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AA Limelight Clip of the Week: “Dol” by Andrew Ahn 

Selected by Kelly Lin

This week, the eyes of film lovers around the globe will be on Park City, Utah, home of the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. Among the many up-and-coming features being shown at the festival is the short film Dol (First Birthday) by Korean American director, Andrew Ahn.

The film tells the story of a gay Korean-American who yearns for a life in which he can feel accepted by his family. Throughout the film, Ahn portrays the quiet, ordinary moments of life yet a tension between the protagonist and his family is always underlying. Overall, I found the film to be heartbreakingly beautiful and a fascinating look at a topic that is rarely explored in Korean and Korean American cinema.

You can watch the complete film here

AA Limelight Interview with Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai

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Who are you?
I’m a lover, fighter, spoken word poet, playwright, filmmaker, dancer, Chicagoan turned Brooklynite, artist-activist, dreamer, and someone who is lucky enough to make a living at what I love.

(The official bio would be: KELLY ZEN-YIE TSAI has performed at over 500 venues worldwide including the White House, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Apollo Theater in Harlem, and 3 seasons of Russell Simmons’ HBO Def Poetry, etc. – but only because I was a girl who couldn’t ever stop writing who matured into a woman who chose not to stop writing. Poetry and the people that I have met through my  travels make me who I am today.)


What are you all about?
I care about community. I grew up at the dinner table arguing politics with my family. I have a sense of history and a desire to share with people the beauty of our many histories. The paths we are traveling may be new, but in essence, have been traveled before. I grew up hanging out at spoken word poetry and later hip hop open mics. It’s where I learned the value of being myself and honoring unique experiences, rhythms, and words.

What keeps you going?
Sometimes the creative challenge of trying something new. Sometimes the powerful affirmation from my audiences. Today, I just finished performing / facilitating a workshop for a group in DC, and this woman told the organizer that the day completely rejuvenated her soul. That’s a pretty hard-core, yet wonderful statement. It’s crazy amazing that these tiny arrangements of abstract sound and image (i.e. language) can move people’s hearts and minds so thoroughly.

Continue Reading…

AA Limelight Interviews Hyphen Magazine

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m the editor in chief of Hyphen magazine. I’ve been with Hyphen since 2006 and was previously the features editor and managing editor. I live in San Francisco and work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as my day job.

What is Hyphen Magazine?

Hyphen is an Asian American magazine that covers arts, culture and politics with substance, style and sass. We come out twice a year in print and also have a thriving blog that provides commentary and opinion on current events. This year we are celebrating our ten year anniversary!

Why is this form of literature important for the Asian American community?

Hyphen provides a community-created alternative to the mainstream media’s depictions of Asians Americans. We shine a spotlight on up-and-coming and established APAs and uncover news and trends happening in the community, while also maintaining a sassy sense of humor. We distinguish ourselves from other Asian American publications by our commitment to in-depth, extensively reported stories and high-quality writing. We aspire to add an insightful, thought-provoking and offbeat voice to the media landscape for Asian Americans.

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Jackie Chan (but mostly love)

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Throughout my life, I have felt a strange connection to Jackie Chan. Perhaps it is because Jackie Chan and my father had the same hair style, similar quirky humor, and was born in the same year and the same city. However, it was probably moreso because I grew up watching his old Hong Kong Kung Fu movies (the ones with Sammo Hung), while concurrently watching his new American releases. Jackie Chan had a certain duality that paralleled my culture; Jackie Chan was a celebrity that both my parents and I could identify.

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“You caught my eye with that B-O-O-T-Y”: Discussing misogyny in Asian American music

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I always feel a nice mix of discomfort and fury whenever I hear an Asian American rapper drop a line about how many innumerable hoes are on his dick, or see one shoot a music video full of jiggling ass cheeks. It’s a burning feeling in my stomach that bubbles up my throat and inevitably results in an angry blog post. For example, when watching a Far East Movement music video featuring cleavage, ass, and paint or cleavage, ass, and girls wrestling in cages, or the exoticized, primitive half-clothed islanders in Dumbfoundead’s “BRB” video, or the “Cool and Calm”expressionless harem of women cooking, rolling blunts, and decorating Dumb’s couch, or the objectifying laundry list of hook-ups and relationships in “For You,” or the booty popping store clerk in Traphik’s “My Fresh” – and so on. At the root of this feeling is something – as over dramatic as it sounds – like betrayal. The questions start boiling: How could they do that? Don’t they know they’re repping Asian America, don’t they know they’re role models for Asian American masculinity?

Continue Reading…

Short Story: “In What Tongue Do Ghosts Speak?”

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I’m fresh back from a week of slam poetry at Brave New Voices and hella tired. So following Linh’s example, here’s a short story! A rough draft chop and screwed excerpt from a book I’m working on – a personal narrative on language, shame, and living as a 3rd generation Chinese American. (click to open and zoom in on the text!)

