Red Carpet Chats: VAFF showcases outstanding Asian talent for the 27th year

Filmmakers and actors dive into why this festival is so important

An outdoor sign of scotiabank theatre in front of a busy road on a dim evening.
PHOTO: Aria Amirmoini / The Peak

By: C Icart, Humour Editor

The Vancouver Asian Film Festival (VAFF) just wrapped up its 27th edition. VAFF aims to showcase and support films from Asian Canadians and Asian diasporic communities. This year, audiences were spoiled with options, as the event featured131 films, 35 in-person and virtual programs, and over 20 world premieres.” The Peak attended the opening night red carpet to hear about the significance of the festival from filmmakers and actors, and learn more about their projects.

Grace Park: Hometown hero
You may know her from Battlestar Galactica, Hawaii Five-0, or A Million Little Things, but on November 2 the actress and model was back in the city she was raised in as this year’s VAFF ambassador. When reflecting on what the title meant to her she said, “I think it’s really poignant to be able to be in your own hometown and have a film festival here celebrating all these wonderful stories around the world.”

Jean Shim: There is no place for anti-Asian hate
Emmy Award-winning director Jean Shim has decades of experience in the film industry. This year, she presented A Great Divide, a film about a Korean American family facing racism and xenophobia in rural Wyoming. This topic was really important to Shim because “no one has really told a narrative story about Asian hate and I thought it was time for us to speak out about the subject matter.” Representation in the film, but also within the team creating the movie, was imperative for Shim: “Every single department head is Asian. Every single investor was Asian. That was really important to me because this is our story. We all want to tell it the way that I believe we should be able to tell it.”

On top of that, Shim’s love and commitment to art of cinematography was so evident when she described the film. She beamed on the red carpet as she told us “one of the most incredible things when you see the film, none of the animals were [computer-generated] When you see the moose, when you see the bison, that all happened within camera.”

Jenny Lee-Gilmore: When her mom shoots, she scores
Jenny Lee-Gilmore took on the super cool project of documenting her mom Kelly Lee’s journey as she prepared to compete at the Canada 55+ Games in Kamloops. In Overtime, the 60-year-old university professor does not let age, gender or racial barriers get in the way of her passion for hockey. 

On the red carpet, Lee-Gilmore opened up about the behind-the-scenes of this badass family affair: “I had my whole family involved.” Obviously, her mother is the lead, but her dad and brother also did some interviews for the film. “It was really fun to show my family what I do and involve them in this project. It’s something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.”

Della Chen: Chinatown forever
Della Chen is a documentary photographer and filmmaker. This year, she was excited to present her first documentary film project, She Marches in Chinatown. The documentary tells the story of the Seattle Chinese community girls’ drill team as they celebrate their 70th year. The team started as a place for Asian American girls to connect and continues today to celebrate the legacy of Asian Americans in Seattle’s Chinatown. 

Chen’s love for the team is not new. She shared, “I’ve been a fan of the Seattle Chinese community girls drill team my whole life because I’ve lived in Seattle this whole time. My daughters are part of the team and when I started to learn the history of this organization, I really felt like it was a story that needed to be told.”

As she stood on the red carpet, she said, “There’s so much that connects with when the team started in 1952 to where we are now. [ . . . ] The fact that Chinatown is at risk for going away and has been moved so many times is something that is important to share because we’re at a point now where the drill team could go away or Chinatown could go away and these two things have been really important for the Seattle Chinese community.” This is not unlike the current efforts to resist gentrification in Vancouver’s Chinatown, where VAFF was hosted. 

Doralynn Mui: Omg, there’s an SFU alumni on my TV screen
You may recognize Doralynn Mui from One of Us Is Lying (or if you’re like me you definitely remember her from Riverdale), or perhaps the SFU hallways. The communication and film production graduate is making big splashes in the industry and is super happy to support the festival. “Growing up in Canada, I didn’t really see anybody who really looked like myself on-screen. I’m so happy that VAFF has grown so much over the years.”

Mui credits her SFU education for giving her “the skills and the connections to go out and help create more opportunities to help people behind the scenes and make passion projects [ . . . ] or get different stories told.” She also met her partner and got engaged at SFU!

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