AFI DOCS: Yi Chen on FIRST VOTE – American Film Institute



“I hope the audiences at AFI DOCS will walk away with a more nuanced and deeper understanding of the Asian American electorate…I also hope they will walk away feeling inspired and empowered to vote in 2020. In fact, I will be voting for the first time!” -Yi Chen, director of FIRST VOTE



Chen became interested in this story after reading an Economist article in 2016 about the “Chinese Americans for Trump” group, which paid for Trump billboards and aerial banners. “Many of them were first-time voters, a few ran for office, and some of them formed political action committees. Although it challenged my assumption about Asian American voters, I was intrigued that first-generation Chinese immigrants were becoming more active in the democratic process,” said Chen. “At the time, I was in the process to become an American citizen and first-time voter, so making the film has also been my journey to understand American democracy through the lens of voters in my own community.”

For inspiration while making FIRST VOTE, Chen watched Renee Tajima-Peña’s MY AMERICA…OR HONK IF YOU LOVE BUDDHA and S. Leo Chiang’s MR. CAO GOES TO WASHINGTON, a verité portrait of the Republican Louisiana Representative Joseph Cao. As a resident of DC, Chen has attended the DOCS festival the past few years. “Some of my favorite documentary filmmakers – Spike Lee, Errol Morris, Frederick Wiseman – are on the Advisory Board, so it’s pretty awesome. I love the film selections at AFI DOCS each year. I’m also a big fan of the AFI DOCS Forum. It’s where I pitched the project and met collaborators.”

FIRST VOTE screened online at AFI DOCS 2020. A recorded discussion with director Yi Chen and subjects Kaiser Kuo and Jennifer Ho followed the film.


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