Adding an international dimension to our Asian Australian interview series, AAFFN is pleased to highlight the work of Kim Woozy, an Asian American video producer and web TV founder, whose content challenges gender stereotypes and a certain invisibility in mainstream programming by focusing on women in action sports like snowboarding, skateboarding and surfing. Below is an interview she did with AAFFN’s Indigo Willing.
“If we stop comparing ourselves to this artificial idea of a perfect person and instead gather bits of inspiration from many sources, we allow ourselves to embrace our uniqueness, which makes the world a more interesting place. Isn’t it more satisfying to be the best version of yourself than a watered down version of someone else? ” – Kim Woozy, founder of MAHFIA“.
A product of the millennial generation, Kim Woozy was born and raised in the heart of Northern California’s Bay Area. Her childhood was influenced by the juxtaposition of San Francisco’s rich cultural diversity, Silicon Valley’s technological innovation and the Sierra Nevada’s epic outdoor adventures. Woozy discovered her passion for videography at seventeen when she got her hands on her first digital camcorder. Since then, Woozy has gained nearly a decade of experience in video production and youth lifestyle marketing in action sports. In 2010, Woozy founded MAHFIA, a video production company and web tv channel that exposes the untold stories of females in action sports culture. MAHFIA’s mission is to promote females for their accomplishments and offer inspiration and entertainment for girls who are interested in the creative lifestyle of skateboarding, snowboarding and surf culture. In October of 2013, Woozy gave a TEDxTalk on women’s action sports marketing titled: “If She Can Do It, So Can I”.
- What types of things have you heard girls and women say in terms of things that motivated them to get into snow boarding, skating and surfing?
The most common responses I hear from women that skate, surf, snowboard, etc. – they had a brother, boyfriend or friend(s) that did those sports. Someone was there show them the ropes. Other girls said it was because of the X Games* on TV. It inspired them to try it out because it looked fun.
- Even though action sports are becoming more popular amongst females, and with many around the world performing at exceptionally high levels, they tend to be almost invisible in mainstream media and commercial imagery (eg. Shoe and clothing companies). With Mahfia, you get to change the tide and decide who gets coverage and why. What types of things and imagery do you strive to include and cover?
With MAHFIA, our mission is to promote fun and the creative lifestyle that action sports offers. We want to show girls that these sports are really fun and aren’t just for guys.
Limited opportunities are a challenge for the top females in action sports so we aim to provide a platform for them. These girls have based their entire lives on skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding, etc. and are some of the most unique, hard working, fun-loving and inspirational people I’ve ever met! Through our lens, we hope to capture their personas and inspire others to participate in the culture.
Our tagline is “killin it softly”, which means that you achieve success by working hard and being humble – you are the best at what you do but you aren’t shouting it from the top of a mountain. We like promote this motto and the idea of creating your identity through your accomplishments and skills rather than hype or surface level characteristics.
- In a Ted X talk you gave in November 2013, you speak of ‘possibility models’ rather than ‘role models’, the latter who tend not to reflect a wide range of the population. Possibility models, you emphasized, are able to inspire without people having unrealistic expectations or standards they have to measure up against. What are some of the pressures girls and women get to farewell once they stop trying to be like mainstream ‘role models’ and start embracing a bigger range of possibility models?
The problem with mainstream culture today is that public figures or “role models” are generally one-dimensional, lack diversity (both physically and intellectually) and are often just puppets designed by large corporations in order to make money. This is a dangerous foundation for young girls and females in general. If we embrace “possibility models” and look to real people for inspiration, our goals and dreams become much more attainable, diverse and authentic. If we stop comparing ourselves to this artificial idea of a perfect person and instead gather bits of inspiration from many sources, we allow ourselves to embrace our uniqueness, which makes the world a more interesting place. Isn’t it more satisfying to be the best version of yourself than a watered down version of someone else?
- As an Asian American, you stated that one of your own ‘possibility models’ was Kristi Yamaguchi, a figure skater, even though you played basketball and other sports. Can you talk a little about why Kristi Yamaguchi was influential to you?
