Asian American Cinema

Celine Parreñas Shimizu

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:
Asian American Cinema


Asian American cinema refers to an ongoing struggle for moving image representation by and about Asian Americans in the United States. The civil rights and Third World movements having established a group identity that now included previously disparate groups, the Asian American cinema movement identified a systematic social problem: the invisibility and misrepresentation of Asian Americans in mainstream industry representations, that is, their absence on screen signified a lack of power in shaping US politics and history. To address these problems, the movement established nonprofit organizations dedicated to nurturing filmmakers and growing film audiences, organizing film festivals, and creating grant programs and training workshops to give Asian American communities the tools to tell their own untold American stories. Thus, Asian American cinema involved telling racialized stories so as to make the presence of Asian Americans part of the historical record. Since the 1980s, Asian American film criticism has identified Asian Americans engaging the power of cinema since the early 20th century in terms of “finding a voice,” while positing questions about the significance of this movement to film as a genre, as well as serving as a site of culture. Today, the question of what is an Asian American cinema is still in flux as the relevance of nonprofit organizations and film festivals as the site for locating the movement shifts with the invention of new media forms. That is, Asian American new media makers accumulate millions of viewers while bypassing the established protocol of grant writing, nonprofit fiscal sponsorship, and film festival screening and distribution. These changes also expose the unfinished dilemma facing Asian American filmmakers. Does the demand to tell stories about the Asian American experience limit the voices of Asian American filmmakers? Do they have to tell stories that pander to authenticity and equate racial experience to victimization, thus limiting the range of experiences to be represented in film within the binary of positive versus negative images? Both Asian American cinema and Asian American film criticism continue to struggle as Asian American films expand both their forms and their reach. The scholarship extends beyond film and ethnic studies approaches to utilize philosophies and methods from other disciplines and traditions.

Article.  8921 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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