UWComm has hand in Seattle Asian American Film Festival


(left to right) Festival Co-director Vanessa Au, UW Comm faculty member Leilani Nishime, Eliaichi Kimaro, the director of “A Lot Like You,” and Wes Kim, director of SAAFF. Photo by Christopher Duclos.

The Department of Communication sponsored the Seattle Asian American Film Festival that took place at the Wing Luke Asian American History museum from January 25-27. After a 5-year hiatus, the festival returned for a weekend-long celebration and showcase of Asian American culture.

Returning the festival to its pre-hiatus prestige was no easy task. However, the inclusion of social media has played a heavy role in its success. A wide, diverse audience flooded the Wing Luke Museum’s auditorium for the 3-day event, selling out each day individually.

Leilani Nishime, Department of Communication Assistant Professor and one of the festival’s organizing members, helped kick off the event along with two UW communication alumni, Vanessa Au (PhD, 2012) and Kevin Bang (BA, 2005), both festival co-directors. “The two of them run it voluntarily while working full time. I’m amazed with their work that they’ve put into this festival to help make it a success,” said Nishime. “There’s no actual physical location that we stationed our operations for the festival, we went to people’s houses and communicated through social media,” she added. “I think (Au and Bang) have done a good job of applying their education in such a tangible way.”

The line-up of screenings featured three short films, “Cinemetropolis,” “Out” and “DOL (first birthday).” The main feature “A Lot Like You,” followed the director and main character Eliaichi Kimaro as she travelled to the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro to reconnect with her Tanzanian tribal roots.

Following the screening of the documentary “A Lot Like You,”  Nishime led a discussion panel which included commentary from Au, Wes Kim, the director of SAAFF, and Eliaichi Kimaro, the director of A Lot Like You.”

“These films are a good way of showing diversity. Rather than portraying a cut and dry boundary for Asian American culture in cinema or what an Asian American film festival should be. A documentary such as ‘A Lot Like You’ really shows a difference from that of just Asian American culture,” Kim said.

When asked about Asian Americans in media, Nishime offered that “Asian Americans are so underrepresented in media. The good thing about this film festival is that there’s a wide range of life experiences educating the audience on a wide range of things. SAAFF is a great way to show that having an education/degree in communications can lead you in all sorts of ways. Building a community and finding ways to develop a community. There’s something about the energy and enthusiasm of people that want to come and learn about Asian Americans that makes up a type of community. I think there is something empowering about that.”

By Chris Duclos