Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival

Selena Yip

Selena Yip

Documenting Hope in Philadelphia’s Asian Communities during COVID-19

2020 has proven itself to be an extremely taxing year on every facet of our lives, our communities, and our society. For Asian communities, we have seen an uptick in racially motivated crimes against us, unemployment rates have dramatically increased, and local businesses have felt the negative impacts of the pandemic to a severe degree. Though the world feels so dark, there are many people in the community bringing light and love to Philadelphia. In A Side of Light, filmmaker Michelle Wu captures just some of the positive work being done by Asian community organizations to help the whole city get through these uncertain and unstable times. 

Michelle Wu is an Asian American born and raised in Philadelphia. She is the Co-founder of Via Lux Teen Media Collective that uplifts youth voices through the art of filmmaking. Michelle’s short film, A Side of Light, will open the 13th Annual Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival on November 5th at 7:00PM. The film will screen live before the Opening Night feature film, The Paper Tigers. 

Without spoiling anything, describe your film in 7 words or less.

COVID’s impact on the Asian community

Do you have a favorite memory from making this film? Were there any challenges that you had to overcome?

One of my favorite memories from making this film was documenting my own neighborhood and discovering the beauty of the community I grew up in. My neighborhood is known as Cambodia Town in Philadelphia. A lot of the local businesses and shops are run by immigrant families. The process of capturing my community was a nostalgic journey as it felt like I was walking down memory lane. I remember running to the corner store after getting off the school bus every day to be greeted by the “chip man” with a smile. I remember my mom bringing my sister and me to the park and buying us the deformed Spongebob or Tweety Bird ice cream from the ice cream truck. I started to notice how oblivious I was to the beauty that encompassed my community. For instance, the murals that I captured for this film, I did not know they even existed until this moment. It made me realize how important it is to stop and take the time to appreciate the beauty of everything my community has to offer.

I encountered several challenges while creating this film. One of the biggest obstacles was finding the perfect seed for the story I wanted to tell. I did not want to produce a documentary that only focused on the negative impacts surrounding COVID-19. I felt it was just as important to show the resilience I knew that existed in the Asian community especially in a time like this. Thanks to my team and mentors at Via Lux Media Collective of Big Picture Alliance, they were the ones who helped me overcome these challenges.

What do you hope to see in the future for the film industry? How do you see yourself and your work playing a role in this future?

I hope for the future of the film industry to be able to adapt to the environment that is constantly changing and still be able to produce films that touch people’s lives. Whether it’s a smile, laugh, or cry, films impact our lives in many ways people don’t realize. I want to inspire people with my work and empower individuals to tell their own stories and turn their imaginations into reality.

What’s next for you?

I intend to obtain my degree from Fox School of Business, Temple University, to create original films and content with Via Lux Media Collective, and continue competing in races and volunteering as a mentor with Students Run Philly Style.

To purchase tickets to the world premiere of A Side of Light, purchase tickets to Opening Night of PAAFF here.

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