AAS Film Expo 2023 graphic banner with text display in green and blue



The AAS Film Expo was established as an Association for Asian Studies conference program in 2011 by the Asian Educational Media Service (AEMS) of the Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies as part of an outreach initiative promoting documentary and independent films on issues reflecting contemporary life in Asia.

The 2023 AAS Annual Conference will be held in person March 16-19, 2023 in Boston. The Film Expo will take place in the Sheraton Hotel (Hampton - 3rd Floor), Thursday, March 16 through Saturday, March 18.

The AAS FILM EXPO 2023 features 23 films with post screening Q&A’s (online or in-person) with filmmakers.

All film screenings are open to the public (conference registration is not required).





Life and Death in Xikun
Thursday, March 16, 12:30pm

Directed by Jiandong Huang. 2022. China. 89 minutes.
Country/region featured: China.

Kong Qingping, a 73rd generation grandson of Confucius, is invited to return to his ancestral farming village as the Secretary of the Party branch to lead the community towards economic wealth. His development plans for this mountainous area of eastern China are unexpectedly thwarted by a century old lawsuit that rises to the surface, reigniting conflict between ethnic groups. This documentary offers a portrait of the agricultural and emotional struggles countryside villagers confront as China drastically changes with modernity.

Distributed by Jiandong Huang


Thursday, March 16, 2:10pm

Directed by LIU XiaoFang. 2022. China. 61 minutes.
Country/region featured: China

This documentary is a portrait of two years in the life of Lei Lei, a female experimental artist. After breaking up with her boyfriend, Lei Lei decides to pursue pregnancy on her own, visiting a sperm bank to select the ideal sperm for her IVF baby.

Distributed by CathayPlay


Two Poets and a River
Thursday, March 16, 3:25pm

A film by Richard K. Wolf. 2021. USA. 75 minutes.
Country/region featured: Tajikistan and Afghanistan

IN-PERSON Q&A with Richard K. Wolf, Professor of Music and South Asian Studies, Harvard University.

Using the Oxus river as a topos, this film explores themes of love and loss through the lives and musical poetry of two Wakhi musicians in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The condition of being separated by a river in the region grounds the poets’ discussions of love and loss in their own lives as well as in their musical arts.

Distributed by Documentary Educational Resources. (Fall 2023)


Remembering Hamada Shoji & Bernard Leach Films: Mashiko and Pottery Villages Around Japan, 1934.
Thursday, March 16, 4:50pm

ONLINE Q&A with Marty Gross.

Remembering Hamada Shoji
Directed by Marty Gross. 2022. Japan/Canada/Spain. 43 minutes.
Country/region featured: Japan/Spain

"Remembering Hamada Shoji" was assembled from unseen outtake footage from The Art of the Potter, 1970, and follows a complete cycle of pottery making in the workshop of Hamada Shoji in Mashiko, Japan. In this documentary producer Marty Gross meets with Hamada's old friend, Catalan ceramic artist Joan Gardy Artigas in Gallifa, Spain in 2021. Artigas reminisces as he watches the film and speaks of his deep admiration of Hamada's working practices.


Bernard Leach Films: Mashiko and Pottery Villages Around Japan, 1934
With commentary by Takita Koichi

Directed by Marty Gross. 2022. Canada/Japan. 22 minutes.
Country/region featured: Japan

British potter Bernard Leach filmed in Japan and Korea in 1934-35. In this newly restored film, Leach follows pottery making at the workshop of his old friend Hamada Shoji. Potter Takita Koichi, who worked with Hamada in the early postwar-years comments on the film, sharing his memories of Hamada and explaining his understanding of meaning in craft.

Distributed by Marty Gross Film Productions, Inc.

Official Film Website


Try Harder!
Thursday, March 16, 7:00pm

A film by Debbie Lum and Un Kyong Ho. 2022. USA. 85 minutes.
Country/region featured: USA

IN-PERSON & ONLINE Q&A with Un Kyong Ho (Impact Producer)

Lowell High School is the top-ranked public high school in San Francisco – and the seniors are stressed out. At this majority Asian American high school, the students know that they’re often seen as robots and AP machines by college admissions officers. “Try Harder!” reveals the alarming reality of the American college application process and the intersection of class, race, and educational opportunity as experienced by five diverse high school seniors living through it.

