In the era of social media, everything is defined by how many likes we get for our selfies or how much we can ‘contribute’ in an online forum. Aptly talking about contemporary problems of modern human in relation to media and technology, the seven short films in the ‘Follow Me’ program of CAAMFest 2019 are also insightful with regards to how we redefine our identities, both on- and off-line.
Mike Wierzenski and Mina Park’s Reach (USA, 2018) tells a story of a young woman struggling with body image issues who accidentally becomes famous on social media because of one viral picture. This event triggers different spectrum of reactions in different places and time, impacting people she knows and knows her as well as total strangers. At the end of the day, with this newfound social media identity, she has to figure out where she wants to go from then on.
Youthana Yuos’ Buffalo Nickel (USA,
2018), an Indian American woman has to challenge how far she wants to go to get
online recognition. When she has to change her true self with a fake online
identity and exploit her Indian-ness just to appear more exotic, she realizes
that she has to stay true to herself, even when it means that she has to be
ordinary boring everyday American woman (who happens to have Indian descent).
problem of hybrid identity also appears to be the core of the story in Contours (USA, 2019). Trapped between
the eastern and the western identity of Asian American, a woman follows her
family’s heritage by going through a cosmetic eyelid surgery that makes her
look more “Asian” to western eyes. In several Asian countries, there is an
obsession with wide eyes which leads more and more young girls to make their
eyes appear bigger through cosmetic eyelid surgery. While on the other hand, there
is a perception in Western countries that people of Asian descent should appear
more “oriental.” With such conflicting values, Javian Ashton Le’s film shows
that at the end of the day, society will always put pressure on us to look the
certain way-no matter where we are-to cater public perceptions of the identity
attached to us as human beings.
Share (USA, 2018) explores a different identity problem: one of being gay. With documentary approach, Barna Szász and Ellie Wen’s film follows the journey of an 18-year-old Instagram influencer who wants to reconcile his online and real life identities by coming out to his family. This film uses the term ‘share’ in different layers of the story, not just to share the protagonist’s story in the film or to share his true identity with his family, but also him sharing his story and support to others through his social media account.
Sharon Choi’s Self Portrait (South Korea, 2019) depicts a woman’s seemingly mundane activities through experimental cinematic visuality. Exploring the notion of out-of-place-ness, this film tickles our imagination with the lack of the protagonist’s mirror reflection and having her hiding behind the curtain. Like the opening scene of the film, we can see her struggle to swim on a waterless pool; making us reflect on our own identity insecurities.
Another experimental film in this line up is Tina Takemoto’s Sworded Love (USA, 2018). Fleeting cinematic impressions of star-crossed swordsmen from a stray reel of a 35mm kung fu action film, this film successfully alters the identity of the original reel; on the journey of its origin, how it becomes astray, until finally being modified into a completely different art being.
Closing the program with a feel-good tone is Searit Huluf’s Gamers (USA, 2018). It tells the story of an amateur female gamer who is given a once in a lifetime opportunity to try out for a pro league gaming team. Her self-doubt makes her question herself, but her partner who always support her makes her believes in herself again.
The ‘Follow Me’ Shorts program is showing at CAAMFest 2019 on May 12.
Azalia Muchransyah is pursuing a Ph.D. in Media Study at University at Buffalo (SUNY). She is a recipient of 2017 DIKTI-Funded Fulbright Ph.D. Scholarship. Her area of interest is advocacy media, specifically AIDS Media in Indonesia. Prior to her Fulbright award, she was the Deputy Head of Film Program at Bina Nusantara University International, Jakarta, Indonesia. Her short films have been officially selected and screened in international festivals and academic conferences. They include Halal (2017), HIV/AIDS: Not A Death Sentence (2018), Big Durian Big Apple (2018), Blue Film (2018), and Tamu (2018).