Friday, May 6, 2011

Visible Minorities

This weekend I attended a screening at the 27th Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, where I saw Jeff Chiba Stearns' documentary One Big Hapa Family and Patricio Ginelsa's short The Journey.  Issues of multicultural identification have always been very compelling to me, and especially after seeing Kip Fulbeck's exhibits on the issue at the Japanese American National Museum, I was eager to see what looked like a warmhearted look at one Japanese-Canadian family's history with intermarriage.

Chiba Stearns looked around at his family reunion and realized that after his grandparents' generation, no one had married within the same race.  Consequently, all of his siblings, cousins, and their children, are of mixed Japanese and Caucasian heritage.  His documentary explores the questions of why his parents' generation married outside their race, what impact that had, and what his hapa relatives have to say about identity.  At the screening, we only saw the abbreviated 45 minute cut, but the DVD includes the full-length feature, which goes further with interviewing his young cousins about their hapa identity.

One Big Hapa Family does not cover any new ground that Kip Fulbeck hasn't explored before, but his documentary could be a good introduction for people curious about issues of multiethnic identity.  It's appropriate for all ages, and its innovative uses of animation integrated with footage would entertain children as well as adults.  It also taught me about parallels between Japanese-Canadian and Japanese-American history, which was interesting.  For those interested, you can find more information at Chiba Stearns' website, where DVDs are on sale for $20.  Proceeds go to fund the documentary he is currently making about the need for multiracial bone marrow donors.

My personal thoughts on multiethnic identity as an American with multiple cultural identifiers are...numerous.  For now I'll just shill One Big Hapa Family.

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