology, film, and food. robert: and it is a unique showcase for filmmakers, especially asian-american and pacific islander filmmakers. are there even that many around to really debut a premiere film? h.p.: many, there are many. we see them all here, you know, thanks to organizations-- robert: or here, yeah. we have a clip, right, from "bitter melon." let's take a look at that and then we'll talk about it, as well as how it fits into the context of the festival. masashi: perfect. all: merry christmas. female: you all look fat.
male: it's because of the camera that makes us look fat, inang. female: no, it's your fat that make you look fat. male: we just want to say how contented we are of our togetherness with the help of this new technology called skype. female: [speaking in foreign language] male: so that we can be all together again with the veritable cornucopia of food. male: especially mango cake. male: hold on, troy, let someone else do the talking for a moment. robert: that seems like a very familiar slice of life. h.p.: there's one in every family. robert: yeah. give us an idea in terms of the background of this, in terms of how--what inspired for you for this. h.p.: well, you know those, like, christmas comedies where the whole family gets back together? yeah, and the hilarity ensues. the hilarity in question here is that the family's actually getting back together to conspire on how to best murder the abusive member of the family. and it's a dark comedy, it's a christmas comedy.
and depending on where you are in your life, it might be darker than it is comedic, but i think it's actually pretty funny. robert: one thing i've always liked about the festival is that, you know, i mean, you do have important sort of themes that people kind of do in, you know, japanese-american internment and, you know, chinese exclusion act. and you hear those, but you do need to see these slice of life films. you do need to see asian-americans and pacific islander culture as like regular people and everyday life, right? masashi: yeah, absolutely. so, to your earlier question, we have over 78 premieres at this year's festival, including the world premiere of "bitter melon." and for us, there is so much vibrancy within the bay area creative community, but then also just nationally, internationally. we have about 220 filmmakers who come to our festival. it is important. i think that, you know, it's great to have positive representations of asian-americans, we need much more of that. but for us, it's also complexity. it's also talking about within each community, sub communities, people who are not being represented and stories that you just don't see in mainstream. robert: yeah. and of course, i was saying that your festival is one of the only
forums for doing this kind of a thing 'cause there aren't that many, you know, nationwide, or there should be more anyway. what about this year then in terms of having that theme? what's different about this year's festival? masashi: i'd say this year, so with our big move to may, we're now a 15-day festival. we're expecting 40,000 people within san francisco and oakland. and we have a lot of more--we have a big emphasis this year on music and food because, as i talked about with culture, what better way than to eat culture through food and to see it all live on stage? so, we have a lot of--a lot more events this year. free concerts, we're taking over restaurants with our film screenings. for us, it's that immersive experience. we want to make sure we have amazing films and artists, but then also kind of take over certain neighborhoods in the bay area with our programs. robert: h.p., what do you want--what do you hope people who come to the festival and come to your film will they get out of it? h.p.: well, i hope they get out of my film what they get out of going to any movie at the festival, and it's what i experience when i do anything at caam.
you know, you spend your whole year seeing all this media that doesn't really represent you, and you might--you see your face kind of as a blip for about five seconds in a side character, but you go to this festival and you see faces like yours everywhere, and you're like, "wow, my life isn't just a subplot. i'm not a side character. i'm the lead character in my own story." robert: yeah, pretty satisfying to have this premiere? h.p.: really satisfying, yes, and validating. robert: yes, a little nerve-racking? h.p.: yeah, butterflies right here. robert: all right. and of course, we want to make sure that everybody understands that caamfest is very important for the asian-american/pacific islander communities, but it is for everybody. people can learn a lot about the community and the world just by coming to the festival. thanks a lot for being here. masashi: thank you, thanks for having us. robert: we're going to do a little bit more about caamfest36. again, caamfest36 put on by the center for asian-american media will play at various venues around san francisco and oakland from may 10 through may 24. again, this is an important showcase for new asian-american and asian film, which also includes food and music programs. and the world premiere of "bitter melon" will be at the caamfest36 on saturday, may 12 at 6:50 p.m.
