The Race Epidemic documentary premieres on May 13, 2021, at the Center for Asian American Media Film Festival (CAAMFest), the nation’s largest Asian American film festival. The Race Epidemic documentary is a significant film of our time as innocent Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are being attacked and murdered on our streets. The documentary tells the story of AAPIs and their unique history in America’s broader context of racism. Racism is America’s epidemic – it has plagued our nation since its inception. It attacks different groups more intensely at different times, but it always persists.
The Race Epidemic features interviews with CA Attorney General Rob Bonta, Congressmember Judy Chu (CA-27), Speaker of the CA Legislature Anthony Rendon, Assemblymember David Chiu (AD-17), Assemblymember Evan Low (AD-28), Thomas Saenz, Esq. of Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund (MALDEF) and other scholars and elected leaders. (Full cast list here).
CA Attorney General Rob Bonta says in the film: “A lot of people see the anti-immigrant rhetoric in action from the Federal Administration as a Latino issue, it is not simply a Latino issue, it is a human issue for sure but also very much an Asian issue. Our community is under attack with this anti-immigrant rhetoric.”
Ultimately, the film seeks to heal America through understanding, compassion, and knowledge. “A deep understanding of each other’s history and struggles is fundamental to us coming together as a nation. But, unfortunately, in times of economic uncertainty and fear, race has been used to divide us. This film can help people understand we are all in this together, and when one of us is attacked, we all suffer,” said Ronald Wong, writer, and producer of the documentary.
The documentary’s release comes amid widespread reports of discrimination and violence against AAPIs during the coronavirus outbreak; 32% of Asian adults say they have feared someone might threaten or physically attack them – a greater share than other racial or ethnic groups. The vast majority of Asian adults (81%) also say violence against them is increasing, far surpassing the share of all U.S. adults (56%) who say the same, according to a new Pew Research Center survey released just this week.
The time is right for this film and its important message. In selecting The Race Documentary for inclusion in CAAMFest, the selection committee said: “It’s an incredibly relevant film due to the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes. It was nice to see you connect the historical legacy of hate with what’s happening now. We think your film would be perfect for our festival.”
While recent attacks on AAPIs have tragically risen, this is not a new story, as it has played out throughout America’s history. For example, the Chinese Exclusion Act was preceded by riots in San Francisco and Los Angeles Chinatowns where Chinese laborers were murdered, and millions of dollars in property were destroyed because of the perceived threats and public health dangers the Chinese community posed.
However, this film is much more than just documenting history; it is also meant to stir emotions and actions. “I learned about the perceptions of Asian Americans through film. When I was growing up in Southern California, I was routinely ridiculed and bullied based on negative perceptions of AAPIs on the big screen. Negative stereotypes and demeaning portrayals of us has real effects on our community and the psyche of AAPIs,” said Tony Shyu, director, and writer of The Race Epidemic.
The documentary is being produced under the auspices of the Asian Pacific American Leadership Foundation (APALF), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. APALF’s mission is to engage the AAPI community in active civic participation by creating, supporting, building, and strengthening the local community infrastructure to help prepare and train qualified AAPI leaders for public service. In addition, the documentary will be used as part of an overall curriculum to help respond to bias, discrimination, and violence against AAPIs.
The Race Epidemic Documentary will be viewable at CAAMFest from May 13 to May 23. For more information, click here.