Like so many events this year, the Boston Asian American Film Festival opening Wednesday is a brand-new gig.
“People in our community are living in intergenerational households with elderly people,” noted Susan Chinsen, founding director of BAAFF. “We’ve gone totally virtual this year out of consideration of COVID regulations for our staff members and audiences.”
Initially, she revealed, “we thought of the drive-in idea but the obstacles were cost prohibitive.
“We’ve been longtime friends with ArtsEmerson (at Emerson College) and joined their staff this past year and were able to consider how they’re providing access to cinema. They offer this virtual space in an accessible way.”
BAAFF opens with “Definition Please,” which is written, directed and stars Sujata Day, who is known from Issa Rae’s “Insecure.” Following the opening night screening, “Sujata will be in conversation with two other actors,” Chinsen said.
“Closing night is a documentary by Ramona S. Diaz, ‘A Thousand Cuts.’ That film will be airing in January on Frontline on PBS. For the festival we’ll be in conversation with the director, an Emerson College graduate.”
Like many ethnically-oriented film festivals, BAAFF is meant to serve a population that is cinematically under-served.
“Yes for the landscape of what’s in Boston, there are typically venues and presenters that traditionally have focused on Asian cinema. Access to independent Asian-American cinema is available through the Brattle and Coolidge Corner — and Netflix.
“But the curatorial ones that we provide, we typically bring a very specific perspective to the community we have built over the last decade.
“Asians in America, specifically those focused in the Greater Boston area, there are a number of stereotypes we feel being projected onto us.
“So we’re all well-educated, we make a lot of money, we don’t have any problems and we don’t make waves. In reality, the community is much more diverse than that.
“We represent the highly educated but also the most vulnerable communities out there, Vietnamese immigrants and Southeast Asian refugees who have war trauma and other things we try to make more visible.
“We’ve always been this bridge between independent filmmakers outside the mainstream of Hollywood with unique stories to tell. And Boston has been important to get the word out about their work.”