Tucker-Boatwright festival

Asian American cinema takes center stage at film fest

February 12, 2024


A new class is giving students the rare opportunity to study Asian American cinema and meet some of its scholars and filmmakers.

“The history of Asian Americans, including film history, is not often explored in university curriculum,” said film studies professor Jessica Ka Yee Chan, who is teaching the First-Year Seminar “Hollywood and the Asian American Imagination” in conjunction with the Tucker-Boatwright Festival of Literature and the Arts.

Films such as Everything Everywhere All at Once — which won seven Oscars last year, including Best Picture have brought the spotlight to Asian Americans in recent years.

“The film industry and the global audience are much more diverse now,” Chan said. “Digital technology and the global distribution of film have changed the way we select, purchase, and view films. At the same time, we need more narratives about Asian Americans. We also need more creative talents, producers, and executives who greenlight projects that might have been considered risky in a previous era.” 

Documentary filmmaker and author Curtis Chin visited with students then took part in a  screening of Dear Corky followed by a Q&A and book signing.

Chan’s class follows the contributions of Asian Americans to Hollywood, from the silent era to the digital age, with careful attention to how this group is being portrayed. Students watch and analyze films about various journeys from Asia to America and of becoming Asian American. They can also attend Tucker-Boatright’s related lectures, which are also open to the public.

In January, author and filmmaker Curtis Chin presented his documentary, Dear Corky, about long-time New York City Chinatown photographer Corky Lee. He also spoke about his memoir, Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant, which concerns his coming of age in the ‘70s and ‘80s as the child of Chinese-American restaurateurs in Detroit.

Chan’s first-year seminar students like Nick Javier had the opportunity to go to lunch with Chin before the event. “He talked about his own experiences and his professional views on how streaming services have shaped television,” Javier said. “I found myself relating to him.”

He read Chin’s book for class. “My favorite parts in the memoir are the descriptions and scenes with his dad, as they remind me of my dad and grandfather,” said Javier, who is Filipino American. “His memoir gives a detailed experience that I think many people could relate to: Growing up and feeling different, exploring self, looking for acceptance.”