Earlier this month, HBO announced the three finalists of the third annual Asian Pacific American Visionaries, a short film competition which showcases cinematic storytellers of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. Each film exemplifies this year’s theme of the modern Asian Pacific American (APA) experience. Filmmakers Julie Zhan (“Zoetic”), So Young Shelly Yo (“Moonwalk With Me”), and Nirav Bhakta (“Halwa”) will premiere their films at the 2019 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in May.
The finalists were selected from hundreds of submissions and were judged by a distinguished panel of HBO executives, industry leaders and fellow APA filmmakers. The three winning films touched on the subject of developing relationships and its complexities through the modern Asian American lens.
In 2016, HBO established the APA Visionaries competition to provide a platform for Asian Pacific American stories. The competition aims to further the dialogue about representation in Hollywood and the importance of diversity in entertainment.
“HBO is committed to uplifting the next generation of APA storytellers, talent and entertainment community at large,” said Jackie Gagne, VP Multicultural Marketing at HBO. “The recent surge in Asian American visibility is only the beginning and we hope this competition serves to continue this incredible momentum in Hollywood.”
“HBO Visionaries continues to provide a platform for the community to not only tell authentic stories, but shine a spotlight on all these amazing creatives,” said Sujata Day, APA Visionaries 2019 Ambassador. “It’s exciting to see HBO’s investment in the community by giving emerging directors a chance to be in the limelight.”
In addition to the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, HBO will debut the films on its on-demand and digital platforms (including HBO NOW®, HBO GO®, HBO On Demand® and partners’ streaming platforms) during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May.
Nirav Bhakta (“Halwa”) takes inspiration from his immigrant background to portray the challenges of the Asian diaspora. His films have been shown at film festivals around the world, including the prestigious UK Asian Film Festival. Halwa tells the story of an Indian woman who rekindles her relationship with a childhood sweetheart through Facebook messages, but her abusive husband takes notice. The film was co-directed by Gayatri Bajpai.
So Young Shelly Yo (“Moonwalk With Me”) is a Korean American filmmaker living in Los Angeles. She recently graduated from Columbia University where she received her MFA for screenwriting and directing. She was selected to be part of the Alfred P. Sloan Mentorship Program and was a finalist for the Sloan Screenplay Grant in 2018. Moonwalk With Me is about a Korean American girl who is haunted by her father’s disappearances and tells the story of the immigrant experience through a magical landscape.
Julie Zhan (“Zoetic”) is a Chinese American actress and filmmaker who has been an impassioned advocate for diverse representation in the media. She has used digital media as a platform for her performances. She has garnered over 100,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel, ShutUpAndDance. Zoetic is a coming of age story about a single, 60-year old Chinese immigrant mother who is challenged to think of her own wants and needs. She reluctantly agrees to join an online dating app with the help of her daughter. Through the experience, they begin to break through the emotional wall between Asian parent and child. Zoetic was co-directed by Wesley Chan, a co-founder of popular Asian American production company Wong Fu Productions.