Voices: Asian & Pacific Islander Representation in Film & Media

Voices: Asian & Pacific Islander Representation in Film & Media

Speakers

Sophia Ali (she/her)

Sophia Ali, Pakistani-American, has been committed to her acting career since she was just a child. Sophia grew up dancing and always had a love of the performing arts. She began booking roles in film, television and national commercials at 8 years old after the family relocated to Dallas. Sophia is best known for her roles as “Fatin” in the Amazon hit series “The Wilds” and Dr. Dahlia Qadri, a Muslim intern on “Grey’s Anatomy.” This summer, Sophia stars in the “India Sweet and Spices” premiering June 13 at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film follows Sophia’s character Alia who returns home for the summer to discover the secrets and lies in her parents' past that make her question everything she thought she knew about her family. In 2022, Sophia will star as the female lead in the Sony Pictures film “Uncharted” opposite Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. “Uncharted” is a prequel to the popular video games of the same name, starring Holland as a younger Drake, showing us details of how he came to meet and befriend Sully (Wahlberg).


Nina Yang Bongiovi (she/her)

NINA YANG BONGIOVI (Co-Founder, Significant Productions). Nina is a producer with in-depth knowledge of film financing, creative and physical producing, and a knack for discovering talent, like that of Ryan Coogler (Marvel’s Black Panther), whose first film, Fruitvale Station (2013) was produced by Nina and her producing partner, Forest Whitaker. Together under their banner, Significant Productions, Nina and Forest have produced a number of critically-acclaimed films by auteur filmmakers, including Dope (2015) by Rick Famuyiwa, Songs My Brothers Taught Me(2015) by Chloe Zhao, Roxanne Roxanne (2018) by Michael Larnell, and Sorry To Bother You (2018) by Boots Riley. Their latest movie Passing, is Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut based on Nella Larsen’s novel of the same name, premiered at 2021 Sundance Film Festival and will be released this Fall. They also serve as executive producers on EPIX’s hit tv show, Godfather of Harlem. Nina is a board member of Film Independent, The Oscar Grant Foundation, Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, The Producers Guild of America, as well as a member of The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences’ Producers Branch, and the Television Academy. She is fluent in Mandarin, Chinese, and received her graduate degree in Entertainment Management from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California.

Significant Productions’ mission is to create opportunities and push inclusivity for underrepresented narratives and storytellers by championing culturally significant films and television shows starring BIPOC talent, alongside diversified representation behind the camera.


Albert Cheng (he/him)

Albert Cheng is Chief Operating Officer and Co-Head of Television at Amazon Studios. As COO of the Studio, he leads studio teams responsible for programming and release schedules, TV and feature film music, consumer insights research, technology and applications. As Co-Head of Television, both he and Vernon Sanders lead a team responsible for television creative development, business affairs, casting and production / post-production.


Stephanie Hsu (she/her)

STEPHANIE HSU can be seen in the highly-anticipated upcoming film from The Daniels, Everything Everywhere All At Once. In this independent feature produced by The Russo Brothers, Stephanie and Michelle Yeoh star as universe-jumping, mother-daughter rivals. Stephanie is currently in production on season four of Amazon’s hit show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, as the provocative love-interest to Joel Maisel, Midge's estranged husband. The cast won a SAG Award in 2020 for best ensemble in a comedy series. Stephanie originated the role of Christine Canigula in the audience favorite Broadway sensation, Be More Chill. For this performance Stephanie received a Lucille Lortel Award nomination and a Drama Desk Award Nomination. She has performed all over NYC from downtown to uptown making her Broadway debut as Karen The Computer in SpongeBob Squarepants The Musical. Her past television and film credits include a recurring role on The Path opposite Aaron Paul, Awkwafina is Nora from Queens, Femme, Set It Up, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Girl Code. For more, follow @hsulace.


Daniel Dae Kim (he/him)

DANIEL DAE KIM has made a career of creating multifaceted and stereotype-breaking roles as an actor and producer. Currently, he can be seen in NBC’s “New Amsterdam” playing trauma surgeon, Cassian Shin. He also stars in the Netflix film “Stowaway,” opposite Toni Collette and Anna Kendrick, as well as in the Sundance favorite “Blast Beat.” Most recently, Kim was announced as one of the leads in National Geographic’s scientific thriller anthology series, “The Hot Zone: Anthrax,” and can also be heard in Disney’s animated feature, “Raya and the Last Dragon.” In addition to his work in film and tv, Daniel has been an outspoken advocate for diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry and culture at large. In 2015, Kim forged a new path in his career by creating his own production company, 3AD. With the goal of featuring those traditionally underrepresented in front of, and behind the camera, 3AD is currently developing a number of projects, as well producing ABC’s current hit, “The Good Doctor, ” where he serves as Executive Producer.


Julia Kim (she/her)

Julia Kim is an Independent Casting Director. The films she's worked on have been recognized by a multitude of top-tier film festivals.

Julia has served numerous times on Film Independent's various nominating committees and on the Short Film Jury of the LA Film Festival. In 2020, Julia was invited into The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She also serves as a member of the Casting Society of America's Equity in Entertainment Committee and continues to champion inclusion with a side project called InvAsianLA, that helps aspiring Asian actors learn to better navigate the Hollywood landscape.


