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Images of Asian-American Reality : Powerful films and videos highlight Asian Pacific Heritage Month

The camera can communicate feelings, experiences and perspectives with an impact that transcends cultures, languages and borders. Films and videos can provide a familiarity that builds understanding. So it is indeed noteworthy that Los Angeles, home of the entertainment industry, is showcasing films and videos made about or by Asian-Pacific-Americans as part of this month’s nationwide celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month. It’s an exciting and welcome feast for the eye--and a powerful boost for cultural understanding.

The images and stories are diverse, reflecting multifaceted cultures and experiences of Asian-Pacific-Americans.

May also marks the debut of “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story,” a movie aimed at mainstream audiences that is favorably impressing many Asian-Americans because its sensitive images mirror their own experiences of prejudices, hurt and coping. Too often Asian-Americans are invisible in the mainstream media.

Local television stations--KCET, KTTV and KSCI--and theaters are offering an array of documentaries, profiles, short subjects and films produced locally or in Asia. More than 100 film and video productions will be presented in more than 40 programs as part of the eighth annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film and Video Festival.

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The festival, the largest of its kind on the West Coast, opened Thursday and runs through May 23 at various locations. The offerings range from a special retrospective, “Remembering Sessue Hayakawa,” a popular silent film star whose last major appearance was in “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” to the U.S. premiere of Xie Fei’s “Xian Hunnu” from China.

Hollywood has long conveyed myopic images of Asian exotica and stereotypes: the dragon lady, the kung fu master and Charlie Chan. This has been changing. The unusually rich offering of films and videos on and about the Asian-Pacific-American experience is a celebration of creativity and an open door to better understanding of a people.


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