Since 2011, the Seattle Shorts Film Festival has offered a lineup of eclectic, non-feature length movies. This year’s choices include several with Asian and Asian American actors and directors.
In Creased, 18-year-old Kayla struggles with her Asian American ethnicity. Living in middle class suburbia, surrounded by white friends and associates, she tries too hard to blend in. One night, while getting ready for a party, she carefully applies makeup while her BFF watches. Meticulously taping her eyelids, so that her eyes appear larger and more Westernized, Kayla ignores her WASP-y friend’s probing questions. It’s clear that Kayla feels ashamed of her distinctly Asian eyes, but there’s no time for discussion as the girls rush off to join the soiree.
At the party, a white boy flirts with Kayla and, just when she’s feeling confident about being accepted, he asks her the dreaded, “where are you from” question. When Kayla casually replies that she’s from the area, he presses her: “No, like, originally,” he insists. One mishap leads to another as Kayla navigates the space between being different and her overwhelming desire to be like everyone else. Even her BFF alludes to Kayla’s Asian background being the deal breaker that got her into a prestigious college—the same one that rejected the BFF, despite their having the same GPAs.
The movie’s title, Creased, refers to the fold in a double eyelid that most East Asians don’t have. Sadly, many of them opt for the most popular cosmetic surgery among Asians, the one that permanently adds the crease despite its inability to erase the person’s race. Local director Jade Justad shows a lot of promise with this short that she hopes to turn into a feature length film someday.
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Another local filmmaker, Long Tran of Renton High School, addresses gender issues in Trapped: A Transgender Documentary. Should a pretty senior named Bruce Sabado Buenaventura, with glowing tresses and rosy lips, be addressed as Brooklyn instead? She thinks so; informing the audience that although she was born Bruce, that name is “too guyish, and too boyish” for her. Brooklyn, or even Brook, suits her better, she says.
With her shiny hair and lush, painted mouth, Brooklyn wins the hearts of her classmates to become a prom queen. Posing in front of a mirror, she snatches off a thick wig and gleefully admonishes everyone to “be yourself” and “love yourself.” Hopefully, Long will be able to grow this short film into something, well, a little longer.
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A distressed couple and their child arrives at “The Red House,” a home of ill repute in 1915 China—a time when Chinese girls were routinely sold. The impoverished mother can’t bear to let her six-year-old daughter, Amei, go; yet she has no choice. Either the rest of the family eats, or they will all starve. So the child is handed over to a prostitute named FangFang for excruciating foot binding and unsolicited advice that “suffering pain” is every woman’s legacy. Like the rest of the women in The Red House, FangFang has experienced her share of misery as she services men in exchange for money. But in spite of that, FangFang has done such an outstanding job collecting tips for years that she’s very close to being able to buy back her contract and set herself free. Or, will she allow her heart to rule?
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The main character in the animated The Wishgranter is so good at his job that he’s become listless and bored. From his basement lab, he watches as people approach a large fountain outside to toss coins and make their dreams come true. Sitting at his console, the wish granter is able to bring their hopes to fruition with just a flick of a button. But what most of them ask for is so mundane that he impatiently rolls his eyes when one man drops in a coin and the wish granter responds by sending him paper money. Suddenly, a man and a woman arrive from separate directions, each making a wish for true love. Unfortunately, their tossed coins get stuck in the pipe leading to the basement lab. Rushing outside to help them find each other, the wish granter can’t seem to do anything right. Echo Wu, a recent art school grad, is one of three animators that created this charming CGI tale.