May 25, 2023

AAPI Cultural Icons | Beyond Resilience

It would be impossible to stitch the cultural fabric of the U.S. without threading together the infinite stories of AAPI changemakers. Yet AAPI folx are continuously underrepresented in media – including the documentary film industry – both in front of and behind the lens. Thanks to organizations like the Center for Asian American Media and A-Doc who center AAPI filmmakers and communities with their programs, the breadth and diversity of AAPI cultural contributions are now being highlighted through numerous documentary projects.

On Thursday, May 25 from 4-5pm ET, Firelight Media hosted a Beyond Resilience conversation on YouTube Live that lifts up the stories of AAPI cultural icons as told by AAPI filmmakers. Moderator Gerry Leonard, Director of Filmmaker Services and Impact at Working Films, is joined by three Firelight Media-supported filmmakers whose films were recently featured at CAAMFest – the Center for Asian American Media’s annual festival of film, music and food: Ursula Liang (ESPN’s Jeanette Lee Vs.), Dustin Nakao-Haider (Firelight Media and American Masters’ Ethan Lim: Cambodian Futures), and Hao Zhou (Here, Hopefully from Firelight Media, CAAM & PBS).

In addition to discussing their latest films, the panelists take stock of recent advances toward representation across the industry and discuss continued barriers to entry for AAPI narratives, informed by their own creative and professional trajectories. By spotlighting the pathways by which our community of filmmakers are getting their stories told, this conversation also aims to act as a crucial resource for emerging filmmakers.

The Beyond Resilience Series is sponsored by Open Society Foundations. Beyond Resilience is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Field of Vision.

Accessibility notice: This event will include ASL interpretation and live closed-captions.

Participant Bios:

Gerry Leonard (he/him) is an impact strategist and organizer from Jakarta, Indonesia and currently based in Brooklyn, New York. He is the Director of Filmmaker Services and Impact at Working Films, an organization that leverages the power of documentary film and storytelling as a resource for social justice movements. He directs Working Films’ Docs in Action program that grants finishing funds for short documentaries, and the Impact Kickstart program that provides partnership and strategy development support and seed funding. Gerry brings into the field of narrative shift and culture change a background in community organizing—blending his experience in grassroots movement building and policy advocacy towards collective action and liberation. Before joining the Working Films team, Gerry worked on issues of food justice, voting rights, and police accountability. His leadership on a number of coalitions and boards have led to statewide advocacy initiatives to challenge the carceral system and collaborative funding opportunities for equitable and just community leadership. He currently serves on the Leadership Team of the Asian American Documentary Network (A-DOC), Advisory Board for OPEN DOORS, and the Steering Committee for Happy Family Night Market.

Ursula Liang is a print journalist-turned-filmmaker who has worked for The New York Times Op-Docs, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, ESPN The Magazine, WBAI, Hyphen magazine, the New Yorker Festival, and the 2050 Group. Her films include 9-Man, Down a Dark Stairwell, Jeanette Lee Vs., and Two Strikes, coming to FRONTLINE PBS in summer 2023.

Hao Zhou is a filmmaker originally from rural China and now based in the U.S. Midwest. Zhou’s work centers on marginalized voices and less-seen spaces, with a focus on LGBTQ+ themes. An alum of the Cinéfondation Résidence and Berlinale Talents, Zhou has directed an indie feature, The Night, which premiered at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival. Most recently Zhou’s work has been supported by Art With Impact and the Iowa Arts Council/Produce Iowa. In 2021, Zhou’s short film Frozen Out won a Gold Medal at the 48th Student Academy Awards. Zhou is currently working on multiple projects both nonfiction and narrative. Zhou documentary short film Here, Hopefully, part of the Homegrown: Future Visions series from Firelight Media, PBS, and the Center for Asian American Media, will stream via PBS digital platforms in June 2023.

Dustin Nakao-Haider is a Japanese-Desi American filmmaker from Chicago. A two time Emmy nominee, his feature length debut Shot in the Dark was supported by the Sundance Institute, Film Independent, ESPN Films, EFILM/Company 3, premiered on FOX, and was a New York Times Critics’ Pick. He has produced multiple seasons of docuseries on Netflix, ESPN+, and TNT. He directed the commercial doc series Dear Chicago (Bleacher Report/NBA on TNT) to promote the 2020 NBA All-Star Game; the series won Best Marketing Initiative at the 2021 Cynopsis Sports Media Awards. His short documentaries on Jay Z, Robinson Cano, Kendrick Lamar and others have garnered millions of views online. Most recently he co-wrote Pali, a play produced on the Stanford University main stage adapted from Indian writer Bhisham Sahni’s short story. Dustin is a co-founder of the production collective Bogie. Dustin's latest film, Ethan Lim: Cambodian Futures, part of season 2 of In the Making, a documentary short film series by Firelight Media and PBS American Masters, is now streaming.

July 18, 2024

The Power of the BIPOC Producer | Beyond Resilience

Join Firelight Media and the Documentary Producers Alliance on YouTube Live for a conversation about the power of BIPOC producers.

June 20, 2024

Beyond Resilience Masterclass: Making Music Docs that Sing

Firelight Media hosted a Beyond Resilience Masterclass with filmmakers behind some of the most lauded Black music documentaries of the decade.

May 10, 2024

Filming with Family | Beyond Resilience x CAAMFest Filmmaker Summit 2024

Join Firelight Media's Beyond Resilience series at CAAMFest Filmmaker Summit in San Francisco.

March 7, 2024

Interrogating the Festival to Awards Pipeline | Beyond Resilience

Firelight Media and Distribution Advocates hosted a conversation about navigating the festival to awards pipeline for documentary filmmakers.

January 25, 2024

The Optics of Islam | Beyond Resilience

A conversation with filmmakers and scholars about Muslim and MENASA representation.

December 7, 2023

The Documentary System is Broken. Now What? | Beyond Resilience

How can we band together to (re)build a system that will ensure independent filmmakers can thrive?

November 1, 2023

Palestinian Voices | Beyond Resilience

Beyond Resilience, with support from Field of Vision, is proud to be a community partner for the Arab Film & Media Institute's 'Palestinian Voices' program.

November 15, 2023

Navigating the Ethical and Business Landscape of Artificial Intelligence | Beyond Resilience

A conversation about the evolution of artificial intelligence and its impact on documentary filmmaking, presented with DOC NYC PRO.


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