This year, Seattle Asian American Film Festival is celebrating ten years of sharing Asian American independent films with the Pacific Northwest! From our very first year at the Tateuchi Story Theatre in the Wing Luke Museum in 2013, to having three concurrent screens in Capitol Hill at our last in-person festival in February 2020, the growth of our festival and community in the past decade has been an amazing journey.

On the cusp of the first lockdown in March 2020, we had not even fathomed that our tenth anniversary would be anything other than in-person. Little did we imagine that our festival that year would be the last large gathering many would enjoy before our lives turned upside down. Our pivot to a virtual festival last year allowed us to showcase the biggest lineup of films ever over 11 days and reached a broader audience than before. With the accessibility of programs and the ability to watch content at your own pace, the shift to virtual spaces has been a welcome one as we continue to evolve to meet our audience’s needs.

Since the beginning, SAAFF has been run by passionate volunteers dedicated to organizing meaningful and engaging events centering Asian American storytellers and artists. The festival was first founded in hopes of filling the lack of Asian American films playing in Seattle with a simple goal: that people would show up.

At the root of Asian American cinema’s inception was the need to push against the grain, create space and stories for us, and honor the histories and lived experiences of our diverse communities and cultures. Through the hundreds of films and dozens of programs and events we have shared through the years, SAAFF’s impact has been immeasurable. Beyond seeing ourselves on the screen, supporting our festival meant directly uplifting creators, performers, and entrepreneurs, and contributing to a supportive community to spotlight underrepresented voices and grassroots movements.

Looking back at the past ten years of our festival, we continue to grow only with the support and development of our local community supporters, businesses, and organizations, as well as the fast-growing community of Asian American creatives. With deep gratitude we want to thank everyone who has attended, supported, or contributed to SAAFF, without whom our festival would not have been nearly as successful without.

Our design theme this year was inspired by the growth of the SAAFF community in the past ten years. It encompasses SAAFF’s ‘character’ and community, representing growth, a sense of pride and wonder, creativity, longevity, and celebration. We are immensely proud of what the film festival has come to represent in our community in Seattle and beyond, and every year we bloom taller and brighter thanks to everyone who supports us.

We had hoped to gather in-person this year to celebrate, but for the safety of our community, staff, and volunteers, we made the tough decision to have a virtual festival with a number of limited drive-in screenings. We have over 100 films, including 13 feature films and 12 shorts programs.  Some may be challenging to watch, from confronting and working through traumas to grieving the loss of loved ones. Other films will uncover insightful histories you may not know or share bright moments that are much needed in these tumultuous times. We hope the films and conversations shared in this year’s festival inspire, enlighten, and resonate with all of you.

Through triumphs, tragedies, and everything in-between, we have reflected upon, learned, and experienced so much in the past decade, as individuals and as a community. Being able to put together this film festival for all of you is an honor and privilege, and we hope SAAFF has, in some small way or another, touched your lives in a meaningful way. We look forward to growing alongside you in the years to come.

In community, with love,

Victoria Ju
Festival Co-Director, Volunteer since 2012

Ellison Shieh
Festival Co-Director, Volunteer since 2015

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