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On Cultural Appropriation

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By Jade Cho

This summer I realized I had truly transformed into a big-word-using, theorizing, Ethnic Studies loving nerd, when I digested a 400 page book about African American and Asian American connections in 2 weeks, read and re-read a chain of online essays on Asian Americans, hip hop, and appropriation of Black culture, then spent one Friday night perusing all 106 comments of a thread in which several professors debated that same topic. As someone who does spoken word, an art form deeply rooted in Black culture and the works of Black poets; as a hip hop fan raised upper middle class and assimilated in a white neighborhood (whose first exposure to non-radio hip hop was a Zion I song playing off of Adriel Luis‘ old website in the 9th grade); I found the content extremely potent, because the Asian American appropriating or not appropriating Black culture in question was me. And it goes deeper; to Asian American anti-black attitudes, to Asian American complicity in upholding white supremacist power structures that oppress Black people; essentially the fulcrum of all American society and capitalism itself. Hella deep shit. These readings made me question myself and my role in society, and I want to begin discussing how they relate to AA Limelight and the current state of Asian American art.

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AA Limelight Interview with Chris Dinh

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Let’s see… I’m an actor/writer. I love stories. Hearing a good story. Telling a good story. The power of stories.I also love working with and learning from passionate people.  Like Joan Huang from Cherry Sky Films. Phil, Wes and Ted from Wong Fu Prod. My writing partner, Viet Nguyen.

I’m also grew up really awkward and shy. And nothing makes me cringe more than talking about myself. So these questions actually make me really nervous. I apologize in advance for my answers.

Who is an Asian American role model you had while growing up?


I grew up without television and all I had were boxes of these old label-less VHS tapes. They were mostly Chinese dramas but then I would occasionally find old Bruce Lee or Jet Li movies which I would watch over and over and over. So naturally they became my role models. Which is ironic because, well… look at me… I turned out the exact opposite.

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AA Limelight Clip of the Week: Rocky Rivera on The Beat

It’s midterm season and I’m running like a hamster in a ball to catch up with school work (which has nothing to do with the fact that I spent all of Saturday frolicking around at CAAM’s 30th SF International Asian American Film Festival…) Thus, a lil flipping of the script: I’ll be posting my Perspective on Thursday, and the Clip of the Week today.

A little preview of my Thursday post in honor of Women’s History Month, this clip is one of the most in-depth interviews I’ve seen with Bay Area-grown, grill-wearing-journalist-turned-emcee Rocky Rivera. With a journalism school educated flow hard enough to knock out most emcees in the game (male or female), bleached hair and door knocker earrings, and a fierce dedication to her family, social justice, and her fans, Rocky is the epitome of badass – someone I am hella proud to see repping women in hip hop, and API women in America. (Seriously, I got a lil emotional watching her succeed on MTV’s I’m From Rolling Stone.) What I find most admirable is that, in an industry where it is all too easy to sell out, and in a society that forces women in all sectors to fragment their identities, Rocky is uncompromising – rapping about being a mother, a proud Pilipina, and the realities of her hood, all without exposing one bare butt cheek or boob.

In this interview on The Beat radio show, Rocky goes in on her career in music journalism, how she got together with Bambu, and balancing a music career with raising her son in a house built by two emcees. On making the transition from music journalism to pursuing music as a career: “It was at the point where I would have to either keep complaining [about the lack of women in hip hop], or make that music myself.” Rocky reminds me that APIA women – a group that is always represented as weak or submissive – have the agency to impact and recreate the world around us. Respect.

Interview starts at 28:00

- Jade Cho

Ha Jin’s “A Good Fall”

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By Sophia Ng

I always feel a bit awkward when people ask me where I live. “Flushing” isn’t exactly the most aesthetically appealing name to the ear, nor is it an area in New York City that has been particularly admired in the past decade. However, Flushing is home, and I am slowly growing to embrace my hometown.

Flushing is an immigrant hub. Situated in Queens by tourist attractions such as the airport, the Mets’ Citifield, and the 1964 World’s Fair Unisphere, as well as a subway, bus depot, and Long Island Railroad stop, the area naturally serves a wide commuting audience. Most famously, Downtown Flushing is an up and rising “Chinatown”. I had once heard a tour guide call Flushing “Chinatown,” but though it may look like a typical Chinatown, it really isn’t—it’s… more than that.

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AA Limelight Interview with Osric Chau

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Osric.  My roots are Chinese but I’m very much Canadian.  I’ve been bouncing between Vancouver, Beijing and Los Angeles primarily for the last 3 years on various projects.

Acting was an acquired taste for me, and luckily it happened just before a few career changing opportunities came my way.  My biggest hobby is film-making.  And about 90% of anything I see people do, gives me the biggest itch to partake in that activity.

What led you to acting?

My first acting teacher introduced me to an agent, whom I’m still with, when I was about 9.  For years I was never really active, but I wasn’t inactive either. I started training in Wushu when I was 13 and really wanted to do stunt work. My girlfriend, senior year in High School, got me to audition for the school play with her.  I was cast as John Proctor in The Crucible.  That was the first time I felt that I acted well.