at the amc kabuki 8 in san francisco japantown. for more information on the other screenings, as well as more details of the festival itself, you can go to nbcbayarea.com. and stay with us, another film that will make a big splash at caamfest36 will be the local documentary on comics and takes on diversity and stereotypes. that's next.
robert: you know, it's good to support a film and arts festival like caam, but you should also go because you'll see interesting, groundbreaking work by asian and asian-american filmmakers. and the documentary film "drawn together: comics, diversity and stereotypes" is a good example. joining us right now is the director and producer of the project through her company core films, harleen singh, a filmmaker who takes on big topics including issues affecting minorities. she has worked for the history channel and the national geographic channel. and her previous film, "the odd couple," has been well received at festivals around the world.
welcome to the show. harleen singh: thank you so much, pleasure being here. robert: give us an idea, first of all, sort of an overview of your film and how it feels to kind of be premiering it or showing it at caam. harleen: thank you. so, "drawn together" is all about challenging racism and stereotyping, but with the backdrop of comics and comic book creators. you know, one thing is that this topic is so serious that if you actually not use humor, you would be lecturing people. so, the main reason for using comics and art was to get across people, make them smile, but make them think at the same time. robert: yes, well, you know, we had the south bay--south asian comic festival people here. and we were making that--i was making that point is that but comics do, they make points about society and what's going on in the world, and make more of an impact sometimes than political commentators do. harleen: yeah, art is--and drawing is the oldest form of language that we all know. robert: yeah, yeah.
now, i know we're going to--we have a segment we're going to see from your film, so let's take a look at it and then we'll talk about it after, okay? harleen: sure. male: creating cartoons allowed me to channel my anger with how i was being perceived, have been perceived all my life. you're not american. female: as a woman creator, the idea that maybe my stories would naturally be romance stories or a soap opera type stories, in reality i like big adventure stories with action and explosions and super big, fun, crazy stuff. robert: how did you get this project started? what was the inspiration for this? harleen: i think all of us get stereotyped one way or the other, be it the color of the skin, or gender, or if you're short, fat, whatever. you just get stereotyped and boxed into something. so, i always wanted to, you know, talk about the subject. and i also wanted to do something which
was more universal. and there are just three languages that people understand universally, sports, music, and cartoons. so, picked cartoons and showcased a subject which was universal too. robert: yes, and comics is just, like i said, such a great perspective to show things from. so, when you decided to do this, was there something that you had seen or experienced that made you--gave you a starting point? or how did you go about approaching this topic? harleen: i think there were lots of places where i was stereotyped too. in my first film, i was pregnant, and there were three editors who rejected me saying that, "you know, you are pregnant, you'll never be able to complete it." so, there were things like this that kept happening, but at the same time, the inspiration of people in stories around me. and i as a filmmaker feel that if we don't tell our own stories, nobody else will. and that was something that was driving the whole project for me. robert: so, what was the first step then? what did you do first to try to get this started? who did you approach? who did you decide to start focusing on?
harleen: so, like i said, the topic was very universal, so i wanted to do something on comics, but i wasn't too familiar with the word. so, first six months were really spent on educating myself on comics and how, you know, comic filmmakers are doing, how artists are actually doing. and my first person that i approached was eileen. because she was local, i could approach her and understand her craft. and thereafter, it just went from there. it was very easy to get the other artists and even the experts come in. robert: didn't they even also feel as though this was their opportunity to kind of, you know, talk about things and show what they can do, but also why they do it and some of the things that they want to get across to people? this was probably an opportunity for them as well, right? harleen: yeah, it is an opportunity for them, but all of them are actually activists in a way as well. they're challenging that stereotype. so, eileen is challenging race--gender stereotyping. keith knight is an african-american,
he's challenging race-related stereotypes. so, each one of them actually was challenging things on their--in their own lives. i as a filmmaker is just--they're just portraying these stories on a screen, but their work has been going on for years. robert: and what is maybe the main stereotypes that you would really like to sort of get rid of, or at least, you know, have people change their perspective on? harleen: i think we should just get rid of all stereotypes. we should not judge people by how they look. it's about the core of their heart. and that's what we want as individuals, and that's what i think we should carry forward to others as well. robert: so, when they come in and they see your film, what are you hoping that they'll sort of end up getting out of it? they might be coming in for different reasons. what do you hope that they get out of it ultimately? harleen: i hope that there is an introspection after the film that, "hey, i think let's not judge people. let's not box people because we don't want to be boxed either. and let's treat each person as a human being versus an
african-american or a caucasian or whatever." so, that's my message. robert: great goal, great message, worthy of a comic. harleen: thank you so much. robert: thank you for being here. harleen: thank you, pleasure. robert: all right, well, the film "drawn together" will have a screening on thursday, may 17 at the asian art museum in san francisco starting at 7 p.m. and you'll also get in free to the film with admission to the museum. for more information, you can go to nbcbayarea.com. and next up, we look at one of the big attractions to caamfest36. mark izu and brenda wong aoki join us to talk about their latest artistic creation, so stay with us.
