Filmmaker Spotlight: Narissa Lee

The Bus Pass“—a short directed, edited and written by Narissa Lee—is featured on the X1 Asian American destination this June. We had the chance to ask Narissa what inspired her filmmaking journey and how her Asian American background influences her work.

Photo: Narissa Lee


Tell us about your film featured on X1 this month.

Narissa Lee: A woman sees the person of her dreams on the train on her way home from work. Will she make contact before her stop? “The Bus Pass” is a playful short I made with a few friends. I hope people enjoy the ride.

How did you get into filmmaking?

NL: Films have the ability to move, inspire, and haunt us. I wanted to learn how to create these audio, visual experiences, emotional landscapes, and provocative narratives that capture people’s imaginations. That and in college, film classes consisted of watching films for a majority of the period versus listening to a lecture. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

What are some films and/or filmmakers who have inspired you?

NL: Shunji Iwai’s “All About Lily Chou Chou,” Lars Von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark,” and director Zhang Yimou have laid the foundation for what I consider rapturing narrative cinema, with honest, full-bodied characters struggling with such devastating realities. These films and filmmakers explore and confront notions of escapism while critiquing and challenging social, political norms and relationships. I’ve also been inspired by the vanguards of women of color filmmakers like Julie Dash and Lourdes Portillo.

Photo: Narissa Lee

Do you have a favorite Asian American film?

NL: Chan is Missing” is such a great classic. And “The Debut” is a fun coming of age story.

How or does your Asian heritage influence your work? 

NL: Each person has a unique outlook and perspective on life but the cultural upbringing, norms, and values from our families and communities profoundly affect the ways in which we engage the world and other people. Film language is an extension of our own language. From the way we collaborate with people, to the writing stage to the types of shots, to composition, to who we choose to center, or if there is even a center to a narrative, all of these things are informed by what shapes us. My Asian heritage, along with my socio-economic background, ways I’ve been marginalized or am privileged, the communities I choose to stand with, all of these things inform my art and my work.

Photo: Narissa Lee

What is your outlook on the state of Asian American cinema? 

NL: This is such an exciting time for cinema by and for people of color and marginalized communities. There is so much talent in our community and so many stories to share about the Asian American experience. From “Advantageous” to “Bitter Melon” to “Crazy Rich Asians,” I can’t wait to see what else is brewing. And I also hope that we support and engage more from communities whose voices have been largely invisible even within what we consider Asian American.

What’s next for you?

NL: Short films are like short-term commitments. Now I am motivated to meet that feature-length film that I can have a long-term relationship with. I’m also exceptionally grateful to be making media for The Malaya Movement and ICHRP-US, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.. You can see my recent work with our media team on the ICHRP-US Facebook page. Using film to convey the importance of defending human rights and marginalized communities is exactly where I need to be right now, and likely until we can live in ways that benefit all life, not just a select few.
Photo: Narissa Lee



Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Narissa Lee! Watch “The Bus Pass” on the X1 Asian American destination or with Xfinity Stream this June. Just say “Asian American” into your Xfinity X1 Voice Remote!

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For more Filmmaker Spotlights or Asian American news and entertainment visit Xfinity Asian American.