Art often serves as a lens into other cultures. Take HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” a drama set in 1950s Jim Crow America that examines how the Black community battled the real terror of racism in addition to supernatural terrors. The show also dedicated a storyline to Ji-Ah, a Korean nurse whose backstory is rooted in Korean mythology. For actress Jamie Chung, who played Ji-Ah, having that story told was a blessing.
“Being on a show like ‘Lovecraft,’ which amplifies Black artists and Black stories, I thought it was so lovely that they were able to share that platform to highlight a Korean experience and what it was like to live through the Korean War,” Chung told TheWrap.
That’s why Chung is now serving as the ambassador for HBO’s annual Asian Pacific American Visionaries Short Film Competition, which provides emerging directors of Asian and/or Pacific Islander descent the opportunity to showcase their work.
“We talk about really giving a platform to storytellers, and we talk about sharing your own perspectives and our own stories. And this is the perfect way to do it,” Chung explained. “They’re sharing their prestigious platform; not only will executives be able to see it and judge, but the three winners are going to be put on HBO and HBO Max. So I think that’s so incredibly powerful — the kind of reach that they have is quite spectacular and the caliber of stories that they tell.”
The three winning films will premiere on HBO platforms and stream on HBO via HBO Max, as well as at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in September 2021. There is also a cash prize.
But beyond that, Chung hopes these films will help combat the hate and stereotyping against the Asian American Pacific Islander community. (StopAAPIHate on Tuesday reported more than 500 hate incidents against those communities in January and February 2021 alone.)
“Storytelling, hopefully, will change the tide to make people more empathetic to the Asian American struggle and our history. Because if it doesn’t, then we’re just continuing to be looked at as foreigners or second class citizens, which is the perception of us,” she explained.
“And finally now, we’re just starting to have our stories being told within the last three to four years,” she added, referencing the momentum created by such films as “Crazy Rich Asians.” “There’s no time better than now, regardless of the uptick of violence against Asians — but because of that, especially now, it’s incredibly important.”
Chung also had this advice for the competition’s entrants: “Make your perspective really clear and specific. This year is about change-makers, people who are making waves and really leading the way. Don’t keep it vague; get really specific because those are the kinds of details that we’re looking for.”
“Start writing short stories,” she recommended. “You never know what will come to you. Your stories will surprise you. There’s a lot of stories that haven’t been told that a lot of people can relate to, and will relate to.”
In fact, being involved with Visionaries has inspired Chung to create a short film based on her own family’s experiences.
Per HBO, this year’s Short Film Competition theme is “Taking The Lead,” providing an opportunity for filmmakers to shine a light on their lived experiences and showcase their culture on a bigger screen. Submissions are open now through April 1 and the complete rules and guidelines are at www.hbovisionaries.com.
Check out the video below to learn more about HBO’s 2021 APA Visionaries Short Film Competition.