Back in the 90’s, there really weren’t any Asian-Americans or Asians period in mainstream media. At that point in my life I didn’t know of any Asian females (in real life or in media) who really excelled at sports. Seeing Kristi Yamaguchi in the spotlight was monumental and became a turning point for me. It was the first time I had ever seen an Asian female achieve a high level of athletic success. She was a huge inspiration. I didn’t necessarily want to be an ice skater but she made it desirable for me to be an athletic Asian female. She encouraged me to keep playing sports and helped me embrace my identity as an ‘athlete’.
- Who else might have been a possibility model to you more recently?
More recently, my possibility models have been real people in my life – mostly my older friends that I look up to. Being an Asian-American female trying to work my way up in the action sports industry, which is predominantly run by white males, I used to feel slightly out of place. A few years ago I heard about a woman named YuLin Olliver who started out as a competitive snowboarder and eventually became the Marketing Director at Fuel TV as well as Street League Skateboarding. When I finally met her, she instantly became a mentor and now is a good friend of mine. I try to surround myself with people who are talented, hard working, positive and they have all become “possibility models” for me in some way.
Another recent possibility model of mine is entrepreneur/chef/tv host Eddie Huang. I follow his web series “Fresh Off the Boat” on VICE.tv and also read his book. Like me, his parents are from Taiwan and he grew up in America in the 90’s. In his book and on his show, he addresses Asian-American identity and explores immigrant culture in various countries around the world through food. Eddie is a young Asian-American entrepreneur in the spotlight who happens to be intelligent and hilarious. He breaks all the stereotypes of Asians in media and has definitely inspired me to keep doing what I am doing.
- One of the central messages from your Ted X talk seems to include that we can all work hard at and get fulfilment from something if we find what’s right for us, have passion and get support. What were some of the ways you found supporters and momentum to develop Mahfia?
MAHFIA came about mainly through the support and collaboration with the professional female athletes and women in the action sports industry who I became friends with after working on the Girls brand at Osiris Shoes. We often had long discussions about what’s missing in our industry for females. The foundation of MAHFIA was built on conversations that started with, “Dude, it would be sick if…” I also teamed up with my college classmate, Jonathan Villegas, who is an extremely talented video producer and editor. We share a deep love for action sports and have the same artistic style and vision when it comes to video production. Without his support, there would definitely be no MAHFIA. One of the main reasons why MAHFIA materialized beyond just an idea is because I surrounded myself with like-minded people who gave me the courage and motivation I needed. Again, it comes back to having an environment of people who are constantly inspiring me to push forward. As for business, it wasn’t easy in the beginning but we are starting to see more brands become interested in the female market. Slowly but surely people are starting to understand the value in what we are doing.
- Mahfia goes against the stereotype of females being passive spectators of action sports culture. Can you tell us about some of the positive feedback have you had from people who were unaware of how popular and how advanced girls and women are from viewing your channel and social media content?
My favorite thing is getting emails and messages from people around the world that are genuinely stoked on our videos and what we are doing. I’ve gotten messages from parents, males and females from every corner of the earth saying that they are so excited that they found a website that features girls in action sports. My favorite ones are from girls who tell me they are the only girl in their town who skates, etc and they feel like a freak but then they see our videos and get hyped that there are other girls doing these sports. It’s my absolute favorite type of message because that’s the exact reason why I started MAHFIA.
- How might your background as an Asian American influenced or sensitised you to valuing the power of media and giving females a voice?