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our other guest is brenda wong aoki, who is a legendary bay area artist known for breaking new ground, tackling big themes with intimate personal stories. welcome back to the show. brenda wong aoki: thank you. robert: great to have you. now, give me an idea. before when we had you on, you were able to do a little excerpt from your show. and this one, though, is a little bit more complex, so we're not going to do anything on this stage, but we're going to show quite a bit here so that people can see a little bit of it, and then we can talk about it. so, let's go ahead and we'll show a segment of it now, and then we'll talk afterwards, okay? brenda: yep, perfect. brenda: and i joined them in the basement of i hotel, which is where all the dancers, musicians, poets, writers, printmakers, photographers, muralists, everybody hung out at kearny street workshop, when it was on kearny street, don't ya know?
we were revolutionaries making new statements about what it meant to be black, brown, yellow, and red in america. yellow power. assimilation is annihilation. and we will hold it down for el robles and the manong. filipino bachelors who had sweated for this country, fought for this country, and at the end of their lives were all alone because it was illegal for them to get married outside their race, but filipino women weren't allowed to immigrate here. so, at the end of their lives, all they had were each other at i hotel, and they were being evicted. everybody thought it was wrong. we were all out there, arms interlocked, standing shoulder to shoulder until the horses came. remember? remember? you've got to remember because we're going to
have to do it all over again. robert: there's a little bit of personal history there, right? brenda: we were there. robert: yes, exactly. give me an idea, first of all, in some ways--and you're going to--you're still creating and doing that, you know, but over the years. but somehow, this does feel a little bit like a kind of a culmination of a lot of different experiences when i was listening to what was going on and i thought. how about for you, am i right there? i mean, do you--are you trying to put a lot of different things into this performance? brenda: well, it was like, you know, we got the new administration and we were going to do something else, a kabuki love story. and then it was like, "whoa, that doesn't work anymore. we better do something." and then mark had done this thing with steven gong, executive director of caam, which is called asian-american films to light. mark izu: home movies to light. brenda: home movies to light. robert: which we're going to talk about. brenda: and he found--well, talk about--
mark: oh, okay. so, steven said we're doing these films, you know, and he has home movies. i said, "let me ask, my mother's from the central valley." it was about the central valley. i asked my cousin, she said yes. you know, my aunt and uncle had passed away the previous year. i said, "we have all these films in this box in my closet." i said, "oh good, give them to steven." she gave them to steven. steven called me up and says, "you have a gold mine here. they're just amazing. and so, then we're going to use them." i go, "that's great." brenda: and i'm like, "cool, because it's on him, it's steven's movies and music, and i just chill, right? and i'll clap." but then his cousin finds this diary, aunt lily's diary, her flower book which had flowers in it. so, then i started to read from the diary, so then we did this, and then i was like, "wow." because we find out that his mom was incarcerated in poston. his dad was drafted into the 442nd. and then aunt lily said the rest of the family was bombed in hiroshima.
