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’Representation matters’: B.C. film festival shares stories to combat anti-Asian racism

The Vancouver Asian Film Festival is celebrating 25 years
The cover of the program for the 25th Vancouver Asian Film Festival. (VAFF photo)

Twenty-five years ago, Barbara Lee founded the Vancouver Asian Film Festival as a way to shine a spotlight on creative Asian-Canadian talent and dismantle discrimination.

“I’m really proud of the community we’ve built. It takes a village to get to 25 years,” Lee said. “Everybody believed that representation matters, that our stories matter and we need to tell them ourselves.”

Lee said when she founded the festival, she hoped that anti-racism work wouldn’t be needed 25 years in the future. But she says anti-racism work is needed now more than ever.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 2,265 incidents of anti-Asian racism in Canada. B.C. has the highest rate of incidents per capita out of any North American province or state. Vancouver is the city with the highest number of reported incidents per capita in North America.

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Elimin8Hate is the advocacy arm of the festival. Beyond film, the group has worked to organize workshops and support for the Asian diaspora. One of their programs is the ‘reclaim your name circle’. It’s common among the diaspora to westernize their names. Elimin8Hate encourages people to reclaim their traditional names and their Asian identity.

“If you share your name with someone else they’ll get it. It’s always a great place to start an easy conversation by introducing your name.”

Whether it’s learning someone’s name or hearing someone’s story, Lee said that proper representation can dispel racist stereotypes that people see in media.

“Their whole idea about a community or people or an entire race is based on what they see on T.V., we need to get a wider representation of what the Asian community is all about. We have a lot more in common than we have differences even though we may approach things from a different cultural lens. In the end, we’re all human.”

Folks living outside the Metro Vancouver area will be able to view VAFF films online on-demand. Tickets are $50 and films can be viewed from Nov. 8 to Nov. 13. Films can be viewed from anywhere in Canada.


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