MANAA Announces Winner of Student Scholarship Award for Academic Year 2010–2011

Bao Nguyen, Winner of Student Scholarship Award for Academic Year 2010–2011

Bao Nguyen, Winner of Student Scholarship Award for Academic Year 2010–2011

 

March 18, 2011 Los Angeles – MANAA is pleased to announce the selection of Mr. Bao Nguyen as its recipient of the Student Scholarship Award for Academic year 2010–2011. His documentary film, “A Tree Falls in the Forest” was compelling and visually striking as it revealed the aftermath of 9/11 and its impact to the New York’s Chinatown community and business.

Mr. Nguyen is a student in the School of Visual Arts in New York. He was selected from a number of very talented candidates, but his work stood out. One of the scholarship committee members stated, “Bao’s piece shows great potential. His film on New York’s Chinatown post-9/11 proves that the community is lacking the attention it deserves.”

Another committee member stated, “The aesthetics, interview subjects, and production value of Bao’s film is exceptional. I can see him breaking into mainstream work.” One of his instructors, Deborah Dickson, stated in her nominating letter, “Bao’s work as a cinematographer stood out from the beginning. He brings care and vision to whatever he does… He will bring a special point of view and sensitivity to the story [of the Vietnamese fishing community after the BP oil spill] as a Vietnamese-American.” We look forward to Mr. Nguyen being an important voice in film in the years to come.

At a dinner meeting at Sam Woo’s BBQ in Chinatown, August 19, 2010: left to right: Rob Labuni, MANAA VP Lori Lopez, Emma Quan, and Jane Fu.

At a dinner meeting at Sam Woo’s BBQ in Chinatown, August 19, 2010: left to right: Rob Labuni, MANAA VP Lori Lopez, Emma Quan, and Jane Fu.

Jin Yoo-Kim Wins 2009 MANAA Scholarship

Jin Yoo-Kim and board member Lori Lopez meet at USC for congratulations on Yoo-Kim’s scholarship.

Jin Yoo-Kim and board member Lori Lopez meet at USC for congratulations on Yoo-Kim’s scholarship.

 

MANAA’s Student Scholarship Committee recently selected Jin Yoo-Kim to receive the 2009 scholarship of $1000. The committee was impressed with the professional quality of her numerous films, as well as the high praise given to her by her mentors.

“I was jumping for joy when I heard the news,” said Yoo-Kim. “The first thing I did was call my mom and dad because I wanted to tell them that I’m really an Asian American filmmaker and they don’t have to feel sad that I might not make it someday. I’m doing what I love.”

Yoo-Kim, an MFA student at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, has an impressive resume of films under her belt. Her work spans all genres and styles, from a documentary called Bearing Dreams on the prophetic dreams that Korean women have about the destiny of their unborn children, to Pretty, a fictional short about human trafficking and child prostitution, to Raider Nation, a humorous look at an obsessed football fan. She was also the recipient of an Armed with a Camera Fellowship at Visual Communication.

“My parents always wanted me to work in the family business,” she said. “But the turning point for my dad was when I had my picture in a Korean American newspaper promoting a film festival. He bought all the newspapers he could and gave it to all his family members. I saw how proud he was, and I knew he was going to let me do this now if I just push harder.”

One of Yoo-Kim’s goals with her work is to combat the stereotypical images of Asian Americans in films today. Although she is one of only three Asian Americans in her semester at USC, she strives to use all Asian American actors and crew. On her last set, all but 3 of the 20 or so crew members were Asian American. It’s a role that she thinks will land her the humorous award of “Most Asians in a Film” from her classmates, but she’s proud to take it on.

“The most Asian Americans I’ve seen in films is during my Asian American studies classes when they showed documentaries, and it just felt so natural,” she said. “I wanted to do that. I wanted to make Asian Americans look like part of society and not use them for any other reason.”

Working with Asian American actors is a pleasure for her because they are so excited to be working in an industry that often rejects them. She is also impressed with their creativity and thankful for their contributions to each project, which she feels are very collaborative in nature.