Distributed by New Day Films
Official film website

FRIDAY, MARCH 17, 2023

A Boarding School
Friday, March 17, 8:30am

A film by Shalahuddin Siregar. 2019. Indonesia/Japan/Qatar. 99 minutes.
Country/region featured: Indonesia

ONLINE Q&A with Shalahuddin Siregar.

“A Boarding School” offers rare access inside an Islamic boarding school, and an insight into a traditional educational system that fosters good character-building based on a peaceful religious teaching that has been practiced in Indonesia for centuries. This observational approach documentary invites the audience to follow two students and two young teachers in Pondok Kebun Jambu Al-Islamy and experience the daily lives of the inhabitants of the school. Raising their students to respect and to have compassion towards others despite their differences, these schools are Indonesia’s last defense in the face of today’s rising extremism.

Distributed by Negeri Films.


Friday, March 17, 10:10am

Directed by Yang xiongxiang, Wangsisi, and Liyingzhi. Produced by Ranguangpei.
2021. China. 72 minutes.
Country/region featured: China

ONLINE Q&A with Ranguangpei.

In a rural boarding school in northeastern Yunnan, a group of high school students who had dropped out of school were actively persuaded by their teachers to return to school, an important part of the local "education poverty alleviation" program. However, although these students are inside the walls of the school, their hearts are outside the walls. After two years of filming, THE WALL follows the experiences of three junior high school students, Ho, Fan and Fei, who repeatedly drop out of school, recording the changes in their growth trajectory under the influence of their families, teachers, classmates and the pressure of further education.

Distributed by Ranguangpei.


Zhawong and Pooschi
Friday, March 17, 11:30am

Directed by Guo Sai. 2022. China. 27 minutes.
Country/region featured: China

ONLINE Q&A with Guo Sai.

Tibetan youth Zhawong and Pooschi are heirs of the younger generation of Xiangba Tibetan opera. Zhawong tries to awaken the ancient and mysterious beauty of Tibetan opera art with the power of youth, however his partner Pooschi believes that traditional Tibetan opera retains the essence of ancient culture and cannot be changed at any time.

Distributed by Tianjin Normal University.


Havana Divas
Friday, March 17, 12:10pm

Directed by S. Louisa Wei. 2018. China. 96 minutes.
Country/region featured: China / Cuba

IN-PERSON Q&A with Evelyn Hu-DeHart, Professor of History, American Studies and Ethnic Studies, Brown University.

HAVANA DIVAS offers a window into over 170 years of Chinese migration to Cuba by highlighting Cantonese opera performed for decades in Cuba before, and during, Fidel Castro’s revolution. Through present-day interviews, precious photographs, and archival footage, director S. Louisa Wei explores the shifting culture of Cantonese opera through a historical time and place. The film reveals the female spirit of two stage sisters, Caridad Amaran and Georgina Wong, and makes an important contribution to a growing body of films documenting female artists and performers within the Chinese Diaspora.

Distributed by Women Make Movies.


Crossing Kasaya
Friday, March 17, 2:00pm

Directed by Shiwei KANG. Produced by Ruby CHEN. 2020. China/Japan. 93 minutes.
Country/region featured: China


Is it a spiritual win or failure for a man who has lived a life as a lama for 26 years, to choose to live a secular life, to become a merchant or to have a relationship? “Crossing Kasaya” is about Tibetan lama poet Sodar's obsession with Tibetan culture in materialistic China.

Distributed by CNEX Taiwan.


Diamond In The River
Friday, March 17, 3:45pm

Directed by Luyheng Yi. 2022. Cambodia. 14 minutes.
Country/region featured: Cambodia / Mekong River

RECORDED DISCUSSION with Luyheng Yi and Chea Sopheap, Director, Bophana Center.

