This year marks its 39th year in the running

The Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) 2016 starts today in New York City.

The festival celebrates Asian and Asian American cinema and showcases the best films from this category. The 39th annual festival will take place between 21 July and 30 July 2016.

Produced by Asian CineVision (ACV), the festival is the nation’s longest running festival of its kind, dating back too 1978. AAIFF uses film and media as a tool for social progression and to encourage diversity in independent cinema.

The festival is annually held during the summer in New York City, bringing together Asian and American filmmakers and media artists that span across a diverse range of styles and genres.

How did the festival begin?

Grassroots media activists Christine Choy, Peter Chow, Danny Yung and Thomas Tam founded Asian CineVision, a nonprofit media organisation under the name of CCTV (Chinese Cable TV) in New York’s Chinatown.

The organisation is “dedicated to promoting and preserving Asian and Asian American media expressions.”

The founders saw the need to spread the awareness of the Asian American experience and history to the rest of the community as well as the greater public. They wanted to address problems faced by the Asian American communities, including representation, through the use of technologies and outlets available at the time. As these technologies grew, new possibilities for Asian Americans emerged, including roles behind and in front of the cameras.

The first Asian American Film festival was held in 1987, marking the first festival in the US to showcase the best in independent Asian and Asian American cinema. The three-day festival, that was held at the Henry Street Settlement on New York’s Lower East side, featured 46 films and videos. Later screening venues would include New York University (1979-1984), Rosemary Theatre (1985-1995), The French Institute (1996-2001), Asia Society (2002-2008), Chelsea Clearview Cinema, School of Visual Arts, Quad Cinema and Museum of Chinese in America (2009–present).

Over the years, AAIFF has screened films from over twenty countries including: Canada, China (Hong-Kong and mainland), India, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Iran, Germany, England, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Cuba, Indonesia, and Bhutan.

In addition to the annual AAIFF, ACV has also organised the National Festival Tour, Children’s Film Festival, Videoscape and other exhibitions in film.

What’s happening this year?

This year’s 10-day festival will be held July 21 – July 30, 2016 at various venues in Manhattan and Queens. The festival will feature almost 50 films.

Films will also be eligible for prestigious awards presented by the festival.

Award Categories:
Emerging Directors (narrative feature filmmakers)
Emerging Directors (documentary feature filmmaker)
Excellence in Short Filmmaking
Audience Choice (Feature-length film)
Youth Vision One-to-Watch Award

The full schedule for the festival can be found here.