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Letter from the Executive Director

PAAFF Executive Director Selena Yip

Welcome to the 15th Annual Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival!

Since PAAFF’s founding, our festival programming has continued to explore and expand its understanding of Asian and Pacific Islander experiences and all of the intersecting identities within. Our program this year is no different—this year’s festival concept is aptly called “Intersections.”

When I moved back to Philly in 2017, I was a freshly college-graduated 22 year old with lots of time and no direction. Despite growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, I always loved being Asian and talking about my Chinese identity, likely due to the fact that most of my extended family lived in Chinatown and I spent my weekends there. I was president of my high school Asian club and continued to organize for Asian American student groups in college, so the logical next step was to seek out Asian American activities in Philly. With the help of a newfound best friend that year, I found my way to PAAFF.

The first PAAFF event I attended was the retrospective screening of two films in Anna May Wong’s repertoire: Daughter of Shanghai and Piccadilly. The screening was at Fleisher Art Memorial, which sits on the block of Catherine Street between 7th and 8th. I had only ever been to this area with my parents to pick up banh mi and coffee from one of my favorite shops, Cafe Cuong, but had never explored the streets surrounding the restaurant. With the car parked in Fleisher’s lot and Cafe Cuong closed for the night, my friend and I ventured through the neighborhood in search of a quick bite to eat before the program started.

Arms linked, we made our way east on Catherine, toward 6th Street and Passyunk Avenue where all three streets make an immediately identifiable triangular intersection right in front of the fire-engine red facade of Square Pie. We continued south on 6th, admiring every first floor window décor from porcelain cats to blooming plants, until we found ourselves in front of Ba Le Bakery in New World Plaza on Washington Avenue. That night, I devoured a perfectly made banh mi dac biet in Fleisher’s sanctuary, illuminated by Wong’s outstanding performance and trailblazing career.

Being a part of PAAFF’s organizing team for the last four years, listening to and watching the stories of our communities, has inspired me to tell my own story and to explore and develop so many parts of who I am today. I am a Hong Kong American. I am gender fluid. I am chronically ill. I am a community organizer, leader, cat parent, partner, artist, reader… and the understanding of these parts of my adult self can all be tied back to a place, person, or event somewhere in this city that I encountered because of this festival, its staff, and volunteers.

Whether you attend PAAFF virtually, in-person, or both this year, I hope that your festival experience will give you the same opportunity it has given me to explore all the intersections of my identity and the intersections of this city I call home.

With warmth and appreciation,

Selena Yip
Executive Director