In the dim Benson Auditorium, the white projection screen illuminated “Asian Americans: A Collective Memoir,” a series of ten short films exploring Asian-American stories. Consisting of a variety of different experiences, 5C students had the opportunity to view and celebrate representations of Asian identities as a community.
The films shown were created by Candace Ho, Dinesh Sabu, Emilio J. Virata, Iliana Garcia, Kitty Hu, Melanie Lim, Olivia Stark, Teresa Matsushima and Ziyao Liu. They varied from exploring the connection of family through food with animation from Olivia Stark to the passion of an Asian musician from Melanie Lim.
Hosted by the IMS Asian Americans in Media course at Pitzer College, students from the class curated a program shown on April 5 in Benson. Learning the processes required for planning an event, the students were able to accomplish a successful program that consisted of snacks, ten short films, guest speakers and a Q&A panel.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for all of [the students] to learn about the process of curating a show program, [and] it allows them to see a real diversity of different kinds of work,” Media Studies Professor Ann Kaneko said.
The curation was a project for the class, and roles were distributed among students to ensure that everyone played a part. The final product was a well-executed event that brought people from across the 5Cs into the space and in conversation with one another.
This collection of films was chosen by the class from the short films they had watched throughout the semester. Each film was selected for a different reason, and the final screening was a collaborative product.
“We would look at films from the last few years … and then as a class, decide and select the films,” professor Kaneko said.
This broad range of experiences presented brought people together and provided insights into the topics that the class discussed. One such topic was the variety of Asian-American experiences that often become generalized. To combat this monolithic conception of Asian-American identity, the class showed a variety of films with vastly different stories.
“I feel like this event highlights a lot of different types of Asian stories,” Josh Yang PO ’23, a student in the class, said. “[I]n the media, there’s always been problems with representation for Asian stories for a lot of people because they think that Asian people are just one certain type of way and not unique in their own stories.”
“I very much saw my family’s stories in each of their own stories, kind of as if it was like an interweaving of Asian Americans in this country.”
The diversity of experiences presented allowed many viewers to resonate with the films. Finding elements of their identity represented in the films, the screening helped students find community.
“I very much saw my family’s stories in each of their own stories, kind of as if it was like an interweaving of Asian Americans in this country,” Robinson Lee PZ ’26, an attendee, said.
Reflecting on the impact that this event had, Lee was grateful for the chance to see the films. Providing viewers the space to reflect on their identity and the chance to see other people’s interpretation in film, the screening created a unique community within the Benson auditorium.
“It was really cool to be in a community full of Asian people because you don’t really get that a lot [at the 5Cs],” Yang said.
This community is not limited to Asian-American experiences, as those interested in pursuing a career in film were able to join the space and learn from the guest speakers the class held in conversation.
The guest speakers, Melanie Lim and Olivia Stark, brought their experiences and a level of expertise that allowed viewers to ask questions about the reality of pursuing a profession in the film industry. With Lim as a video editor and Stark working in the animation field, they were each able to share helpful advice for those interested in a career in the film industry.
“I really enjoyed their stories and they had a lot of powerful lessons,” Charlie Yun PO ’23, a student of the class, said.
Following a panel hosted from students in the class, the conversation opened up to the audience.
For those uninterested in the film industry, the guest speakers provided advice for dealing with workplace discrimination as an Asian American. The speakers also opened up the space for students to come together as a community and reflect on the roles their identity plays in their life.
“A Collective Memoir,” was a celebration of Asian-American voices that brought people into conversation about identity and what it means to be Asian American in the film industry. With limited visibility on campus, students were able to collaborate and create a space for community and open conversation.
“I think these events are very valuable,” Lee said. “I think, genuinely, it’s just a good idea to have different identity groups, different ethnic groups [and] different religious groups to have their own spaces and to reflect communally.”