Engagement and Connection Through Asian Cinemacsudhbulletin September 23, 2021 0 COMMENTS
Highlighting Asian culture through cinema and discussion. Courtesy of the Asian Film Watch Party
By Lloyd Bravo, Staff Reporter
The Asian Film Watch Party is not a club but an experience that showcases the world of Asian cinema, with animated online discussions from former and current students, and hosted by a professor who wants to provide a safe space.
Dr. Katherine Chu is a professor of Asian-Pacific studies at California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH). After the school canceled in-person classes, Chu was devastated being isolated from her students and the campus.
“Suddenly in mid-March our campus closed down…and we were forced to go online, ” Chu said. “That was one of the hardest semesters, not only for me, but for my students as well.”
Some students who kept in contact with Chu after the semester expressed their hardships during the early months of the pandemic lockdown.
“My students told me that they lost their jobs or a family member and they were very upset about the whole situation,” Chu said.
The professor, a fan of films, has often incorporated the medium as part of her curriculum. Using the art of cinema as a backdrop, Chu decided to create a pocket of comfort for her distressed students.
Chu created the Asian Film Watch Party to provide a safe haven for those in need of in-person interaction.
Emails were sent out by the professor in March of 2020 for students to join the first screening, as a place to relax with a few peers. The online gatherings were non-mandatory for students.
Each film is available on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, accessible for students to interact with each other during the film.
More meetings were held throughout the summer break and extended into the Fall semester. A Google spreadsheet has been created to keep track of each movie suggestion as the list has grown to include over 150 Asian-created and inspired movies.
One of the key reasons Chu started hosting these events was to provide a platform for her students and others interested in Asian cinema to voice their opinion and knowledge on the subject.
“I want my students to be exposed to Asian films which are relevant to my class, but also to expose them to more Asian culture,” Chu said.
Chu made the watch parties a mandatory requirement for her fall 2021 curriculum Spring 2021. The watch party assignment is based on attendance to the event and participating in the chat room, which has brought an exciting and enjoyable aspect to each online meeting.
Winnie Pow is a former student of Chu and graduated from CSUDH, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a minor in Asian Pacific Studies, still attends the watch parties.
“We make it really interesting in the chat,” Pow said. “That is the beauty of the watch party; you’re not just watching a movie but you’re also learning.”
However, it is more than a friendly and entertaining atmosphere for Pow, it is also about recognizing and appreciating the Asian culture.
“This generation [uses] social media that can reach different countries and markets,” Pow said. “[Asian Culture] is getting bigger and bigger.”
Pow, who is now enrolled in the Masters of Public Administration program, credits Chu and the watch party for her increased interest in Asian-Pacific studies that led her into earning her minor.
These meetings have become a recreational routine for Pow as it keeps her engaged in Asian culture.
“My class assignment has become my weekly activity,” Pow said.
Ace Buenavides, a Business Administration Major, has started his first semester at CSUDH and is enrolled in Chu’s Asian-Pacific studies class.
Buenavides also enjoys the welcoming atmosphere of the online gatherings but also likes uncovering new cinema that he would not seek without the online film conclave.
“Even if it was not a part of the curriculum, I would still join,” Buenavides said “[There are] a lot of films that I would not be necessarily exposed to and it’s great for me to expand my taste and interest.”
Chu has received feedback from her students praising the watch parties because of the highly interactive chat which has helped them retain more information and understanding about each film.
“The students actually learn more from the watch parties than my lectures,” Chu said.
It has been over a year since the concept of the watch party was generated. A safe space for isolated students has turned into a community event that welcomes all current and former students to participate, appreciate, and learn about Asian cinema and culture.
“Being in the chat is sometimes more fun than watching the actual film,” Chu said
The Asian Film Watch Parties are on Saturday evenings from 9:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. To participate, join the google groups page to find links to each upcoming event.