Friday night the finalists of HBO’s Asian Pacific American Visionaries short film competition made their premiere debut at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. It was a special night where the talented emerging filmmakers Julie Zhan, So Young Shelly Yo and Nirav Bhakta were given the opportunity to showcase their work and see their short films on a big screen.
The finalists were picked out from hundreds of submissions all judged by HBO executives and a panel of industry experts. A few other members of the HBO family were in attendance including ‘Westworld’ actor Leonardo Nam. On the red carpet, he mentions to how great HBO is for having this competition. “I appreciate that HBO is using their power for good, that they use their platform as a way to amplify the voices of those that are underrepresented and to give people a chance.”
That is exactly what HBO is doing. Since 2016, the HBO APA Visionaries competition has been a platform for Asian Pacific Americans to tell their unique stories and further push the barriers when it comes to representation in Hollywood. Each of the short films were centered around the modern Asian Pacific American experience and individually they all did an excellent job at exploring life in today’s digital age. There is magic within storytelling alone, but to see minorities thrive and share their stories was genuinely enthralling.
“Don’t be afraid to be your authentic self,” says Nirav Bhakta who ultimately won the competition for his short film ‘Halwa.’ The film was excellently made and it pushes the envelope for women in Indian culture all while containing LGBT and domestic abuse themes. All of the shorts were beyond impressive and the good news is that HBO will premiere all three finalists’ shorts during throughout the month of May on HBO NOW®, HBO GO®, HBO On Demand®, and HBO ZONE® to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage month.
The second runner up of the evening, So Young Shelly Yo, shared great advice for other minorities who are trying to break into media. According to the Korean American filmmaker you should, “tell stories that are specific to you and to your upbringing because I feel like those stories have not been told yet and those are those are the stories that are desirable especially now.”
HBO APA Visionaries is an annual competition so if you’re an Asian Pacific American filmmaker or know anyone out there who is, feel free to check out their website!