As an Asian-American growing up in the 90’s I always felt like an outsider. It’s odd because it wasn’t that there was a lack of people that looked like me – I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, there was a pretty solid Asian demographic around me. It was that the idea of being an “American” at the time didn’t really encompass minorities. Asians were not represented in any media – movies, TV shows, magazines, etc. In high school I remember wishing that I was more “white” – I started dying my hair blonde and wearing skate/surf brands. Being an Asian female and an athlete was definitely abnormal. I didn’t fit in with the Asian kids because I was a “jock” but I wasn’t truly a jock because I was still an Asian kid. Academics always came first but luckily my parents supported me in whatever hobbies I liked and they never made me feel wrong for being different. I did have to go through a phase of wearing dresses and going to piano recitals when I was younger but luckily they let me quit when I told them it made me miserable. That being my background, I am committed to telling my story and other non-traditional stories so that other kids out there can relate and understand that being unique is actually really awesome. Media is such a powerful tool, especially in today’s world. It’s so important that we tell our own stories and shape our culture collectively instead of letting other people do it for us.
- Have you done and do you have any future plans to travel abroad to do any special overseas pieces for Mahfia?
Yes, definitely! Traveling abroad is always one of my main priorities. We’ve been to Germany, Canada, Singapore, Spain, Japan and Taiwan so far. Most recently we are working on a new series that will be released later this year that includes a few episodes that feature girls action sports culture in Tokyo and Taipei. I am really excited about that and hope to continue to travel to Asia to shoot more. We’ve also been talking about going to Brazil for some time now — the skate scene there is amazing and I would love to go. Action sports culture is growing rapidly all over the world, it’s really an exciting time.
- Have you any plans to come to Australia and collaborate with locals?
For sure! We actually almost came out this year to film Lizzie Armanto for Penny Skateboards who is one of our brand partners based in Australia. Unfortunately the trip had to be rescheduled but Australia is definitely on our future agenda. I’ve never been and I’ve been wanting to visit for a very long time now. I can’t wait!
- Anything else you would like to add?
For all the girls out there that have ever thought about stepping on a skateboard, strapping on a snowboard, paddling out on a surfboard OR picking up a camera, my advice would be to GO FOR IT! Find a way to make it happen and don’t be discouraged if you aren’t good at it at first. Everyone sucks when they start out. But if you stick with it, I guarantee it will change your life forever.
*To find out more about the challenges female athletes face also see Underexposed: A Women’s skateboarding documentary.
All images are kindly provided by MAHFIA and feature females doing their thing – killin it softly.
A short film raising awareness for Emily Needs Stem Cells. All Asian Australians can get involved and potentially save a life.
Directed by Corrie Chen
Produced by Bryony McLachlan in association with Jus Media
Starring Lawrence Leung, Maria Tran and Andy Minh Trieu
Fight choreography by Trung Ly & Dong Tam
Action Cam Team; Adrian Castro & Justin Gong
Cinematography by John Maloney
Editing by Lauren Anderson
Sound recording by Dane Cody
Music by Jamie Messenger
AAFFN Interview with Dir. Corrie Chen http://www.corriechen.com
by Indigo Willing
Corrie is an award-winning filmmaker whose work has screened at numerous festivals around the world. Upon graduating from the Victorian College of Arts in 2010, her student films have won numerous awards, garnered an ADG Best student film nomination and she came runner up in the QANTAS SOYA awards. Consequently Corrie was invited to participate in talent labs as part of Melbourne International Film Festival (Accelerator), and Munich Film Festival (Film Schools).
Corrie’s latest directing work includes her first documentary in Suicide and Me - a 1/2 hour documentary commissioned by the ABC. On the night it was broadcast, the show title trended across Australia and a clip from the documentary went viral internationally. She has also recently completed the short comedy Bloomers – a 2013 recipient of Screen Australia’s Short Film Completion Fund.
The start of 2014 sees Corrie invited to Berlinale Talents (as part of the Berlin Film Festival) to receive mentoring from internationally acclaimed filmmakers. She will also direct Reg Makes Contact – a short film developed and financed with the support of Screen Australia’s Hot Shots program.
Current project: REG MAKES CONTACT. On the eve of being admitted to a nursing home, a space-obsessed dementia sufferer unearths a mysterious object from the sky.
- What are some of the key goals that drive you to do what you do?
