UCLA Asian American Studies Center 2021 Film Festival

Presented by UCLA Asian American Studies Center and UCLA Film & Television Archive





WEEKEND 1: February 19-21, 2021 

WEEKEND 2: February 26-28, 2021


Friday, February 19, 2021 | 4pm PST / 7pm EST / 2pm HST

Complexities of Race

Please note: this screening is limited to UCLA students, faculty, staff and alumni. RSVP must be made with a UCLA email address.
Space is limited.


Down a Dark Stairwell

Special sneak preview screening; space is limited. This screening is restricted to viewers within the United States.


In the Fall of 2014, Chinese American police officer Peter Liang shot and killed an innocent, unarmed Black man named Akai Gurley. Unfolding in the dark stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project, the shooting inflamed the residents of New York City and thrust two marginalized communities into the uneven criminal justice system together. Liang, 28, joined a high-decibel national conversation about race and the justice system, one that got louder just days later when an officer in Cleveland, Ohio, shot and killed a 12-year-old African American boy playing with a toy gun. This urgent and necessary documentary holds a microscope to Liang, who became the first NYPD officer in over a decade to receive a guilty verdict for an officer-involved shooting.

This film will premiere on PBS's Independent Lens on April 12, 2021.


Color, in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English w/ English s/t. 83 min. Director: Ursula Liang.

Liquor Store Babies (2018)

A deeply personal documentary portrait of two Los Angeles-based Korean American liquor store owners told from the perspective of their children who seek to explore how their lives have been shaped and made possible by their parents' labor. Part of Visual Communications' Armed with a Camera program.


Color, in Korean and English with English s/t, 5 min. Director: So Yun Um.

Liquor Store Babies

Thank You, Come Again (2020)

In the aftermath of a hate crime, an undocumented Indian American convenience store clerk falls into his subconscious, plummeting through reality, memory, and imagination as he grieves the death of his father. Part of Visual Communications' Armed with a Camera program.


Color, in Gujarati and English with English s/t, 11 min. Director/Screenwriter: Nirav Bhakta.

Cast: Nirav Bhakta, Rohan Singh, Asit Vyas.

Thank you come again

The Dope Years: The Story of Latasha Harlins (2021)

A personal retelling of the life and death of 15-year-old African American teenager Latasha Harlins, who was fatally shot in South Los Angeles by Korean American Empire Liquor store owner Soon Ja Du in 1991. A filmic portrait that seeks to remember her killing as the initial spark that ignited the 1992 Los Angeles uprising.


Color, 20 min. Director: Allison A. Waite. Screenwriters: Allison A. Waite, Menu'Ette Silver. Reenactment cast: Iyanna Halley, Simone Baker, Crystal Lee, Deborah Marcano, Thyais Walsh.

The Dope Years: The Story of Latasha Harlins


Pre-recorded conversation to follow with filmmaker Ursula Liang and filmmaker Allison A. Waite.

Moderated by filmmaker, UCLA Asian American Studies Department professor and

UCLA Center for EthnoCommunications director Renee Tajima-Peña.

Saturday, February 20, 2021 | 3pm PST / 6pm EST / 1pm HST

Anna May Wong: Asian American Icon

Anna May Wong: Asian American Icon from UCLA Film & Television Archive

"Anna May Wong: The First Asian American Movie Star" (4/8/2020)

This episode of UNLADYLIKE2020, a series of 26 short films and an hour-long documentary as part of PBS's American Masters series, highlights the long and varied career of the trailblazing second-generation Chinese American whose popularity disrupted the trend of white performers appearing in yellow face.

Color, 11 min. Director/Screenwriter: Charlotte Mangin, Sandra Rattley. Narration: Julianna Margulies.



