The project really started as an innocent thought: As Asian American and Asian, Jon and I wanted to make something for AANHPI Heritage Month on our own. We weren’t really sure what exactly this would be at the beginning. In the midst of the pandemic, there were so many anti-Asian hate crimes being broadcast that there was a sense our identity had been shrunk into the “victim” column, and we wanted to make something to reiterate that we are human and part of this society.
It was mostly just Jon and I meeting up with the person we were interviewing in a restaurant, cafe or wherever we could meet. With me shooting with a Sony A7S, Jon recording with a H6N—sometimes he’d have to be a human C-stand—it’s like we were back in film school, doing a run-and-gun music video. Even though we didn’t have any budget, we had total freedom and creative control, and there was something liberating about our small operation.
What surprised me was the sincere conversations we were able to have. I was deeply moved by how honest and open our interviewees were, considering the majority of them were total strangers to us before the day we met. Through the conversations, I couldn’t help but notice the theme of generational trauma that our community has been through and is still living with.
I believe it was our heritage that gave us a base layer of trust. I also feel like because the AANHPI community doesn’t get highlighted much by the mainstream media (when it does, it’s most often because something negative was involved), when we asked people if they would like to be part of “Defy,” I could tell they were genuinely excited about it.