Mr. Nhoem Srorl is a freshwater clams finder in the Mekong River around Koh Oknha Tey in Phnom Penh. Every day he spends five to six hours in the water collecting the clams from the bottom of the river. The job is hard: Bad weather, catching seasons, and illegal fishing are shrinking his catch. Each season, it gets increasingly harder to harvest clams in this traditional way.

Distributed by Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center.


Friday, March 17, 4:10pm

Directed by Shiori Okawa. Produced by Minami Fujioka. 2022. Japan. 93 minutes.
Country/region featured: Marshall Islands / Japan

IN PERSON Q&A with Shiori Okawa.

In the Republic of the Marshall Islands, formerly under Japanese mandate, Tsutomu lost his father there during the war. As a follow up to the film “Tarinae”, filmmaker Shiori Okawa documents in “keememej”  Tsutomu’s return to the islands for the first time in three years with his family, and weaves a new story through meeting again, what we shared, and who is remembered.

Distributed by shunminsha.



A Life in Six Chapters
Saturday, March 18, 8:30am

Directed by S. Louisa Wei. 2022. Hong Kong SAR China. 96 minutes.
Country/region featured: Mainland China and Hong Kong SAR.

“A Life in Six Chapters” presents a visual portrait of Xiao Jun (1907-1988), a left-wing Chinese writer who befriended the literary figure Lu Xun and the political giant Mao Zedong. The film spans more than 60 years from the 1920s to the 1980s, taking a tour of China’s literary scene, and introducing renowned writers like Lu Xun, Xiao Hong, Hu Feng, Ding Ling, Nie Gannu, Ai Qing, Lao She, and more. Xiao Jun’s romances and struggles are set against the backdrop of twentieth century China, including the 14-year Sino-Japanese War, the Communist rectification campaigns, post-1949 political movements, the chaotic years of the Cultural Revolution, and, finally, the early years of the country’s opening-up.

Distributed by Eagle Wind Vision Limited and Blue Queen Cultural Communication Ltd.


Saturday, March 18, 10:20am

Directed by Scott Edwards. Produced by Nancy Bui. 2015. USA. 90 minutes.
Country/region featured: USA, Vietnam, France, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia

IN-PERSON Q&A with Nancy Bui.

After the Vietnam War, over 2 million Vietnamese people fled their homeland for freedom. Hundreds of thousands died before reaching their destinations. Forty years later, "VIETNAMERICA" follows martial arts Master Hoa Tien Nguyen’s return to Southeast Asia to search for the graves of his wife and two children. Having escaped on a boat with 75 of his family and friends, Hoa is the lone survivor. Throughout his return, Hoa and a diverse group of Vietnamese survivors and historical scholars explore the reasons for the Vietnamese diaspora. Today, Vietnamese Americans are the most significant political refugee group in the United States.

Distributed by The Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation.


Dear Corky
Saturday, March 18, 11:40am

A film by Curtis Chin. 2022. USA. 17 minutes.
Country/region featured: USA.

ONLINE Q&A with Curtis Chin.

For over fifty years, New York native Corky Lee photographed his hometown's Chinatown, and Asian American communities around the country. With a strong sense of social justice, he captured activists, celebrities, and everyday heroes with equal passion, taking over a hundred thousand photos. Sadly, while documenting the latest rise of anti-Asian hate crimes, Corky fell to COVID. Through his own words and pictures, “Dear Corky” reveals the man behind the camera.

Distributed by Bull and Monkey, LLC


Nice Chinese Girls Don’t: Kitty Tsui
Saturday, March 18, 12:10pm

A film by Jennifer Abod. 2022. USA. 20 minutes.
Country/region featured: USA.

ONLINE Q&A with Jennifer Abod and Kitty Tsui.

“Nice Chinese Girls Don’t” is a portrait of Kitty Tsui -- an iconic Asian American lesbian, poet, artist, activist, writer, and bodybuilder who came of age in the early days of the Women’s Liberation Movement in San Francisco.

Distributed by Women Make Movies.


