Asia Society at 2021 Sundance Film Festival
On January 29, 2021 Asia Society Northern California hosted a program featuring two panel discussions as part of the virtual 2021 Sundance Film Festival honoring Asian filmmakers and talent. Academy Governor-at-Large and executive producer of The Joy Luck Club Janet Yang moderated both panels, the first about documentary films and the second on narrative films.
The first panel featured Debbie Lum, director of Try Harder!; Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club and subject of Unintended Memoir; and Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, co-directors of Writing with Fire. In this panel, Lum discussed the motivation behind creating her documentary about the pressures faced by Asian American high school seniors at Lowell High School in San Francisco. Tan addressed her friendship with late director James Redford. Thomas and Ghosh spoke about the subject of their film, an all-female online news operation in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh called Khabar Lahariya where the reporters are Dalit, Muslim or from other marginalized communities. Writing with Fire won both the Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary and the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Impact for Change at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
The second panel featured Christopher Yogi, writer/director of I Was a Simple Man; Miya Cech and Leonardo Nam, actors in Marvelous and the Black Hole; and Baz Poonpiriya, writer/director of One for the Road. All three films deal with the loss of loved ones. Yogi talked about filming in his native Hawaii and highlighting the culture of the islands, Cech and Nam discussed acting together and the need for Asian representation in Hollywood, and Poonpiriya addressed how his own life and losses inspired his film, set in both Thailand and New York. One for the Road won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Creative Vision at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
Asia Society President and CEO Kevin Rudd concluded the program by making an announcement about the new cinematic series Asia Society at the Movies.