DisOrient festival promotes social justice through independent Asian-American film


The Asian-American Film Festival of Oregon, DisOrient, arrives at the University of Oregon on March 14 and continues through March 17. The festival showcases Asian-American documentary, fiction and short films “by us, for us and about us.” In its 14th year, the festival strives to raise awareness of social justice issues through the power of cinema.

Asian-Americans are one of the least represented demographics in the film industry. According to the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Asian-Americans represented “only 1 percent of all leading roles in Hollywood.” DisOrient hopes to change this pattern with support of Asian-American presence behind, and in front, of the camera.

The Emerald talked with Pamela Quan, executive director of DisOrient, to hear some of her insights on the film festival and Asian-American film representation. Quan was originally a sponsor and volunteer for the festival through the Chinese-American Benevolent Association, or CABA. Over the years, she and her husband got more involved and she began to take an active role in the proceedings.

According to Quran, whose husband grew up in Eugene, says that the city has struggled to address and understand it’s diversity.As parents raising kids in this community, Quan and her husband “wanted to make a difference” through their support of the DisOrient festival and social justice filmmaking. Quan notes that “there’s a pride that’s been cultivated over the years” in the Eugene Asian-American community as the festival expanded.

The DisOrient festival is incredibly timely with the critical acclaim and box office successes of Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther, which Quan said represents “hunger for stories that are representative.”

The festival picks their screenings with the mission statement in mind, which is to “not only show authentic stories but also to shine a spotlight on social issues.” Quan laments that not all film submissions can be screened because the festival wants a “broad representation of different cultures and ethnic views” and some films overlap in topic.

Jason Mack, a filmmaker and board member of CABA, pitched the idea for DisOrient after making a short film in graduate school about his immigrant family’s restaurant. Starting at the Bijou Art Cinemas, the festival grew in size and eventually relocated to the Redwood Auditorium at the University of Oregon.

This year’s festival will begin with an Opening Night gala with a performance by musician No No Boy at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art from 8:30 to10:45 p.m..  Your ticket, $3 for students and $15 for non-students, provides you with a free screening of “For Izzy” in 177 Lawrence Hall from 6 to 8:10 p.m.. “For Izzy” tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a queer photojournalist and a young woman with autism.

The series, “Shorts: Expectations,” is free in the Redwood Auditorium at the Erb Memorial Union on March 16 from 8:50 to 10:45 p.m.. The nine shorts of varying lengths discuss themes of identity in thought-provoking, often humorous ways. “Sideways Smile,” directed by Hang Nguyen, is a comical ode to female sexuality, in which a woman attempts to have her first orgasm. “Searching for the None,” directed by Jean Louis Droulers, is an inventive, Black Mirror-esque take on one man’s search for commitment. “Eyecatcher,” directed by Jun Shimizu, tells a horror story that may or may not be true.

View the full film lineup and schedule at the DisOrient website (http://disorientfilm.org) and make sure to attend the festival March 14 – 17.


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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