Filmmaker Spotlight: Ty Sanga 

The X1 Asian American destination will feature “Stones,” written, directed and produced by Ty Sanga . You can find the film in the Poly Power collection this April. We had the pleasure of asking Ty about his inspirations and how his Hawaiian heritage impacts his work.

Photo: Ty Sanga

Tell us about your film featured on X1 this month!

Ty Sanga: “Stones” is a short film based on an old Hawaiian legend. Set in ancient times, it is a story about a couple that lives in isolation and their world falls apart once they are discovered. “Stones” was the first Hawaiian language film to screen at the Sundance Film Festival.

How did you get into filmmaking?

TS: As an undergraduate at the University of Hawaiʻi’s Ethnic Studies department, I was exposed to documentaries by revolutionary filmmakers like Nā Maka o Ka ʻĀina and Vicky Keith of Windward Video. I never thought it was possible to see native Hawaiians or Asian Americans portrayed honestly on screen. It was our story. It left me speechless and I wanted more.

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

TS: I have a rotating list of directors that I always return to when I need inspiration; Akira Kurosawa, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and P. T. Anderson.

Do you have a favorite Asian American film?

TS: I was thrilled to see Justin Chon’s film “Gook“. Justin was able to weave a moving story about Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots. The film was raw and powerful, revealing the beauty of humanity. Another favorite that my brother and I enjoy is The Debut. It reminds me of every Filipino party we’ve been to. If you know, you know.

How does your Asian heritage influence your work?

TS: Being born and raised in Hawaiʻi, and being Hawaiian, Filipino, Chinese, it has given me a unique perspective on the world. Culture is a huge part of Hawaiʻi and we celebrate and value our diversity. It is not perfect, but that’s why it’s special. Hawaiʻi has been a global community since the 1800s. That is centuries of stories that still need to be told and I think my voice as a filmmaker reflects that.

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

TS: With “The Big Sick“, “Get Out“, and “Black Panther” there has been a shift in audience consumption. The industry has made it easy for audiences to access every type of film in the world and I believe there has been a fatigue of mainstream media. That is why voices like Justin Chon, Bong Joon-ho, and Taika Waititi are more valued than ever before. Audiences want a fresh perspective and investors and studios need to start taking notice.

What’s next for you?

TS: My show “Family Ingredients” is currently airing its second season and I am currently about to go into production on another short film. It is a heist movie that takes place after the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. It is a part of our history that most people in the world are not aware of but still weighs on the hearts and minds of the people of Hawaiʻi. I’m looking forward to bringing this story to life.
Photo: Ty Sanga

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Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Ty Sanga! Watch the “Stones” series on the X1 Asian American destination or with Xfinity Stream this April.

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