Hari Kondabolu (he/him)

Hari Kondabolu is a comedian, writer and filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. A former immigrants organizer with a Masters in Human Rights, the NY TImes described him as "one of the most exciting political comics in stand-up today." His standup special "Warn Your Relatives" on Netflix was greeted with critical acclaim, as was his documentary "The Problem with Apu," which began an international conversation about race and representation.


Elaine Low (she/her)

Elaine is a senior reporter for Variety covering the business of television, with a focus on media strategy, executive leadership, and evolving platforms and business models. She’s written cover stories on Netflix’s global programming strategy, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn’s fashion-meets-e-commerce series at Amazon Studios, and Hollywood’s reckoning over representation in the wake of national Black Lives Matter protests. She has also covered issues of pay equity, gender parity and representation among industry assistants and TV writers.

She has moderated panels for Variety’s TV Summit and Streaming Room series, the 2018 United State of Women, and local women’s entrepreneur events in Los Angeles. Prior to her time in a newsroom, she co-created “Annie Undocumented,” inspired by her experience growing up as an undocumented youth. The show won Best Short-Form Web Series at the 2014 New York Television Festival.


Sanjay Sharma (he/him)

Sanjay Sharma is the founder and CEO of Marginal Mediaworks, an Imagine Entertainment Company. MARGINAL is a new media studio focused on popular storytelling genres from outsider voices, across all formats – from controlled budget film & television, to interactive series and podcasts.

Sharma was born in India and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  He is a graduate of Columbia University, where he studied film and history, and the Stanford Law School, after which he clerked on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.


Celine Parreñas Shimizu (she/her)

An award-winning film scholar and filmmaker, Celine Parreñas Shimizu is Full Professor and Director of the School of Cinema at San Francisco State University. Her work focuses on race and sexuality at the site of representation in global popular culture. In addition to her five books, she publishes widely in top journals such as Concentric, Frontiers: Journal of Women’s Studies, Journal of Asian American Studies, Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, positions, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Signs, Sexualities, Theater Journal, Wide Angle and Yale Journal of Law and Feminism. Currently, she is Associate Editor of GLQ and has reviewed grants and fellowships for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation. She serves on film juries and has produced and directed two feature films and several shorts. She received her Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University (2001), her M.F.A. in Production and Directing from UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television (1996), and her B.A. in Ethnic Studies from U.C. Berkeley (1992). For more, go to www.celineshimizu.com


Jose Antonio Vargas (he/him)

Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and Tony-nominated producer. A leading voice for the human rights of immigrants, he founded the non-profit media advocacy organization Define American, named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company. In 2020, Fortune named him one of its “40 under 40” most influential people in government and politics. His best-selling memoir, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, was published by HarperCollins in 2018. His second book, White Is Not a Country, will be published by Pantheon Books in 2023.


Dr. Nancy Wang Yuen (she/her)

Nancy Wang Yuen is a sociologist and associate professor at Biola University. She is the author of 'Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism' and co-author of 'Tokens on the Small Screen: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Prime Time and Streaming Television.' She has appeared on PBS, NPR, MSNBC, CBS News, NBC News, BBC World and Dr. Phil. She is a guest writer at CNN, NBC, Newsweek, Elle, and Self.


Performers

Amber Liu (she/her)

A California native, Amber Liu was discovered at the age of 15 at SM Entertainment’s global auditions in Los Angeles. Following a move to South Korea, she debuted in 2009 as a member of the female group f(x). The record-breaking electro-pop-based K-pop group quickly became one of the industry’s most popular and award-winning. In 2013, the group became the first K-pop act to perform at SXSW, with the New York Times’ Jon Pareles calling their performance “impeccable.” f(x)’s 2013 album ‘Pink Tape’ was called “one of the best Asian pop albums of all-time,” by Pitchfork and charted #1 on Billboards K-Pop Hot 100 and World Album charts. In 2015, Amber’s first solo release, the critically acclaimed album “Beautiful”, debuted at #2 on Billboard’s World Albums chart, with the title track’s music video, released the same day, garnering more than 1 million YouTube views in its first day of release. She has also made a career on television and film hosting travel and variety shows in South Korea and starring in the American indie film The Eagle and the Albatross. Amber’s presence on social media continues to grow globally with more than 13 million followers across her Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, Weibo, and more.


Alyssa Navarro (she/her)

Diversity & Inclusion champion with a focus and passion for diversifying the types stories we tell and who tells them.

With a background in the entertainment industry on both the front and back end, Alyssa brings a unique skill set to the table with experience in entertainment, written and verbal communication, creative marketing, public relations and social media.


AJ Rafael (he/him)

California Native  singer-songwriter, YouTuber, and TikToker, AJ Rafael. Born in Moreno Valley, California, AJ released an extended play titled Juicebox. He released his debut album Red Roses in 2011 and toured Southeast Asia and Australia.

Inspired by the film Crazy Rich Asians, he started the Crazy Talented Asians variety show in 2018 to showcase Asians in the performing arts community. He has organized charity concerts for Autism Speaks since 2006 and started Music Speaks, an annual charity concert that informs people about autism. In 2020, Rafael released "Waking Up Sucks (Sometimes)". He posted to TikTok an impromptu duet he did with his girlfriend, Alyssa Navarro, of the Mulan song "Reflection". Filmed while they were in quarantine in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic in California, the video went viral, accruing over 10 million views.

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