In 2007, after 7 years of training in wushu, I enrolled in the Beijing Sports University to train wushu more intensely than I ever had.  I made the Canadian National Wushu Team that year and was offered my first significant acting role as a lead on Kung Fu Killer, a mini series for Spike TV, primarily because of my martial arts abilities.  Gradually after that as I continued to find work as an actor, my passion transitioned from stunt work to acting, and I’ve learned to love the intricacies and challenges of both.

Continue reading →

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AA Limelight Clip of the Week: New Asian ‘American Dream’: Asians Surpass Hispanics in Immigration

Earlier this week, the Pew Research Center reported that Asians surpassed Hispanics in immigration. However, as seen in this Associated Press video, this report oversimplifies characteristics regarding Asian immigrants, tending mainly to the “model minority myth”.

This is Asian America?

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Photos from http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycmg/nyctvod/html/home/aa_entertainers.html

By Sophia Ng

I had first come across the PBS television show, “Asian America,” while scrolling down my television guide one rainy afternoon. The title struck me with delight—a show highlighting Asian Americans on television? Cool! Despite the second of apprehension that my hopes and dreams would shatter (after all, I had once watched “Hong Kong Phooey” on “Boomerang” with the pretense that it actually had something to do with Hong Kong), I entered slight relief through the show’s opening credits.

The opening credits of “Asian America” were reminiscent of Eyewitness Science tape openings that I had watched in elementary school. Words scrolled in and out of the screen, mute clips dashed through the frame, and wordless orchestral music added pizazz to the images. As the clips flashed before my eyes, I grew uneasy: I did not know any of the arguably well-known and recognized Asian Americans that were highlighted in the show’s opening credits. Well, I recognized Jackie Chan, former New York State Governor George Pataki, and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani, but still, that was not enough! I am Asian American—shouldn’t I know these people?

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AA Limelight Perspective: That YouTube Lime

By: Kenny Kim Hoang

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Not too long ago, the presence of Asian Americans in media was closely nonexistent. Besides stereotypical, one-dimensional characters, there was a lack of everyday you-and-me representation. In the hands of the mainstream, the dynamics and complexities of an Asian American was absent. However, what was missing was found elsewhere.

Nearly 7 years since it’s creation, with the help of YouTube, everyone has the access to publicly do their own thing. Comedy bits, music covers, flash mobs, freestyle recordings, choreographed routines, video responses, do it yourself videos, and the like. Some people use the tube for leisure’s sake, some others try to promote their gig, the possibilities are endless.

To know that a person has this wealth of control and say in what they do, it’s sort of liberating. Free from the confines of the mainstream; YouTube has been a great source for people to do what they do best, rep people.

Read more…

"Much Love" Review

By Steven Cong

Jason Chu’s new album, Much Love, has a lot to say. The issues he touches on range from reminiscing about high school to reconciling Christian and LGBT identities. That’s pretty deep. Despite the wide range of topics, the album still manages to feel cohesive because Jason always tied it back to what the album is about as a whole. And what it’s about is love, both the love that we have in this world and the love that’s missing from it. He orients his perspective of love around what he knows as a Chinese American Christian rapper, and it gives the listener much food for thought.

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AA Limelight Clip of the Week: Seeking Asian Female 

Seeking Asian Female is a documentary that explores the concept of Yellow Fever through the story of a caucasian elderly man named Steven who is on a mission to marry a “young Asian bride.” After several online searches and request letters to hundreds of Asian women, his quest leads him to a young Chinese woman named Sandy who agrees to marry Steven despite never meeting him. In essence, Sandy is a modern day picture bride. 

Throughout the film, director Debbie Lum, a Chinese-American woman herself, provides viewers with a raw look at the awkward, humorous, and often painful moments as the couple prepares for their wedding day, despite facing language and cultural barriers and knowing little about each other. Throughout the film, Lum unwillingly becomes a character in her own documentary as both Steven and Sandy ask for her assistance in not only translation but also moral guidance. 

Seeking Asian Female was recently selected as a finalist for The SXSW Documentary Feature category.  

AA Limelight Interview with Dumbfoundead

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Photo by Justin Kong

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Dumbfoundead. I’m from Koreatown Los Angeles, and I make videos on YouTube and songs for the world.

What inspires you to rap?
What inspires me to rap? A lot of girls—women are a huge inspiration in my life. I grew up with my mom and sister and, you know, have been in relationships. You know, women are a metaphor for life.

 As an Asian American MC, do you feel like you have a responsibility to the Asian American community?
Yeah, definitely, definitely. I think it’s more than just performing just for an Asian community—it’s about representing the Asian culture outside of that, you know what I mean. I never want to be stuck in a comfort zone and just reach out to a certain group of people. I rather perform for non-Asians because I can actually share the stories of the Asian community with them.

Continue reading →

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Jeremy Lin’s Video Response to Stuyvesant HS 

Lin-sanity is still going strong! Back in March, Stuyvesant High School seniors put together a video requesting Jeremy Lin to speak at their high school graduation. The video went viral in hopes of getting to Jeremy. Jeremy tweeted that he could not come speak this year, but he promised a video response and a possible appearance at the high school. This video is Jeremy’s video response to Stuyvesant High. Enjoy!

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