CC: I have always been interested in the idea of cultural collisions – too often a topic portrayed with seriousness. I want to give audience the permission to laugh at themselves and others in situations they recognise and relate to, instead of being threatened by what they don’t understand. I grew up in an era when it wasn’t completely safe to be Asian-Australian. Having to always question my own cultural identity, it is something that is hugely prevalent in my work. Boundaries between east & west are mixing together as never before. I wanted to reflect this and move beyond old stereotypes – to be more hybrid in form, and more accessible to a bigger audience.
I am interested in the current and the future – the stories of how the Chinese have dispersed across the world, and ultimately the effect of the East moving into the West, rather than the reverse. I believe cinema is perfectly placed to reflect this next phase in our history, and these are the stories that can truly cater for both the Eastern and western audiences.
- Can you list one or a couple of films with multicultural cast members or content would your recommend to others? Why?
CC: Generally speaking, I find TV does a far better job at representing multiculturalism than films do – I think the domesticated nature of television grounds the stories in recognisable settings and characters, and it also responds faster to what audiences want. I tend to find American TV much better at colour blind casting – famously on GREY’S ANATOMY, and the earlier season of GLEE played on the stereotypes of the “typical Asian teen” to great comedic effect.
In Australia, reality TV does multiculturalism particularly well – though unfortunately a lot of the time they are portrayed as conniving! It was great to see Dami on X-FACTOR, and many recognisable Asian identities such as Poh and Adam were from MASTER CHEF. In drama, I think the portrayal of Asian-Australians still have a long way to go, but I’m heartened by the strength of indigenous talent on shows such as REDFERN NOW as a possible future for AA stories
- Who are some of the key filmmakers overseas or here that make a difference to how we appreciate diversity in film?
CC: For me personally, Ang Lee’s early 90’s trilogy of films really opened my eyes on what it meant to an Asian in the West. Even though he’s moved away from that topic since then, I still think he remains crucial in breaking down barriers for Asian filmmakers, and the kinds of stories they can/are allowed to tell. Another interesting filmmaker is Justin Lin (director of FAST & FURIOUS franchise). Now he may not be the “art house” type of filmmaker that critics like to talk about, but I think he’s immensely talented and FAST & FURIOUS films he directed (5-7) remain some of the most multicultural Hollywood films made in recent years. AND with billions in box office takings, lots and lots of people obviously saw them. His earlier indie films are definitely worth checking out, especially his AA breakthrough BETTER LUCK TOMORROW.
And for me, I think that’s the next step – when Asian people are on screen, it doesn’t neccesarily have to be about their “plight”. Most Asians I know are fully integrated and have very nice or comparatively ordinary lives in the West.
- People sometimes say there’s simply not the talent pool or viewing public for diverse casting and stories. From your experience, how easy is it to cast for your films?
CC: Unfortunately I do have to agree somewhat – it is quite hard to cast, and that’s why you keep seeing the same actors playing “international student 2” or “restaurant owner” on TV all the time. Not to say it’s impossible – it just requires a lot more time and effort, which means money, etc. I think this will change and more 2nd/3rd gen Asian-Australians join the creative industry, both in front and behind the camera.
- Who are some of the mentors and supporters who have backed diversity in films in Australia?
CC: I do see a sense of energy building for more screen diversity in Australia. The more we start to see visible AA on screen, the quicker the momentum will build. People such as Tony Ayres, Lawrence Leung, Alice Pung and Benjamin Law help to promote authenticity in telling these stories, which is the most crucial part. And of course, AAFFN is definitely the biggest supporter of any AA’s in the industry.
It’s not the fault of anyone in particular – it’s easy to blame the producers or networks but there are so many reasons why there aren’t more AA stories on screen; from not enough talent behind the scenes to give it that truthfulness that audiences expect and crave, through to the bottom line – will people actually watch it? In the end, film and TV is big business and it would be naïve to ignore that.
- What is some of the most useful and encouraging feedback you’ve had from public and industry that have seen your own works?
CC: This was something I was told this year by someone high up in the industry – that my work displayed a true picture of 21st century Australia. It’s something I never set out to do, but just came naturally to me. It’s very flattering, because when I was young I remember I always wanted to be white and blonde, because that was what it was like on Neighbours so that must be the only way I can fit in.
