HomeBad Ass AsiansCreating robust AAPI networks at Sundance builds strength
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Creating robust AAPI networks at Sundance builds strength

By Erin Chew

As a first timer going to Sundance alone, the experience is both valuable and daunting. As someone with an Asian background, it is natural to want to find networks, events and groups of other Asians to join. Despite the festival being considered a small community where people will bump into other people, the space where the festival is held at Park City, Utah is vast. The cold and snow make it even more difficult to organically create networks.

This is why spaces, events and networks created by Asians/AAPIs for other Asians/AAPIs at the festival is extremely important. Creating that community and that support network is so important – not just as a show of numbers, but to also demonstrate the talents and the diversity of Asians/AAPIs present at the festival who all come for different reasons.

One of these initiatives was the Sunrise Collective started by Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii Five-0, Always Be My Maybe, Joy Ride) in his capacity as running 3AD– a production company which is currently producing the television series The Good Doctor. It was Kim who instigated creating this and invited Bing Chen- CEO and Co-Founder for Gold House and Norman Chen – CEO for The Asian American Foundation (TAAF), in collaborating.

Daniel Dae Kim( Center) with Norman Chen (Left)  and Bing Chen (right)
Sunrise Collective Photo (From L-R: Norman Chen of TAAF, Daniel Dae Kim and Bing Chen of the Gold House)

Kim reminisces on his intentions and reasons for wanting this initiative to occur. As someone who is successful in his craft and passionate about his Asian and Korean American identity, Daniel has never shied away from speaking up. During the traumatic period of anti-Asian hate during the COVID-19 pandemic, Daniel with other AAPI actors and personalities used their platform to speak out against the hate that was and still is happening.

“A lot of things have happened in my life, and I feel the pain of being discriminated, rejected and isolated based on my cultural background growing up and even in my adulthood. In 2020, I was at Sundance, and I noticed walking around Main Street (where the majority of festival films and events are held), that there were support networks and ‘houses’ for the Latinx community and the Black community at the festival. Sitting in some of these ‘houses’ made me think about creating one for Asians/AAPIs, and after speaking to Sundance, Bing and Norman, it finally came to fruition this year”, Daniel told AsAmNews at a recent interview.

For Bing Chen, this type of initiatives is the purpose of Gold House – which is all about creating and unifying the voices of the Asian/AAPI community in different sectors. To create a space for Asian/AAPIs to congregate, learn, network and enjoy themselves whilst at Sundance is a privilege and honor to be a part of.

“Working together on this as a collaboration for our community is one of the greatest satisfactions for me as someone who lives and breathes this work. I will also add that without our community coming to Sundance, as filmmakers, press, actors, producers, film crew members, community and organizational leaders etc this space wouldn’t be possible, so it is really a two-way street”, Bing discussed.

The community is still recovering from the pain and trauma of being racial targets during the pandemic. For Norm Chen, that time period is important as it also marked the founding of TAAF. However, he also feels there needs to be positivity in seeing the community get its work done, in order to be seen, heard and engaged with.

  • Sundance Sunrise Collective

“At TAAF, we do a lot of work in anti-Asian hate. We were founded immediately after the Atlanta spa shootings. So anti-Asian hate is one of TAAFs core pillars of work, and we still see members of our community living in pain and fear. Nowadays, we do not hear a lot on the mainstream media about anti-Asian hate and we want to ensure the world doesn’t forget it. However, not everything is doom and gloom. To be part of this ‘Sunrise collaboration’, is an opportunity to heal and send an uplifting message of hope and recovery and for us that is what is most encouraging and growing”, Norman discussed.

Despite all this, one positive (if it can be put that way) that has come out of anti-Asian hate, is that it has made the Asian/AAPI community more cohesive, strong and united. Films and series such as Everything, Everywhere all at Once and limited series Beef have received mainstream awards and acknowledgement, filmmakers such as Chloe Zhao are recognized as one of the most decorated directors and series such as Squid Game revolutionized the viewing habits of audiences all over. And this is really just the start. Daniel discusses this aspect and mentioned that many of these achievements have only happened due to how strong the community has become.

“I would say one of the silver linings of the anti-Asian hate period is that the pain and trauma has bought our community closer together into something I really haven’t seen in my lifetime. You know sometimes it takes a crisis to circle the wagons, and we are talking more collectively and seeing our importance and significance in society. In addition, we have become more empowered to push out our content in the small and big screens, on stage, in boardrooms and in the sports arena etc. We also need to look at ally ship and acknowledge that powerful movement such as Black Lives Matter (BLM), have opened the door for diverse storytelling and have allowed communities of color to have pride in who they are”.

The Sunrise collective events was such an awesome initiative and in addition to 3AD, Gold House and TAAF, other events at Sundance were hosted by CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) and other groups, publicist companies and organizations.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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