The Toll of the Sea

This earliest surviving feature to make use of Technicolor's two-color process also marks a pivotal moment of on-screen representation in silent Hollywood. In casting a 17-year-old Wong to portray a Chinese character, Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation bucked the problematic trend of casting white actors in roles written for East Asian performers; yet, in representing Lotus Flower's intertitle dialogue as broken English, the producers fall short of transcending pervasive dialectal stereotypes. Prolific American screenwriter Frances Marion admits to borrowing heavily from Puccini's Madame Butterfly in helming this tragic tale of East Asian exploitation at the hands of corrupt and racist Western powers. At times, the actress' very presence elevates the story's subtext to the realm of anti-imperialist criticism, though the tragic ending serves ultimately to admonish her agency. Indelible in this "women's weepie" is Wong's subtle performance, which draws us into the screen to witness her character's harrowing, conflicted life. The film's final few minutes unfortunately have not survived and are summarized in re-created intertitles based on Marion's synopsis.

Two color Technicolor, silent, 53 min. Director: Chester M. Franklin. Writer (story): Frances Marion.

Cast: Anna May Wong, Kenneth Harlan, Beatrice Bentley, Priscilla Moran, Etta Lee.

Musical accompaniment provided by Cliff Retallick.


Copied at 19 frames per second from a 35mm two-color Technicolor print preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive.


Clips presented during the panel will include:

"Anna May Wong Visits Shanghai, China" (5/1/1936)

Stock footage shot for, but never used in, Hearst Metrotone news of Anna May Wong arriving on a Dollar Line boat, surrounded by a group of cameramen and newspapermen. She enters Park Hotel, and visits Star Motion Picture Studios and a flower market.

Digital scan of 35mm print from the UCLA Film & Television Archive. b/w, silent, 8 min.


"Hollywood": Season 1, Part 2 (5/1/2020)

Clips from Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan's Hollywood courtesy of Netflix.


Conversation to follow with Anna Wong, niece of Anna May Wong and actor/writer/director Michelle Krusiec.

Moderated by UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television associate dean and professor Sean Metzger.

Sunday, February 21, 2021 | 2pm PST / 5pm EST / 12pm HST

Environmental Justice & Spirit of Aloha, Part 1

Environmental Justice and the Spirit of Aloha, Part 1 from UCLA Film & Television Archive

Back to the Source (2020)

UCLA EthnoCommunications and Theater, Film and Television alumna Sandra Carbonell-Kiamtia weaves home video footage and family photos into this exquisite hand-drawn animation about her father's journey from the Republic of Mauritius to France and the US. Integrating her own youth spent in transit, she explores the sense of longing and loss and the melancholy of the diasporic experience while calling to attention the effects of climate change, geopolitical capital, and redevelopment happening in her family homeland.


Color in French and English with English and French s/t, 6 min. Director/Screenwriter: Sandra Carbonell-Kiamtia. Illustrator/Animator: Sylvia Bi.

Back to the Source

Standing Above the Clouds (2019)

When the state government approved the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on top of Hawaii's Mauna Kea, mother-daughter protectors rose up in protests and prayers with this encroachment on what they consider the spiritual seat of all Native Hawaiians and indigenous peoples. Director Jalena Keane-Lee documents these voices of protest conveying a direct urgency as she shows the emotional trauma already at the surface and the transmission of an activist ethos from one generation to another.


Color, in Hawaiian and English with English s/t, 15 min. Director: Jalena Keane-Lee.

Standing above the clouds

This Is The Way We Rise (2020)

Native Hawaiian slam poet, educator, and activist Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio inspires and instills in us the power of words and performance to galvanize change and educate in director Ciara Lacy's intimate and powerful character portrait. As a member of the Save Mauna Kea movement, Osorio shares how her creative process informs her teaching of the history of exploitation and neocolonialism. Ethics behind development take center stage while bridging identities through creative expression.


Color, in Hawaiian and English with English s/t, 13 min. Director: Ciara Lacy.

This is the way we rise

Conversation to follow with filmmaker Jalena Keane-Lee, director of photography

Chapin Hall and filmmaker Sandra Carbonell-Kiamtia.

Moderated by Alika Bourgette, University of Washington PhD student.

Sunday, February 21, 2021 | 5pm PST / 8pm EST / 3pm HST

Environmental Justice & Spirit of Aloha, Part 2

Conversation with filmmaker Nā'ālehu Anthony and

moderator Noah Patterson Hanohano Dolim, UC Irvine PhD student.