so, it's like, wow, in one family. and then i started to think about my family, which you know from "uncle gunjiro's girlfriend." and i thought just in our little family, we got 100 years of legalized racism. so, that's it, and we started to put everything together. and the section you just saw was what we personally--well, you probably were involved in too back in the day. and so, then we realized, you know, we might as well show this stuff because everyone's--the ending tagline on that clip was that we're going to have to do it all over again. robert: right, right, right. and of course, i mean, with the home movies and we have talked about that project before, but it does seem like the flower book gave you sort of an evolution, a way to kind of take that now and expand on it even more. because i remember the home movies were so insightful in terms of showing the slice of life things that we've been talking about. but you guys are also trying to tackle some pretty big themes, and it's important to do that. tell us a little bit about this flower book. and also too you mentioned about your other production,
which this kind of connected to. so, people who aren't familiar with that, give just a brief description of that so that people understand how you tie in those two together. brenda: okay, so yeah. so basically, "aunt lily's flower book: 100 years of legalized racism," i get to do all of me. i get to talk about the chinese side, the japanese side, you know, my grandpa in the 1800s who founded j town, who was kicked out of j town because his brother married a white girl, which is how we ended up in salt lake. mark: not just any white girl. brenda: right, not just any white girl, the daughter of the archdeacon of grace cathedral. so, you know, we put that together, so that's the 1800s till now. and then our story and then mark's family's story during the incarceration. and that's how we realized we have this whole link, and just to pass it forward because people have to understand the world's always been like this. you know, storytellers know that basically it's--you know, it's the yin and yang of things.
and there's always like this giant triangle, where the powerful get too greedy, the whole thing just has to turn again. mark: but you know what's really fun about this? is we get to talk about being artists and being caught up in everything that's happened, and expressing it through our art. and not many people get to do that, so we're very honored and proud. robert: activists and artists. brenda: well, i think that's the thing is that people--back in the day, art is really important in the movement. you know, we did all the silk screen posters and all the--so, you know, it's nice to show-- robert: i'm glad people are going to be able to see that in your project. all right, congratulations on putting this all together. branda: well, we're so happy caam's having us as their closing event. robert: "aunt lily's flower book: 100 years of legalized racism" will be performed on may 24 at 7 p.m. at the herbst theater in san francisco. it will be the caamfest36 closing event. for more details, you can find them on nbcbayarea.com. and stay with us, some final important information about caamfest36, as well the other big events
we have some other important community events. the 9th annual asian pacific american film festival will take place at csm, the college of san mateo theatre, on friday, may 4 at 5:30 p.m., where there will be spoken word performances and various asian pacific american films. then tikim, filipino food fun run put on by the filipino channel. tfc will take off on may 13 at the coyote point recreation area in san mateo. that will start at 8 a.m. tikim, which means to taste, is to celebrate on mother's day everything about family, friends, fun, and food. and finally, a standup comedy show, "trapped in a family," by comedian samson koletkar, a previous guest known as the only indian-jewish standup comic. he performs his show on may 5 in santa rose, may 10 in pleasanton, and may 23 in mountain view. a funny guy with something to say, don't miss it. in fact, samson koletkar will be a guest on our show next week. for more information on all of our guests and their events, you can go to nbcbayarea.com.
and we're also on social media, twitter and facebook, so catch us there and let us know what you think. and that's it for today's show. we want to thank all of our guests for being with us today. "asian pacific america" will be back next week, so join us then. thanks for watching. ♪ cc by aberdeen captioning 1-800-688-6621 www.abercap.com i support the affordable care act, and voted against all trump's attempts to repeal it. but we need to do more. i believe in universal health care. in a public health option to compete with private insurance companies. and expanding medicare to everyone over 55. and i believe medicare must be empowered to negotiate the price of drugs.
how does it feel to be home? withdraw from the iran nuclear deal. >> people lie. documents don't. this doesn't seem real. the biggest night in fashion. good morning, welcome to "sunday today" on this mother's day, may 13th, i'm willie geist. welcome to all you moms, but especially to mine. it's another busy sunday morning with news on the president's decision this week to pull out of the iran deal. his upcoming meeting with the leader of north korea and the white house circling the wagons after an ugly leaked comment from a staffer about ailing