A provocative exploration of what it means to grow up Asian in America.
Here/Not Here, a proposed feature-length documentary, will be a provocative exploration of what it means to grow up Asian in America. It will examine what it feels like not to see a single recognizable reflection of yourself in everyday media; only misinterpretations, often exaggerated and demeaning, of what you look and sound like, your culture and the things you care about. And how that influences the way you see yourself, the world around you, and your place in it.
We will follow filmmaker Tony Nguyen as he traces his journey – born just two months after his mother’s escape from Vietnam during the Fall of Saigon; growing up, facing poverty and racism in small town Indiana; and finding his voice as a filmmaker in Oakland, California – and the journeys of other Asian Americans – writers, activists, prison inmates, fishermen, donut makers, role models and inspirations – looking at the role race plays in their lives, and how they accept, struggle with or challenge being treated as different and foreign. It will explore the Asian American experience, societal attitudes, media stereotypes, assimilation, family, culture, community, job discrimination, and threats and acts of violence.
Here/Not Here, written and produced with Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Okazaki, will be innovative, accessible, funny, angry, moving, personal, produced to reach the widest possible audience and inspire thoughtful discussion.
“They see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination – indeed, everything and anything except me.” -Ralph Ellison
About the Filmmakers
Tony Nguyen made his directorial debut with ENFORCING THE SILENCE (2011), which the Los Angeles Times called “an uplifting portrait” of journalist Lam Duong. In 2015, he directed the personal film GIAP’S LAST DAY AT THE IRONING BOARD FACTORY that broadcasted nationally on PBS. He was also an associate producer on the 2016 Emmy-nominated PBS Frontline documentary TERROR IN LITTLE SAIGON.
Steven started in children's programming in 1976, directing dramatic and documentary shorts for Churchill Films in Los Angeles. In 1982, he made his first documentary feature, SURVIVORS. He received his first Academy Award nomination in 1985 for UNFINISHED BUSINESS, the story of three Japanese Americans who challenged the incarceration of their people. In 1987 his low-budget comedy, LIVING ON TOKYO TIME premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. DAYS OF WAITING earned him an Oscar in 1991 and again in 2006 with THE MUSHROOM CLUB, a personal reflection on the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. He followed that with WHITE LIGHT/BLACK RAIN, a comprehensive and vivid account of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, was broadcast on HBO, won a Primetime Emmy for "Exceptional Merit in Non-fiction Filmmaking" and the Grand Prize at the Banff World Television Festival. In 2009, he received his fourth Oscar nomination for the HBO documentary THE CONSCIENCE OF NHEM EN, the story of a 16 year-old Khmer Rouge soldier who photographed 6,000 men, women and children before they were tortured and executed. He has also worked extensively with PBS. These documentaries include: HUNTING TIGERS (1989), TROUBLED PARADISE (1992), AMERICAN SONS (1994), and THE FAIR (2001). For the last twenty years, much of his work has been with HBO Documentary Films including BLACK TAR HEROIN, REHAB, HEROIN: CAPE COD, USA, and MIFUNE: THE LAST SAMURAI which screened at film festivals all over the world.