Friday, February 26, 2021 | 4pm PST / 7pm EST / 2pm HST

Finding Home/Lands


Chinatown Rising

Special sneak preview screening; space is limited. This screening is restricted to viewers within the United States.

Harry Chuck's nearly half a century odyssey to finish his San Francisco State University master's thesis film culminates in this rich interwoven tapestry of home movie footage, family photos, newspaper and media reportage, oral histories, and most importantly, all the documentary footage he shot in and around his neighborhood throughout the intervening years. Produced in collaboration with his son, Josh, this treasure trove of images and sounds captured in their historical contexts offers us an intimate and authentic perspective of San Francisco's Chinese diaspora and their daily lives negotiating for self-determination as the changing tide of immigration, racism, and U.S. politics, both local and national, pushed and pulled them into uncertain circumstances.


Chuck and his peers who grew up as children of the immigrant generation in the 1960s and 1970s reflect on their youth as community leaders and activists discussing their participation in community power-building collectives. Acknowledging the influence of the Black Power movement, they forged ahead in the fight for an ethnic studies curriculum during the 1968-1969 student demonstrations at San Francisco State. This political awakening ignited their subsequent advocacy for bilingual education in the public education system and fight for affordable housing in the Mei Lun Yeun Redevelopment Project, an apartment complex dedicated to seniors and low-income residents during the 1970s.


Color, in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English with English s/t, 84 min. Directors: Harry Chuck, Josh Chuck.

The Price of Cheap Rent (2020)

An upwardly mobile, highly educated young Black female artist moves into the culturally rich and trendy neighborhood of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn but soon questions her decision when ancestors of the land invade her personal space in this satirical comedy.


Color, 7 min. Directors: Amina Sutton, Maya Tanaka. Screenwriter: Amina Sutton.

The Price of Cheap Rent

Gone (2019)

A meditative and trenchant, experimental video essay on LA's Little Tokyo, its rich histories, and the constant threat of gentrification and redevelopment it faces. The peril of ethnic erasure looms large in this prime location adjacent to DTLA and its hub of transit networks. Part of Visual Communications' Digital Histories program.


Color, 5 min. Director: Robert Shoji.


Reopening (2020)

As they reopen their restaurant in Manhattan's Chinatown, two undocumented immigrants reflect on the anti-Asian, racist sentiment being perpetuated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of Asian American Documentary Network's #AsianAmCovidStories micro doc series.


Color, in Mandarin with English s/t, 2 min. Director: David Huang.


Cambodia Town: Not For Sale (2019)

UCLA EthnoCommunications alumni Brandon Soun and Lan Nguyen chronicle the community building and organizing efforts of Cambodia Town in Long Beach, California, when small ethnic-owned businesses in East Anaheim Plaza are threatened by plans of gentrification and redevelopment.


Color, 7 min. Directors: Brandon Soun, Lan Nguyen.

Cambodia Town: Not for sale

Kama'āina (Child of the Land) (2019)

As of 2016, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders make up 42% of Hawaii's homeless population. In director Kimi Howl Lee's evocative and compassionate portrait, queer 16-year-old Mahina must navigate life on the streets until she eventually finds refuge at the Pu'uhonua o Wai'anae—Hawai'i's largest organized homeless encampment.


Color, 17 min. Director: Kimi Howl Lee.

Kamaaina (Child of the Land)

Pre-recorded conversation to follow with filmmakers Harry and Josh Chuck.

Moderated by UCLA professor in Urban Planning and Asian American Studies and

UCLA Asian American Studies Center director Karen Umemoto.

Saturday, February 27, 2021 | 3pm PST / 6pm EST / 1pm HST

Visions of Fire: LGBTQ+ Voices

Visions of Fire: LGBTQ+ Voices from UCLA Film & Television Archive

FRUIT FLY (2009)

Fruit Fly



Fabulous. Fantastic. Fierce. Clear your living room, so you can sing and dance along in our celebration of this musical extravaganza's 10th anniversary! Learn a few new moves and a whole lot of tunes as you follow our protagonist, a Filipina American performance artist, making a home for herself in her world and ours. Fruit Fly celebrates those who might feel marginal but are indispensable to community formation. This romp through San Francisco is brought to you by the team behind the indie hit Colma: The Musical. This screening will be an unforgettable party with queer Asian Americans and those who love them. You don't want to miss it!