I can only hope in the next decade, young AA kids can watch TV and realise that being themselves, whatever east-west fusion they are, is the best thing in the world.
- What kinds of stories do you want to see in the future?
CC: Oh…so many. More multiculturalism in comedy would be fantastic. I think they have plenty of multiculturalism in crime dramas (unfortunately), but comedies is sadly lacking.
- Any advice for up and coming filmmakers and actors?
CC: Know what it is you want to say and why you want to do this – and reflect it in your work. This industry is so tough there will be many times you want to quit, but if you remember why it is you want to make movies or TV in the first place, that is the thought that will help you hold on in your low or stressful moments when you have parents breathing down your neck, demanding reasons for why you don’t have a second house yet like so-and-so’s kid from down the street. For me, I simply cannot imagine doing anything else that would make me even half as happy as I do when I write or direct. Well, actually I CAN’T do anything else because my only other skill is making dumplings, and god forbid I conform to any stereotypes (laughs).
AAFFN Review of BRUCE LEE PLAYED BADMINTON TOO By Indigo Willing
Film Synopsis: Awkward surburban teenager Nic Wooding wants to be the greatest badminton player in the world, much to the dismay of his demanding and prejudiced father.
Dir. Corrie Chen, Prod. Anna Kojevikov, Cin. Shelley Farthing-Dawe.
Australia has both a vibrant and tense relationship with ethnic and racial diversity. Films dealing with migrants for instance have focused on oddness (THEY’RE A WEIRD MOB), destitution (THE FINISHED PEOPLE) and high violence (ROMPER STOMPER). Chen’s filmography includes shorts that present a much more tender, intimate side of the migrant and Asian Australian experience (such as WONDER BOY about a school boy trying to fit in, and HAPPY COUNTRY focusing on the experience of a married young woman from China trying to fit into a new life in regional Australia). Such films touch on the embarrassment, loneliness and disappointment migrants and second-generation children can experience quietly and internally rather than in more overt anger, strife and tears. Such themes are by no means new to Asian Australian stories, but Chen has a skill for shedding light on the quiet, affectionate and ordinary ways such challenges are also sometimes overcome, if not forever, at least for the day or a precious moment. Whether an afternoon on a couch with a mum, or sitting looking at the sunset across a desert road, we feel a sense of reassurance that belonging can be anyone’s if you just hold on that little longer and value the things and people that really matter.
In BRUCE LEE PLAYED BADMINTON TOO (BLPBT) there is much humour and warmth in the way Chen focuses on similar themes of what it’s like to be an ‘outsider’, only she turns the tables by having a White Australian as the misfit in a competitive badminton scene where Asian Australians are portrayed as the ‘typical’ players. In its opening scene, the film presents to us a finely detailed and beautifully shot image of Nic Wooding, dressed in athletic clothes and ready for action. But Nic is no Aussie ‘chesty Bonds-style’ icon or Adonis with a tan, rippling muscles and chiselled features. Instead, we see an affectionate image of an awkward young, adult, male who is no hard body, and who has a range of hallmarks of being a classic ‘nerd’. This includes his being dressed in a daggy, ill fitting white sports uniform, with his big white underpants glaring through hilariously translucent super white shorts. The scene is set for us, the audience, to empathize with the kind of under dog who typically never gets the girl or the glory.
In following scenes we find him to be the ultimate under dog, a boy in the suburbs who dreams of playing badminton competitively, with parents who love him but have no faith in his potential. Nic is passionate about both Bruce Lee and badminton, and in the lead up to a competition, he reaches a point where he is unsure if he really ‘deserves’ to be accepted as having a connection to either. By the film’s conclusion, there is a gentle reminder in the message that, we all have the power to look past stereotypes, and to treat any search for belonging as an open page.
