Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang Multimedia: AAIFF 09 Closing Night: Awards and H.P. Mendoza’s Fruit Fly

Fruit Fly cinematographer Richard Wong, filmmaker and star H.P. Mendoza and actress L.A. Renigen at the AAIFF screening of their film on 7/26/09 at  Clearview Chelsea Cinemas. (Photo by Lia Chang)

Fruit Fly cinematographer Richard Wong, filmmaker and star H.P. Mendoza and actress L.A. Renigen at the AAIFF screening of their film on 7/26/09 at Clearview Chelsea Cinemas. (Photo by Lia Chang)

H.P. Mendoza’s Fruit Fly was the closing night film of the Asian American International Film Festival last night, at Clearview Chelsea Cinemas in New York. Director and stars H.P. Mendoza, L.A. Renigen and cinematographer Richard Wong were in the house to celebrate.

After the screening, AAIFF executive producer Liliana Chen announced the five filmmakers who received this year’s AAIFF
awards, as part of the Festival’s closing ceremonies.

(l-r) Li Tong director Nian Liu (Best Emerging Director in Narrative Feature), Ayi’s Story director Iemi Hernandez-Kim (One to Watch award), Whatever It Takes director Christopher Wong (Audience Choice Award). Photo by Lia Chang

(l-r) Li Tong director Nian Liu (Best Emerging Director in Narrative Feature), Ayi’s Story director Iemi Hernandez-Kim (One to Watch award), Whatever It Takes director Christopher Wong (Audience Choice Award). Photo by Lia Chang


First announced was Iemi Hernandez-Kim, director of the short film Ayi’s Story and winner of the One to Watch award, an audience voted award that recognizes talent in filmmakers under the age of 21. Ayi’s Story follows the journey of a teenaged girl from Brooklyn to numerous destinations in China, capturing her experiences in documentary and video-journal style.

Kim Snyder, director of the short film Crossing Midnight, won the award for Excellence in Short Filmmaking. Her documentary on the efforts of health workers to treat Burmese refugees deals with the issue of human rights through the lens of medicine.

Tibet in Song director Ngawang Choephel (Best Emerging Director in Documentary Feature) Photo by Lia Chang

Tibet in Song director Ngawang Choephel (Best Emerging Director in Documentary Feature) Photo by Lia Chang


Also putting a spotlight on the plight of persecuted minorities is director Ngawang Choephel, who won the award for Best Emerging Director in Documentary Feature. His film, Tibet in Song, explores the traditional folk music of Tibet, China’s impact on this tradition, and Choephel’s own political imprisonment during his attempt to capture his subject on film.

Chinese director Nian Liu won the award for Best Emerging Director in Narrative Feature. Her film, Li Tong, used the fictional story of a schoolgirl losing her bus pass as a means of exploring and exposing the many cultural, socioeconomic and personal facets of contemporary Beijing.

Director Christopher Wong won the Audience Choice Award, which was based on votes cast by the audience during the Festival’s various screenings. His documentary feature, Whatever It Takes, follows the progress of the Bronx Center of Science and Mathematics in its first year of operation, focusing especially on the relationship between principal Edward Tom and student Sharifea Baskerville.


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Lia Chang is an actor, performance and fine art botanical photographer and an award-winning multimedia journalist. Lia’s portraits and performance photos have appeared in Vanity Fair, Gourmet, German Elle, Women’s Wear Daily, The Paris Review, VIBE, TV Guide, Daily Variety, Interior Design, American Theatre, Life & Style, OUT, New York Magazine, InStyle, Timeout.com, Villagevoice.com, Playbill.com, Theatermania.com, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, New York Times and Washington Post. A former syndicated arts and entertainment columnist for KYODO News, Lia is the New York Bureau Chief for AsianConnections.com. She writes about culture, style and Asian American issues for a variety of publications and this Backstage Pass with Lia Chang blog. As a photographer and videographer, Lia is frequently tapped to collaborate with artists, organizations and companies in establishing their documentary photo archive. She has been documenting her colleagues and contemporaries in the arts, fashion and journalism since making her stage debut as Liat in the National Tour of South Pacific, with Robert Goulet and Barbara Eden.
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