mission of the National Asian American Telecommunications Association
(NAATA) is "to advance the ideals of cultural pluralism in America
and to promote better understanding of the Asian Pacific American
experience through film, video and radio." Since its founding in
1980, NAATA has been bringing award-winning programs by and about
Asian Pacific Americans to the public through such venues as national
and local television broadcasting, film and video screenings, and
educational distribution services.
its programming, exhibition, and distribution of work by Asian Pacific
Americans as well as its advocacy and coalition building efforts,
NAATA actively serves as both a resource and a promoter for minority
communities within the larger community. Essentially, NAATA coordinates
many different realms related to today's visual culture--film and
video making, critical writing and scholarship, distribution and
television broadcasting, community and educational outreach, even
legislation and lobbying--serving as a center of information and
human resources. Located in San Francisco, NAATA is one of the three
major Asian American media arts organizations in the United States.
Its founding was a conscious and concerted effort on the part of
filmmakers and producers in the San Francisco area who were concerned
with equal access to public television and radio. With the guidance
and commitment of the two older organizations, Visual Communications
in Los Angeles and Asian CineVision in New York, both of which emerged
out of the movements towards racial and social justice in the 1960s,
NAATA was born out of a three-day conference.
works primarily in three programming areas: television broadcast,
exhibition (namely, the annual San Francisco International Asian
American Film Festival), and non-broadcast distribution, (more specifically,
through their CrossCurrent Media catalogue). Through this effort,
the organization seeks to support and nurture Asian Pacific American
media artists in order to proffer a more accurate representation
of Asian Pacific communities to the public. The representation of
Asian Americans in American television and film, supporters of the
group feel, has led to many false perceptions of them.
In the 1995 Catalogue of the San Francisco International Asian American
Film Festival, Stephen Gong (film history scholar and manager of
the Pacific Film Archive) argues that the struggles in the career
of silent film star, Sessue Hayakawa remain emblematic of the price
Asian/American actors pay in order to get some screen time. Referring
to the stereotypes of Asian Americans, he asks: "Do the commercial
constraints that have apparently governed mass media from its earliest
days still make it a given that public expectations must be fulfilled
before artistic vision can be exercised?" NAATA attempts to respond
to this question by presenting--and more importantly, integrating--alternative
and self-proclaimed representation by "marginal" peoples into the
mainstream media culture.
San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival is NAATA's
most dramatic effort to provide the public with self-determined
images and stories about Asian and Asian American experiences. Soliciting
new and innovative work from within the U.S. as well as from Canada
and abroad, this festival is a collection of vastly diverse film
and video programs as well as installations and panel discussions.
For too long, many "cultures, faces, and stories have remained 'in
the closet' or simply invisible," as the 1995 festival catalogue
states. Therefore, the purpose of the festival is to acknowledge
the worldwide industry of film and video which includes and represents
many works from the Asian diaspora.
Media, NAATA's film, video, and audio distribution service, has
amalgamated a collection of film and video by and about Asian Pacific
Americans that serve to challenge the construction and meaning of
"Asian American." The intent is to challenge and hopefully change
mainstream perceptions of Asian Pacific American identities through
the distribution of their collection. Moreover, CrossCurrent Media
strives not only to foster awareness, but also to facilitate discussion,
sensitivity, and understanding of cultures that are not one's own.
The uses of such a collection include corporate diversity training,
high school and university education, and social and political activism.
CrossCurrent Media has published a catalogue from which individuals
and institutions can make orders or purchases of Asian Pacific American
films and videos. The catalogue is skillfully organized by topics
including: Media Representation, Land, Labor, Migration, Social
Justice, Arts/Performance, AIDS on Screen, Personal Journeys, Choosing
to Be Whole: Asian And Lesbian/Gay, Mixed Blessings: Multiracial/Cultural
Identities, Culture Clash. There are also useful indices that list
titles according to ethnic group and special interest, as well as
that recommend titles for both elementary and secondary school students.
In NAATA'S effort to share the work of Asian Pacific Americans and
open up discussion on various issues, CrossCurrent Media is a helpful
and well-needed resource.
publishes a newsletter which announces events such as screenings
and festivals, reports their Media Grants awards which sponsor Asian
Pacific American film and video projects, and interviews people
working in film and television such as Margaret Cho who starred
in the television program, All-American Girl. The newsletter
also keeps readers updated on current legislative and educational
efforts concerning Asian Pacific American programming. For example,
an issue of great concern is the congressional cutbacks for the
Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Through federal mandate, public
television is the only venue on television that provides the opportunity
for the voices of people of color to be heard. Public broadcasting
allows communities of color access to the world of television, enabling
their experiences to be acknowledged as part of the "American experience."
Deann Borshay, Executive Director of NAATA, writes in a recent issue
of the newsletter, Asian American Network, "Eliminating or
privatizing CPB has the potential to shut out minorities from access
to the airwaves."
then, provides a wide range of public services. The organization
simultaneously supports Asian and Asian Pacific American artists
as well as reaches out to diverse communities. More importantly,
the significance of NAATA within the media industry is that it sets
up a series of connections: to link sponsors to media artists, to
distributors, and to larger mainstream venues, all in an attempt
to correct the misrepresentation and misperception of minority peoples
and histories. NAATA is both an artistic and a political organization,
currently working to ensure that the voices and experiences of people
who are often unheard and unknown are made more public and better
American Network. (San Francisco), Autumn/Winter 1994.
American Network. (San Francisco), Spring 1995.
Russell, editor. Moving the Image: Independent Asian Pacific
American Media Arts. Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies
Center and Visual Communications, Southern California Asian American
Studies Central, Inc., 1991.
See also Racism,
Ethnicity, and Television