Chen’s casting is impeccable, including the lead Nathan Derrick, love interest Jenny Cheong, and veteran Asian Australian actor Ferdinand Hoang (who features in a brilliant and memorable scene with Michael Caine in THE QUIET AMERICAN). Jude Beaumont plays a sympathetic mum, and Christopher Bunworth, who along with Nathan Derrick gives one of the film’s stand out performances, gives us a stern but ultimately likeable father. All the performances are natural, memorable and touching, in an unforced and very life affirming way. The cinematography is top level in the hands of Shelley Farthing-Dawe and other crew, with a special mention of Sally Adinsall for production design. Nic’s home is classic Australiana and many people will recognize a bit of their own childhood or older relative’s homes in his.
Chen is undoubtedly one of the finest and most promising directors in Australia right now. She has won many awards for her short films and was runner up in the QANTAS Spirit of Youth (Film Category) in 2012 for this film. She also has range, with her other work including a documentary on suicide (SUICIDE AND ME) that has screened on the ABC, and a comedy that will be touring soon (BLOOMERS) and also an awareness campaign featuring Lawrence Leung (EMILY NEEDS STEM CELLS). Watch out for what she brings to the screens in 2014 and beyond.
Whatever your holidays are like culturally, we wish you a wonderful time with good people and keep holding on to your creatives and community dreams. Looking forward to covering more news and doing more interviews and pop-up events in 2014!
The Asian Australian Film Forum (AAFFN) – Twitter @AAFFN had a great year, including plenty of news to share on social media + we were also fortunate to highlight lots of interesting stories – all belonging to awesome people and looking forward doing to more in 2014:
Aileen Huynh – George Dot Play
& Dr Sukhmani Khorona’s pieces on:
Interview with Chris Raja about ‘The First Garden’ by Sukhmani Khorana (March 2013) http://http//asianaustralianfilmforum.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/interview-with-chris-raja-writer-teacher-and-playwright/
Reflections on Gondwanalandings: Towards a diasporic imagination in Australia by Sukhmani Khorana (October 2013)http://asianaustralianfilmforum.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/gondwanalandings-towards-a-diasporic-imagination-in-australia/
AAFFN is completely volunteer run.
Dr Indigo Willing OAM, a former resident of a Vietnamese orphanage, co-founder of AAFFN (and founder of Adopted Vietnamese International (AVI)) is giving away a MEOW skateboard prize with trucks and wheels donated from Extreme Skates – to raise awareness and funds for the Vietnam Volunteer Network (VVN) whose work includes assisting kids at Trung Tâm Nuôi Dưỡng Bảo Trợ Trẻ Em Gò Vấp (Go Vap orphanage) in Vietnam as well as those affected by landmines and Agent Orange.
To enter you must be living in Australia, make a donation of any amount (even
as little as a $1 AUD as every little counts) to the Vietnam Volunteer Network and please feel free to share the competition link on Facebook.
Anyone in Australia will be eligible to go in a draw to win this skateboard. Comp open now – Prize announced Jan 30th, 2014.
For people outside of Australia who donate you can go in the draw to win a copy of ‘Miso for Life’ edited by Mai Xuan Bui and featuring a chapter by Indigo on her reflections as a Vietnamese adoptee. Indigo will also write a special personal message inside the book cover to thank you the winner for their support
Read more and donate via this link:
Summary from our FB news page at: https://www.facebook.com/AsianAustralianFilmForum
- Interesting story on James Wan http://audreymagazine.com/top-5-reasons-james-wan-has-mastered-scary-films/
- Catch Candy Bower’s new show HOT BROWN HONEY BURLESQUE…. Sticky. Political. Silly. Provocative. Brisbane on Saturday November 30th… https://vimeo.com/79186935
Shout and greeting to all in town for the Brisbane International FF including:
- Maria Tran from ‘Maximum Choppage’ and many other films
- Jiao Chen, of team behind Keep Me Safe Tonight who spoke on panel on documentaries at State Library for BIFF
- AAFFN co-convener Dr Indigo Willing OAM who held a casual meet up to see Tokyo Story at GoMA
- Asian Creatives Bureau founder Joon Kwok who is also a theatre director and based in Brisbane
Check out the full program at:
- Shout and greeting to at the Japanese FF including Kieran Tully.
