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Asian American Film Festival Takes Its Offerings to Community College of Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival (PAAFF) this year expanded its venues to include the Main Campus of Community College of Philadelphia, where the diverse community fosters a variety of learning experiences.

The Festival, now the largest Asian American festival on the East Coast, exposes the region to films by and about Asian Americans through an abundance of film screenings and events. The other venues were the International House in University City, and the Asian Art initiative in Chinatown.

“Hosting PAAFF events at the College was important because it offered an opportunity to educate people about Asian American people and cultures,” said Michelle Myers, associate professor of English and a conference organizer. “There is a misperception that all Asian people and cultures are the same, which is terribly inaccurate and serves to erase the true diversity of the Asian American/Pacific Islander community. By presenting more accurate portrayals of the AAPI community’s diversity, we can challenge such views and, hopefully, correct stereotypes that people have held.”

Whether it is fostering an appreciation for the world through its Center for International Understanding or study abroad programs, the College’s international programs and activities allow students to sharpen their critical thinking and analytical skills; and prepare them to embrace a global view. Over the years, student and faculty groups have traveled to countries as extraordinary as Tanzania, Turkey, Japan, and, beginning in 2017, Cuba.

In addition, PAAFF held its first-ever academic mini-conference this year at the College, exploring topics as varied as media representations of Asian American identity; Asian American food, and its function socially, culturally and politically; and representations of culture, gender, and politics in Iranian film.

Serving as a host venue for PAAFF was a natural fit for the College. For the past 32 years, it has celebrated world cultures with the International Festival, a weeks’ worth of multinational dancing, music, workshops and cuisine; all designed to highlight and pay homage to the many cultures of the world.

Through the film festival, the learning continued. A recent screening of the PBS documentary, “In Football We Trust,” which chronicled the emergence of Samoan-American high school football players in a small town in Utah, enlightened members of the College community about culture and customs of Asians and Pacific Islanders that were different from their own.

Azari Jacquan, a Liberal Arts major at the College, said he left the screening with a new appreciation of a culture he knew little about, and the knowledge will be useful to him in the

future: “I’m interested in interpersonal communications. To be able to communicate with people, you have to be educated about their culture,” he said.

Meyers said providing a platform for events such as the film festival positions the College as a place where world views are formed and take hold. “We want to spotlight Community College of Philadelphia as a college where exciting academic work and conversations are taking place,” she said. “Hosting this academic mini-conference was an opportunity to convey the College’s positivity in this way.”