“My Name Is Asiroh,” written and directed by Asiroh Cham, is featured on the X1 International destination this November in the Randall Park collection. We had the pleasure of asking Asiroh what inspired her filmmaking journey and how her Cham-American heritage influences her work.
Tell us about your film featured on X1 this month.
Asiroh Cham: My short [film] is about a young girl who is being bullied in school because of her unique name. She is convinced she wants to change her name and tells her father about her plan. He reveals that she can change her name if she really wants to, but she should know the truth about how magical her name is first. As he tells her about the history of her name and family, her imagination activates, and her stuffed animals take on a life of their own revealing an incredible story of her parents’ escape from the Khmer Rouge.
How did you get into filmmaking?
AC: Growing up as a first generation Cham-American, we didn’t have any literature or films or anything media-wise about us, so I wanted to start telling stories about our community. I was worried that the incredible stories of my parents’ generation, many of whom survived war and genocide to start a new life here, would disappear. So I joined the Asian-American Studies grad program at UCLA, and I took EthnoCommunications with the legendary Bob Nakamura and learned how to make my first film to archive and share some of these stories.
What are some films and/or filmmakers who have inspired you?
AC: I love Spencer Nakasako’s work especially his documentary “A.K.A. Don Bonus.” It’s about a Cambodian-American teenager whose family resettled in a San Francisco project. It’s an honest, raw and heart-wrenching coming-of-age type story—it’s done diary style, and I just kept rooting for Sokly Don Bonus. I also like true crime—not sure what this says about me—but I was riveted by “Making a Murderer,” “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father” and “O.J.: Made in America.” Two other classic favorites of mine: “The NeverEnding Story” and “Coming to America.”
How does your Asian heritage influence your work?
AC: Being a Cham-American motivates me to get stories from and about our community out. It’s still rare to meet people who have heard of the Cham people. I think it’s easy when you come from a marginalized community to feel invisible and that your voice or viewpoint doesn’t matter. This is what motivates me to keep telling stories, especially from non-mainstream perspectives in the hopes that someone can connect and feel inspired to tell their stories.
What is your outlook on the state of Asian-American cinema?
AC: While it’s been nice to see a few more Asian-Americans on screen and in the media, I think the media, film industry and Hollywood at large still has a long way to go. There are still only a handful of Asian-Americans that are featured in mainstream movies and shows, which is striking when there are so many talented Asian-Americans out there. Even with the scathing critiques about the lack of diversity (#OscarsSoWhite) in 2016, Asians were still made fun of on the Oscars! There’s just this disconnect and insensitivity that completely misses the mark with Asian-Americans.
On the positive, it’s been nice to see notable Asian-Americans push for more visibility and opportunity in Hollywood. And my hope is their voices continue to be heard and we see a new era with more diverse faces, voices and stories.
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