Masala: Filmmakers Jeff Fong, Marie Jamora and Kenya Gillespie Talk the 36th Annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been kind to film festivals anywhere. However, events like the 36th annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival still celebrate the hard work of Asian American and Pacific Islander filmmakers in a digital format.

This year’s event featured headlining films like Ramona Diaz’s “A Thousand Cuts” and Christopher Kahunahana’s “Waikiki,” but there was also plenty of love for short films. Dozens were available to stream online from Sept. 24 to Oct. 31, showcasing a variety of talent across all genres.

Jeff Fong (“Baichi and the Three Blind Rats”), Kenya Gillespie (“Michelle”) and Marie Jamora (“Harana”) are three of the short film creators who saw their work on display at the festival. The trio gathered for a virtual interview to discuss their work and what it’s like to release new material in the midst of a global pandemic.

Gillespie was quick to point out that the new, digital fest provided even more viewing opportunities than usual. “It’s great that we still are able to celebrate films, even though it is in an online format, and it’s great that festivals are still trying to show these kinds of films,” he said. “The nice thing about this online experience is …. you can watch a lot of these films on your own time.”

Although current events have sidelined countless production plans, the three creators also noted the importance of telling authentic stories. Fong, Gillespie and Jamora all remain hopeful for the future of AAPI filmmaking at both feature and short film levels. “We have a camera in our pockets with our phones, so from the accessibility of technology, to now the thirst and desire for our own stories, and for our own creators to make our own stories and not [have] somebody else to do it for us, that’s changed within the last three or four years,” Jamora added.

Fong went on to note that this turning point is particularly crucial for younger generations of filmmakers and actors. Seeing representation both behind and in front of the camera helps cultivate younger talent, proving beyond a doubt that projects like these are both wanted and necessary in this day and age. “Because of social media, and because of how active people are to promote Asian American stories, and because of the conversations that are happening, it’s inspiring more Asian Americans to make film,” Fong said.

Watch the full interview above!