Bigger Is Better
Saturday, March 18, 12:40pm

A film by Larry Tung. 2021. Taiwan/Japan/China/Hong Kong/USA. 25 minutes.
Country/region featured: Taiwan/Japan/China/Hong Kong/USA.

ONLINE Q&A with Larry Tung.

“Bigger Is Better” is a documentary about the identity culture and body politics of the bear subculture within a larger gay male community in Asia. It takes the audience to Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China to meet with stakeholders and examines the development of this unique subculture and its meaning and impact.

Distributed by filmmaker.


Sanctuary, Purgatory
Saturday, March 18, 1:15pm

A film by Razi Jafri. 2022. South Korea/USA. 36 minutes.
Country/region featured: South Korea

ONLINE Q&A with Razi Jafri.

Trapped in Kafkaesque immigration limbo in South Korea, Omar, a refugee tries to reunite with his wife and children who remain in Yemen. Thousands of miles away, in Michigan, Omar’s father Mohamad — who himself had to leave behind his family three decades earlier — watches wishfully as his son navigates a bureaucratic and politicized immigration system. Across generations and geographies, we observe the lengths Omar’s family must go to find safety and reunification.

Distributed by filmmaker.


Nuchi nu Miji – Okinawa’s Water of Life
Saturday, March 18, 2:05pm

Directed by Natsuko Shimabukuro and Jon Mitchell. Produced by Nojima Hajime.
2022. Japan. 72 minutes.
Country/region featured: Okinawa Prefecture, Japan

IN-PERSON Q&A with Natsuko Shimabukuro and Jon Mitchell.

This documentary portrays Okinawans’ struggle for justice in one of the worst environmental catastrophes in modern Japanese history. Since 2016, the drinking water for 450,000 residents, roughly one third of the population, has been contaminated with military PFAS “Forever Chemicals”– but the Japanese and US governments have refused to resolve the problem. Featuring interviews, archive footage and documents obtained via the US Freedom of Information Act, “Nuchi nu Miji” uncovers the truth about what has been happening on Okinawa and reveals why so many residents feel abandoned by both Tokyo and Washington.

Distributed by Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting Corporation


Saturday, March 18, 3:45pm

A film by Deann Borshay Liem. 2021. USA. 94 minutes.
Country/region featured: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Republic of Korea (ROK)

IN-PERSON Q&A with Deann Borshay Liem.

In CROSSINGS, a group of international women peacemakers set out on a risky journey across the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, calling for an end to a 70-year war that has divided the Korean peninsula. Included with the thirty women activists who dare to tread forbidden territory to draw global attention to the unresolved war, are Korean American Christine Ahn who rallies the group, feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem, and Nobel Peace Laureates Leymah Gbowee and Mairead Maguire. The challenges the women face, the obstacles they overcome, and the solidarity and trust they build as they forge a path to peace with their Korean sisters, is an inspiring story of bridge building and collective action.

Distributed by Mu Films.


Saturday, March 18, 5:30pm

A film by Joseph Juhn. 2022. USA/South Korea. 89 minutes.
Country/region featured: USA

ONLINE Q&A with Joseph Juhn.

With only two Korean Americans elected to U.S. Congress since 1903, five Korean Americans run for U.S. Congress in 2020. CHOSEN offers a glimpse within the campaigns of these candidates with vastly diverse backgrounds and competing political views including David Kim, the only underdog with limited resources vying to be the first gay Korean American representative.

Distributed by Diaspora Film Production.


Those 4 Years
Saturday, March 18, 7:10pm

A film by Dr. Joe Thomas Karackattu. 2021. India. 52 minutes.
Country/region featured: Hong Kong / India / Malaysia

ONLINE Q&A with Dr. Joe Thomas Karackattu.

"Those 4 Years" is an amazing journey into the lives of those Chinese who came to India around the middle of the 19th century… speaking a language unknown to their neighbours. The film journeys across three countries and reams of colonial office records to retrace the places those people came from, the means and mode of their arrival, and how many of them ended up making India their home.

Distributed by Dr. Joe Thomas Karackattu.