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Telling Stories of the Asian Diaspora Through Film

The past few years have seen an explosion of diversity in the film industry—films featuring diverse creators, stories, and cultures.

These stories aren’t only being created in Hong Kong, Korea, or Hollywood; there are numerous talented creators from the Asian diaspora producing films right here in Manitoba. The FascinAsian Film Festival showcases films in Winnipeg and Calgary made by creators from Canada and the United States.

First planned to launch in 2020, the event had to be postponed with the significant COVID closures that hit that year. In 2021, the festival was held virtually to ensure safety during the pandemic. It wasn’t until this year the event could shin. On May 13, the three-day festival had its first in-person launch to tremendous excitement and announced several award winners.

The FascinAsian Award winners for 2022:

  • Samantha Jean and Mandie Cheung’s “Other” for the BUILDING BRIDGES AWARD, presented in partnership with the Asian Heritage Society of Manitoba
  • Erin Hembrador and Quan Luong’s “Container” for BEST CANADIAN SHORT FILM, sponsored by IATSE
  • Gurinder J Singh’s “Rising Lotus” for BEST INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM, sponsored by IATSE
  • Erin Hembrador’s “Mansanas” for BEST PRAIRIE SHORT FILM, sponsored by Warner Bros Discovery Access Canada

The only festival of its kind in the prairie provinces and only 1 of 3 such festivals in all of Canada, the impact of showcasing the talents of Asian-Canadian and Asian-American performers and filmmakers can’t be understated. Through film screenings, workshops, and panels with the film creators, Canadians have the opportunity to hear stories they may not see when going to the big screen or watching on their television, says Wong.

“Growing up as an Asian guy in Canada, I’ve experienced several unique cultural things in my experience. You can say that about any minority culture in Canada and the United States, and they’ve always one foot in one culture and the other foot in the mainstream culture here.”

Festivals of this kind are stepping stones for early creators developing their first or second features, providing a chance to generate “buzz” for their project, learn technical skills, elevate their art, and tell stories meaningful to them. Projects like these aren’t always financially successful and won’t necessarily get picked up by a studio or distributor, but that doesn’t mean they don’t hold significant value, says Wong. The opening is an excellent example of the exemplary work created when given the opportunity. Based on the award-winning novel by Catherine Hernadez, Scarborough won the Canadian Film Award for Best Motion Picture, awards in Best Direction, and an acting award.

“Representation and Asian stories just aren’t as common,” says Wong,” you don’t see them as much in popular culture. They’re out there, and a lot of people are trying to tell these stories and make movies and documentaries about Asian experiences. Having festivals to promote that and give those films a place to screen, I think, is important.

Planning events like these have many moving parts and have a learning curve, says Wong, especially one scheduled in multiple cities. It takes a lot of resources, hours, and people to make it all possible, says Wong, and he’s incredibly thankful for the group of volunteers who committed themselves to putting this together.

– Ryan Funk, U Multicultural

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U Multicultural.

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