While it has been a difficult year for festivals and the arts in general, the stars have aligned for the founders of the FascinAsian Film Festival, who are preparing to launch their inaugural program scheduled for the weekend of May 28-30, 2021. It will be a virtual event, with a small but potent selection of feature films, shorts, and livestreamed filmmaker talks and a webinar, all with the intention of showcasing North American stories from the Asian diaspora, rather than Asian cinema (movies from Asia) to try and shed light on some of the perspectives of our Asian communities and help give local Asian filmmakers some much needed exposure.
In the first blog posted on their website, Festival Chair, Alan Wong, writes about how in mainstream media, the Asian-Canadian & Asian-American voice is still under-represented. “However, there are marked improvements in how Asian characters and Asian stories are told. The true diversity and range of how people with Asian backgrounds live is becoming more and more recognized, and normalized. Watching stories about Asians that are authentic, nuanced, and relatable, helps people discover what bonds us all as humans, rather than separates us as a specific race or ethnicity.”
With the rise of Asian stories as critical darlings (The Farewell, Minari), mainstream successes (Kim’s Convenience, Parasite), and filmmakers with Asian backgrounds establishing themselves in the global cinematic landscape (Deepa Mehta, Bong Jun Ho, Chloe Zhao), what would be Canada’s third Asian specific film festival (after Toronto’s Reel Asian and the Vancouver Asian Film Festival), FascinAsian is building upon a wave of support for the development of organizations dedicated to uplifting these voices.
“There is so much support for under-represented communities right now across the industry, it is wonderfully encouraging.” Wong says. “It is an indication that people everywhere are open to these kinds of stories, and that they do have an audience. Gone are the days when industry gatekeepers would dictate what audiences wanted to see. With the rise of Internet platforms and streaming services, accessibility is better than ever before and even the most niche content can be found. It has changed the game completely.”
With some high-level sponsors attached, such as the Canada Media Fund, ACTRA, the Director’s Guild of Canada, and the Asian Heritage Society of Manitoba just to name a few, FascinAsian is poised for a successful first outing, despite the pandemic. In many ways, a virtual festival is a much simpler affair, with films being available on-demand during the weekend of the event. And if all goes well, the organizers plan on an in-person festival in May 2022, coinciding with Asian Heritage Month. FascinAsian’s list of programs goes live on Saturday, May 1st.