Film Fest Party Celebrates Asian Pacific American Political Empowerment

On Saturday, several artists attending the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival appeared at an afterparty and fundraiser at the Dot Bar in Japantown’s Miyako Hotel to show their support for Asian Pacific American political empowerment. More than $1,000 was collected at the event and donated to APAs for Progress.

Special guests included Yul Kwon (Survivor), Ken Leung (X-Men 3, Shanghai Kiss), Jacqueline Kim (Charlotte Sometimes, Present), Karin Anna Cheung (Better Luck Tomorrow, My Life Disoriented), Ron Yuan (Baby), Chris Chan Lee (Yellow, Undoing), Sung Kang (Undoing) and Eric Byler (Charlotte Sometimes, Americanese).

Byler, whose new film Tre screened at the festival, contacted the filmmakers of Shanghai Kiss and Baby, which also premiered Saturday, with the idea to throw a joint party and deliver a meaningful message about the link between representation in mainstream media and representation in the political process.

“The alchemy of the arts and media is a path to political empowerment for Asian Pacific Americans and for all marginalized communities,” said Byler. “More than ever before, today’s politics is about control of the media message, and now that the Internet is a big part of that message, we have a unique opportunity to make our voice heard.”

Byler came to such conclusions as a leader of Real Virginians For Webb, an Asian American-focused grassroots organization credited with helping Jim Webb defeat former Sen. George Allen in the 2006 Virginia Senate race. Through a combination of guerrilla and new media approaches (including a YouTube video featuring Lost star Daniel Dae Kim), the grassroots organization was able to garner support from the national APA community. Donations sent from APA strongholds like San Francisco, Honolulu and Los Angeles meant that the power of the national community was being focused on a Senate race in Virginia, where Asian Pacific Americans are still struggling to assert their power.

The videos Byler shot during the campaign, seen collectively by more than 40,000 viewers on YouTube, generated an unprecedented involvement of Asian Americans in the election. A poll by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund showed that 76 percent of Asian American Virginians voted for Webb, who won the race by just three-tenths of a percent of the total vote.

Learn more about Eric and his work on his Myspace page.

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