Color, 94 min. Directors: H.P. Mendoza.

Shu Mai Online (2020)

What's a drag queen to do in the middle of a pandemic? Enter Jeffrey Liang, aka Miss Shu Mai, who teaches others to display the butt butt. This is UCLA EthnoCommunications alum and current UCLA Theater, Film and Television graduate student, Emory Chao Johnson's contribution to Asian American Documentary Network's #AsianAmCovidStories micro doc series.


Color, 2 min. Director: Emory Chao Johnson.

Shu Mai Online

Razor Tongue, Episode 1 (2019)

If you don't have the privilege of having a transgender Guamanian in your life, get ready! Rain Valdez will provide you with an education through this collaboratively created web series.


Color, 5 min. Director: Natalie Heltzel. Screenwriter: Rain Valdez. Cast: Rain Valdez, Shaan Dasani, Sarah Parlow.

Razor Tongue

Unspoken (2019)

This poignant short explores coming out to immigrant parents through what might be described as an epistolary genre. The audience bears witness to recitations from a group of diverse Asian Americans that might forever alter family dynamics.


Color, 18 min. Director: Patrick G. Lee.

Thank you come again

Program will be introduced by UCLA Film & Television Archive Director May Hong HaDuong.

Conversation to follow with filmmaker H.P. Mendoza and actress, filmmaker, producer Rain Valdez.

Moderated by UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television associate dean and professor Sean Metzger.

Sunday, February 28, 2021 | 5pm PST / 8pm EST / 3pm HST

Food & Family


Final Recipe

UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television professor Gina Kim's culinary-centered, transnational family melodrama Final Recipe brings into relief what we all know to be true already — how our hunger for comfort food and home are often invariably linked and food competition shows will never fail in getting our taste buds salivating. So, why not stage a family reunion in the midst of the making of one thereby upping the stakes?


Such a premise gives us contemporary Asian cinema's grande dame Michelle Yeoh (who is also an executive producer) as Julia, the glamorous host of a popular Shanghai-based cooking competition where determined upstart Singaporean high school student Mark (Chinese-Canadian K-pop singer Henry Lau) comes to discover his cultural roots and his true calling in life. As Yeoh's on-screen husband, master chef, would-be mentor and incumbent, Singaporean-born Chin Han's David imbues swagger into his role as the potential future self of his challenger. Jumpstarting what is now the trendy food and family film coming out of Asia and its diasporas, we are excited to revisit his delicious cinematic dish.


Color, in Mandarin and English with English s/t, 97 min. Director: Gina Kim. Screenwriter: George Huang, Gina Kim. Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Henry Lau, Chin Han.

Spamfight (2020)

A couple's dietary difference threatens their relationship when the iconic pan-Asian processed meat of choice becomes the go-to comfort food ingredient during meal time under quarantine lockdown. A hilarious yet thoughtful provocation pointing to the histories of imperialism and the military industrial complex wrapped up in savory goodness. Part of Asian American Documentary Network's #AsianAmCovidStories micro doc series.


Color, 2 min. Director: Jin Yoo-Kim.


Phoenix Bakery: Sweets for the Sweet (2020)

UCLA Center for EthnoCommunications' assistant director, Janet Chen showcases one of LA's Chinatown's iconic businesses and institutions, the home of the famed strawberry whipped cream cake and almond cookie, as it celebrates its 80th year and ponders its future existence as generations wane. An inspirational and heartwarming history of the Chan family's bakery and their entrepreneurial and community-based investments as children of immigrants. Part of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center's Chinese American History Documentary Project.


Color, 15 min. Director: Janet Chen.

Phoenix Bakery

Pre-recorded conversation to follow with director/producer and UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television

professor Gina Kim, screenwriter, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television professor George Huang,
actor Chin Han. Moderated by Brian Hu, Artistic Director, San Diego Asian Film Festival.