On November 2, the Vancouver Asian Film Festival returned for its 27th year.
The festival’s lineup includes Finding Freedom, a documentary film that tells the story of four refugees and the challenges they face while seeking asylum. The film features interviews with Allard Law Professor Efrat Arbel, a legal expert and advocate for the rights of refugees and prisoners.
Finding Freedom is playing on November 11 at the Scotia Bank Theatre in Vancouver.
Allard Law graduate Audrey Wong is the Executive Director of Elimin8Hate, the advocacy arm of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival. We spoke with Audrey about Finding Freedom and her work at Elmin8Hate.
How did you get involved with Elimin8Hate?
Elimin8Hate is an offshoot of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival (VAFF) that advocates for racial equity for Asian Canadians. I was recruited by their Board when they saw me using my platform to talk about my experiences as an Asian Canadian woman rising up the corporate ladder and advocating for equity.
My legal experience, coupled with my business experience, gives me a unique perspective on approaching racial equity initiatives and engaging with younger generations.
What was it about the film Finding Freedom that inspired you to select it for the festival?
Annually Elimin8Hate partners with VAFF to support select films in their annual festival that we feel best promotes awareness and understanding of the diverse experiences of the Asian diaspora. This year we selected a film that also happens to have an Allard Law connection. Finding Freedom is a documentary about the impact of immigration policy on asylum seekers.
We often turn our attention to the inhumane treatment of migrants in the US. However, this film calls attention to these harsh conditions in other Western countries and shares experiences including those of two people now living in Vancouver. We thought the film was meaningful to showcase that Asian experiences are not a monolith and were especially motivated to highlight this as our feature Canadian documentary when we saw Professor Efrat Arbel featured. It really highlights the overlap between legal work and advocacy work.
What are some of the other projects at Elimin8Hate that you’re excited about?
I'm really proud of our recent initiative Reclaim Your Name: Your Name is Not a Typo. Our name is fundamentally tied to our identity and sense of belonging and we know that some Asian Canadians feel pressure to anglicize their names in order to increase their chances of getting hired or even just to fit in.
I remember a girl in high school, Diane who didn't like people calling her Diana, so imagine having to completely change your name. We created a Microsoft Word dictionary that eliminated the red line under non-anglicized names, and with the help of a PR agency we garnered so much attention and engagement on this initiative that Microsoft took notice and has since incorporated our dictionary into their Microsoft 365 updates. We intend to maintain our connection with Microsoft to ensure we continue making progress in this area.
As a recent grad yourself, what can law students and new law grads do to help stop anti-Asian racism?
This is a nuanced question. I think that law school, articles, being a junior lawyer are all-encompassing. And the primary focus during these years might just be about finding career stability. I didn't personally start thinking about my gender and race and its ongoing impact on how it shaped my identity and how others identified with me until I had left law and was in a senior business role.
So perhaps readers may be at different points of their journey at the moment. I would say wherever you're at it's helpful not to deny your experience or that of those around you. If you or someone feels that they were a target of anti-Asian racism, it's helpful not to dismiss it or give reasons as to why it might be something else. Validating and acknowledging your or someone else's experience is a helpful way to support. Also of course consume arts, film and media by Asian Canadian creators!
Finding Freedom is playing on November 11 at 12 pm at the Scotiabank Theatre Vancouver. Discounted student tickets can be purchased using discount code: VAFF27E820.