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Film festival opens a window to Asian American family life

Courtesy of caamfest.com

What we learn from our families is often very private. It’s knowledge we keep inside of us – and that the world doesn’t always get a chance to see. Filmmaker Mark Decena is hoping to open a window onto that kind of family life with his new film, The War Inside, involving his own childhood home movies. The film is a project of the Center for Asian American Media, CAAM, which is hosting its 31st annual festival this year and launching a new national initiative to collect and preserve Asian American home movies.  KALW's Ben Trefny spoke with Decena about the value of finally bringing these national memories to light, and Decena's personal contribution to the collection.

MARK DECENA: Other than eating Japanese food and being around my brothers, I didn't really have that cultural identity being Asian, so watching the home movies, it's like, “Hey there I am as a baby, I’ve been Asian all my life.” So it’s been interesting to sort of reawaken that – and from that, from those films, I've developed a theme and I'm calling it “the war inside.” So my father is Filipino and my mother is Japanese and so when you think about it, the invasion of the Philippines by the Japanese, the Bataan death march, a lot of atrocities, within seven years of the war being over, my parents somehow found each other and fell in love. Is there this leftover hostility? And, you know, it’s a bit of a comedy because I'm sort of riffing on, you know, they shouldn't have gotten together and therefore I’m this tortured soul and I do find there's personality differences within myself? And maybe looking to attribute those maybe to some of those cultural differences as well?

Mark Decena will present The War Inside at the New People Cinema in San Francisco on  Sunday, March 24 at 5pm. Memories to Light is an ongoing project designed to archive as many Asian American home movies as possible. Click here to find out more.

Ben was hired as Interim Executive Director of KALW in November, 2021.