However, sometimes she struggles to convey her perspective in a world where Asian American experiences and identities are so misunderstood. On past films, her advisors have suggested that she add more ninja noises, gong sounds, or bonsai trees to her set dressing—Asian stereotypes that she refused to accept. Yoo-Kim also recalled a moment in class when the professor began talking about responsibility as a filmmaker.

“He said we should feel no responsibility about what we do because we’re creative and we shouldn’t hinder the artistic side. I totally disagreed with him,” she said. “I stood up and said I think as filmmakers we have an immense sense of responsibility because people watch film all over the world and it’s really powerful.”

Yoo-Kim’s latest film, called Cut the Fat, tells the story of a Korean girl who is bringing home her Korean boyfriend to meet her parents for the first time. She’s scared of her dad’s reaction, but she finds the strength to stand up to him. The film is based on some of her own experiences in seeking acceptance for her choices, and she’s excited because it’s not only what she considers her best work, but she is also planning on showing it to her dad at an upcoming screening.

“My parents are always worried about me. They tell me this industry isn’t right for me, that it’s not good for women. It’s a struggle,” she said.

Hopefully the MANAA Scholarship can help to validate her work and her struggles, and encourage her to continue bringing her unique perspective and talents to an industry that can definitely use them.

MANAA’s Interview with “On the Lot’s” Shalini Kantayya, MANAA’s 2004 Scholarship Winner

“On the Lot,” Fox’s reality show about 50 directors (chosen from 12,000 submissions), aired its finale on August 21, 2007 with Will Bigham named the winner of the $1 million development deal with Dreamworks Pictures. The series faced many problems, including an ever-dwindling audience that sunk to less than two million viewers (the finale got the attention of 2.5 million), the firing of Chelsea Handler as original host, and the hiring of greenhorn live host Adrianna Costa. The main interest of “On the Lot” to MANAA supporters, though, was the participation of Shalini Kantayya, a 30 year old director originally from Connecticut who’s lived in Brooklyn for the past 10 years.

The Indian American won MANAA’s 2004 scholarship and demonstrated her commitment to the cause week after week, finishing in the Top 10. Guy Aoki, a MANAA Board Member and the group’s founding president, interviewed Ms. Kantayya by phone. The following interview previously ran in an abridged version of Aoki’s “Into the Next Stage” column in the Rafu Shimpo newspaper.

Guy Aoki: Well, first of all, we’re so proud of what you’ve done.

Shalini Kantayya: Oh thank you!

GA: I mean, what’s really terrific is that you used at least one Asian person in every one of your films (SK laughs). And you know, that’s so refreshing because I often hear Asian American writers say, “Well, I’m gonna have to wait ’till I make it [to help Asian Americans].” They get onto the writing staff of a TV show, and they’re still very self-conscious about being Asian American. I understand that: If there’s like only one Asian in the whole writing room and everyone else is white, then they don’t want to be an advocate right off the bat. They want to just kind of fit in and show that they’re like a team player.

SK: Very understandable.

GA: And then you wait and wait and wait and you wonder, “Well, are they going to remember when they make it, or are they just going to get so used to doing white stories and casting white people that they’re gonna forget about it by the time they, quote, ‘make it?'” So I was so happy that every one of your films featured an Asian person, and it didn’t take away from the piece, and it was part of the success! Was it [intentional?]

SK: Well, we had a pool of actors to work from so you’re pretty restricted. Do I have a commitment to diversify? Absolutely. But I think more than that… I never want to be held back or boxed in as an Asian American filmmaker. I hope that if I’m asked to make a film about Latino gangs, I’ll be able to do it, or white American suburban life that I’ll be able to do it. But I think as my voice grows as a filmmaker, we make films about things that we know about. And I happen to know, for instance, the script for “Doctor-In-Law” was great. That script could’ve been about any immigrant community. It could’ve been Czechoslovakian people, could’ve been any first generation family, but I think those kinds of immigrant stories are very close to my heart and Doctor-In Law, I think, was a script asking for me to direct it.

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