Check out the full program at:
- Congratulations to all involved with the Joy House FF curated by Joy Hopwood with a team including MC Andy Minh Trieu and AAFFN’s Armi Marquez-Perez
- Opportunity to hear bestselling author Alice Pung in conversation with Annette Shun Wah on Saturday, 23 November 2013 at 3pm. Bookings now open – 02 9331 1112 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Congratulations to Chi Vu who recently held her show Banh Chung
- Buddhism doco from team including Thai Phuong and Somchay Phakonkham has a call for the lead: http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/melbourne-cbd/other-jobs/become-a-buddhist-monk-for-30-days-for-a-documentary-film/1031576316
- The Australia Council for the Arts early career residencies call now open: http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/grants/2013/early-career-residencies24-feb
- Opening Shots is an ABC TV series ft. documentaries by a number of Asian Australian teams including ‘Growing Up Gayby’ and ‘Keep Me Safe Tonight’. More info at:
Also on TV soon -https://www.facebook.com/keepmesafetonight?directed_target_id=0
Catch up on more news more regularly at our AAFFN FB page at:
LAM LUAN’S Story
Lam Luan is the founder of The Lam Tu Luan Lion Dance, Dragon Dance & Kung Fu School. With a team of all ages and backgrounds, the school has performed at many local & international festivals & events. You would have seen many at Lunar New Year celebrations and Asian festivals around Brisbane and sometimes in combination with interstate performers, across the country and overseas.
Luan is also from Vietnam, and has mentored youth from all kinds of backgrounds, and has given them a sense of direction from sometimes difficult situations. Most of all, he generates good, positive energies through his school, entertaining all Australians and sharing the beauty of lion dancing and wisdom of kung fu to all interested.
Luan also lives in the Bay area in Brisbane where he has a restaurant.
The mission of the Lam tu Luan Kung Fu school is to teach the youth of today the values from previous generations such as respect, discipline and charity, while encouraging them to accept new views in order to break down the barriers of prejudice.
The School will teach them the way of kung fu which will put them on the path to higher self-esteem, fitness and a sense of pride for their own culture and community, while developing a greater understanding of others.
Luan generously took the time to chat with AAFFN co-founder Dr Indigo Willing OAM (who is also born in Vietnam and resettled in Australia) about his school, his favourite films and some of his favourite memories of Australia. This video is just a glimpse into his life and Luan would like to make a documentary about his school, his experiences and the students he mentors. Interested filmmakers are encouraged to contact him at: email@example.com
Interview by AAFFN’s Indigo Willing as part of the new ‘In Our Community’ mini-doco series of interviews where we speak to a wide range of people in the community about various Asian Australians stories and experiences.
This is an event review of a conference titled, ‘Gondwanalandings: Voices of the Emerging Indian Diaspora in Australia’ that was held in Melbourne last month. I would like to thank my co-organisers (Roanna Gonsalves, Devaki Monani and Ana Tiwary) for their support, the Australia India Institute and the Australia India Council for funding the event, and all the participants. The full program is available here: http://www.aii.unimelb.edu.au/sites/default/files/gondwanalandings%20programme%20%281%29.pdf
When I first suggested the idea of an Indian diaspora conference in Australia as a response to the Australia India Institute’s ‘Beyond the Lost Decade’ taskforce report, I never thought it would one day become a reality. Now, almost a month after the event, I am not just grateful that a personal and collective dream came true, but also pleased that it has laid the foundations for future diasporic endeavours, both formal and informal.
On the surface, the Indian diaspora looms large in the imagination of not just persons of Indian origin, but also of non-Indians who have been exposed to the ‘soft power’ of India-based or Indian-inspired literature, film, and other creative arts. You have only to scan the short-lists of the English-speaking world’s major literary prizes, or the programs of renowned international film festivals to get a sense of the cultural capital of India and its diaspora. However, Indians living in Australia are only beginning to gain critical mass and have a significant cultural and political voice in the wider community. We have yet to produce our very own world-conquering Deepa Mehta or Jhumpa Lahiri, but we have started creating the conditions for such talent to emerge, and for it to be nurtured.
