Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival

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PAAFF Conference

November 11, 2017 @ 10:00 am - 6:00 pm


In partnership with University of Pennsylvania Asian American Studies Program and Greater Philadelphia Asian Studies Consortium, we present the second annual PAAFF Conference. This year’s one-day conference features a series of two individual presentations and three panels that revolve around the central theme of Art as Activism. Bringing together filmmakers, academics, and other creatives – each of the PAAFF Conference subjects is designed to intersect with various themes present throughout our film program. This is a FREE event open to the public, RSVP advised due to limited seating capacity.

Ali Brothers Films
Solo Presentation
Saturday, Nov. 11 | 10–11:30am | UPenn

Since his brother Omar first moved to China in 2006, filmmaker Khalid Ali has shot a body of short documentaries exploring various subcultures within China. Markedly different from films produced by other non-Chinese filmmakers—perhaps in part due to their Persian American backgrounds—the Ali brothers have developed an immersive storytelling technique that belies both their familiarity with China and their perpetual otherness as outsiders to the culture. This program will present two recent works about distinctive musical subcultures that are synonymous with marginality in Chinese society.

Ballad of the Knife Sharpener | 19 mins
A knife sharpener from rural China uses his penetrating voice to attract customers in Beijing.

Away from the Grasslands | 28 mins
An intimate portrait of Mongolian rock band Hanggai.
Following a screening of the two films, director Khalid Ali will be present for an extended Q&A.

Tow-Arboleda Films Solo Presentation
Saturday, Nov. 11 | 11:45am–12:45pm | UPenn

Inspired by the racist Watters’ World report on Chinatown voters in the 2016 Presidential election, actor Michael Tow and producer Teja Arboleda issued a short, parody, response video that went viral within hours of its release. Since then the duo have perfected the art of the quick release “clapback” parody, dropping videos within days of incidents such as the United Airlines deplaning fiasco, Hawaii 5-0 pay inequity, and whitewashing of Ben Kanahele in Ni’ihau. Their most popular video about a BBC Skype interview gone wrong titled “That’s Not the Nanny” has over 1.6 million views to date.

Join Michael Tow and Teja Arboleda for a presentation of their short video works followed by a discussion and extended Q&A.

Historical Memory, Storytelling, and the Arts Panel
Saturday, Nov. 11 | 1–2:30pm | UPenn
As a diasporic community, so much of the Asian American experience is defined by the historical memories of our ancestors as told through oral tradition and visual arts. This panel delves into the intergenerational trials, tribulations, triumphs, and traumas of the Asian American community as articulated by storytellers working across several distinct media.

Dr. Fariha Khan, Associate Director University of Pennsylvania Asian American Studies Program received her Master’s degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Yale University and a PhD in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania. Her current research focuses on South Asian American Muslims and the Asian American community. Actively involved in the Philadelphia community, Dr. Khan was appointed in 2015 to the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs.

Samip Mallick is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the South Asian American Digital Archive where he works at the intersection of technology and storytelling. For the past 9 years, SAADA has built the largest publicly accessible archive of South Asian American history. Learn more at

Henry Chang is a native son of Chinatown New York City, and author of the five-novel Detective Jack Yu series. Henry’s stories plumb the depths of the Chinese American immigrant demimonde, countering the century-old orientalist tropes of the Chinatown detective character. Visit Henry at

Marcelino Stuhmer, Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at University of the Arts is a multi-disciplinary artist whose media include painting/drawing, video installation, architectural intervention, puppetry, and storytelling. His most recent series, A Life to Those Shadows, explores his Dutch-Indonesian ethnicity through invented portraits of his imagined Javanese and Indo-European ancestors.

Asian Americans in Early Hollywood Panel
Saturday, Nov. 11 | 2:45–4:15pm | UPenn
As part of the Asian Americans in Early Hollywood Retrospective at PAAFF17, this panel is designed to explore in greater detail the significant contributions of actors like Sessue Hayakawa, Anna May Wong, Sabu Dastagir, Philip Ahn, Keye Luke, and others who paved the way for future generations of AAPI performers in American Cinema.

Dr. Peter X. Feng teaches film, literature, ethnic studies, and gender studies at the University of Delaware; his books include Identities in Motion: Asian American Film and Video, Screening Asian Americans (editor), and Chinese Connections: Critical Perspectives on Film, Identity, and Diaspora (co-editor).

Stephen Gong, Executive Director of the Center for Asian American Media has served in his current role since 2006. Stephen’s lifelong media advocacy has allowed him to work with institutions such as Pacific Film Archive, National Endowment of the Arts, and American Film Institute. Stephen also discovered the sole surviving print of The Dragon Painter that was reconditioned for DVD release and is an expert on Sessue Hayakawa.

Peilin Kuo is an award-winning filmmaker born in Taiwan and based in New York City whose films have screened at Sundance, Cannes, and LA Asian Pacific Film Festival. Her new project is a feature length biopic of the first Chinese American actress Anna May Wong.

Imran Siddiquee is a writer, filmmaker, and activist working to transform how gender and race are represented in the media. He helped start The Representation Project, where he led nationwide campaigns to call-out sexism in the media. In 2014, he gave a TEDx talk called “How Hollywood Can Tell Better Love Stories,” and his 2015 short film, Love Reset, was aired by MTV. His writing has been published by The Atlantic, Buzzfeed, Salon, Mic, and other publications.

Robin Lung is a 4th-generation Chinese American raised in Hawai‘i and director of Centerpiece Documentary Finding Kukan. Robin has spent over fifteen years bringing untold minority stories to the screen, and several of her past films have aired nationally on PBS.

Arts as Activism Panel
Saturday, Nov. 11 | 4:30–6pm | UPenn
In light of the recent shift in political climate, American artists have taken up the mantle where politics have failed. This panel will explore the role of artists within the larger activist movements of our time, questioning to what extent community of color artists are responsible for engaging in issue-based political discourse.

Jenny Yang, is a Los Angeles-based writer, actor, and stand up comedian who produces the first-ever, mostly female, Asian American standup comedy tour, Disoriented Comedy. Drawing from her former career in politics, Jenny is a regular commentator on politics and pop culture with contributions featured in National Public Radio, MSNBC, The Guardian, NBC News, BBC News, and Al Jazeera America.

Dr. Michelle Myers, is a spoken-word poet, community activist, educator, and founding member of the Asian American female spoken-word duo Yellow Rage, best known for appearing on the first season of HBO’s Def Poetry. Currently she is an Associate Professor at Community College of Philadelphia and also lectures at Temple University.

Frank Chi, is a progressive media strategist and filmmaker who created the “Past is Prologue” video series – a compilation of four short films that connect the past with today’s fight for social justice, in partnership with Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Receiving over 200,000 shares and 10 million plus views, the “Letters from Camp” video was particularly popular, featuring Muslim American children reading letters written by Japanese American incarceration survivors.

Dr. Bruce Campbell Jr., is Director of the Educational Leadership Masters and Supervisory Certification programs at Arcadia University. Also known as “DJ Junior,” Dr. Campbell is the founder of Record Breakin’ Music, a Philadelphia-based indie record label and co-host of Eavesdrop, a weekly radio show on WKDU 91.7FM. His recent project Dust + Dignity aims to promote dialogue and advance social justice through the exploration of the relationship between music and visual art.

Festival Pass


November 11, 2017
10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Event Category:


University of Pennsylvania, ARCH
Arch Building, 3601 Locust Walk, Room 108
Philadelphia, PA 19104 United States
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