January 29, 2021 — For the third consecutive year, Asia Society Northern California honors Asian filmmakers and talent at the virtual 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Academy Governor-at-Large and executive producer of The Joy Luck Club Janet Yang moderates two panels, the first about documentary films and the second on narrative films. The first panel features 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 discusses the motivation behind creating her documentary about the pressures faced by Asian American high school seniors at Lowell High School in San Francisco. Tan addresses her friendship with late director James Redford, and Thomas and Ghosh talk 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 entirely female and are Dalit, Muslim or from other marginalized communities.
The second panel features 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 talks about filming in his native Hawaii and highlighting the culture of the islands, Cech and Nam discuss acting together and the need for Asian representation in Hollywood, and Poonpiriya addresses how his own life and losses inspired his film, which isset in both Thailand and New York. Asia Society President and CEO Kevin Rudd concludes the program by making an announcement about the new cinematic series Asia Society at the Movies (1 hr., 29 min.).