With this in mind, the two-day Gondwanalandings conference held in Melbourne on the 26th and 27th of September aimed for a mix of critical, community, and creative voices. The program consisted of three plenary sessions with leading South Asian scholars – namely, Brij Lal, Devleena Ghosh, Purnendra Jain, Kama McLean, and Mridula Nath Chakraborty. The panels were on themes ranging from gender in the diaspora, Indian-Australian literature and publishing, media, language and cultural production, as well as perspectives from prominent creative practitioners.
As the chair of the conference organising committee, I often had to put pragmatism before depth of dialogue, but I hoped that this was only the beginning of the conversation. It is also challenging to be inclusive in a community as diverse as Indians in Australia, and manage visionary goals with budgetary constraints and external funding partners. The community support, however, has been overwhelming, and has emphasised the need to include those of non-Indian origin within a paradigm of inter-cultural communication that includes intersection with settler, Indigenous and other migrant narratives. In a world that is straddling the twin forces of homogenisation and indigenisation, there is no better model of global yet rooted citizenship than that manifested in diasporic communities.
The Indian diaspora in Australia, given its strong connections with a rising India, a vibrant Australia, and established Indian diasporas elsewhere, is especially well-positioned to be a migrant community that is culturally and politically pro-active. We must have the occasional critical symposium alongside the myriad celebratory Diwali melas. We must make our own films, along with enjoying the bounties of Bollywood. And most importantly, we must strive to engage with those who may not share our religious or regional identity, but are similarly involved in trying to survive and thrive in an era of unprecedented confusion, and unprecedented creativity.
Made in Australia - Review
Esoteric, animalistic, despair. These are the things true love is often made of, not the sanitized sweetness that romance novels portray. So too, Made In Australia has those same characteristics, for it is a story about the kind of love that makes a person feel crushed, not worshiped, yet possibly wiser along the way.
Pastor has directed a film that blurs lines between biography and fiction, with himself both behind and in front of the camera. He is a versatile director, covering self-narration and quirkiness in some earlier works, a beautiful depiction of being alone in a foreign city (GHOST MAN) and playful yet menacing storylines in others (RANDOM).
The film has some beautiful cinematography but it is not sentimental. It is raw, sometimes explicit, and a sometimes uncomfortable window into Pastor’s exploration of an intimate relationship. His lead female actor Janice Keung was also his real life partner at the time of filming. He films both her and himself naked, bloodied, scarred and vulnerable.
Made In Australia also holds up a mirror to the Asian diasporic experience as similarly uncomfortable, yet very intriguing. Perhaps in a genre all it’s own. It is not a glowing feel good ‘ethnic’ themed film as seen in BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM overseas, or more locally, STRICTLY BALLROOM in Australia. Nor is it a narrative of an intergenerational struggle avoiding poverty and escaping the ghosts and sorrow that can come with migration in the way the excellent THE HOME SONG STORIES and MOTHERFISH films followed. Pastor’s film is more surreal, stronger in angst and lust, more brave in depicting the messiness of some human desires, and quite honest in how flawed we can be as humans, lovers, and individuals trying to make sense of our hearts, homes and homelands. Indeed, the film may offend some viewers with its nudity, sexual references, violent themes and course language. For others, it may just be grittily realistic. Both reactions will no doubt arise in any audience viewing.
In terms of being Made In Australia, the film is by an Australian, who has Asian-Australian heritage, and is filmed in Australia and Asia. There is filmic nods to multiple cultures, and with good choices of locations to elaborate the themes of transnational mobility and attempts to belong to two or more countries.
This is a feature film that is reminds us that life is risky, that art can pay homage to the past while having high moments of originality in also taking risks, and that love and identity are not easy things to understand, but worth it anyway.
Review by AAFFN’s Indigo Willing. Film screens at Melbourne Underground FF 8 Sept 2013.