The 10th annual Asian Film Festival of Dallas kicks off Thursday under a new executive director. But as it turns out, she’s really kind of an old hand at this event:
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When Alicia Chang was a student at SMU, she saw a call for entries put out by the Asian Film Festival of Dallas. She wasn’t a film major, but she was interested in making one. So she hatched a plan.
CHANG: “I said to my best friends, who were filmmakers – film grads, actually – and I said, ‘Hey, I’m Asian. You need an Asian to be involved to qualify for this film festival.’ And so we did. We made a short film, it lasted eight minutes, and we submitted it to AFFD. And they actually showed it.”
Fast forward nearly eight years later and Chang is now the festival’s executive director. This year, films from China, India, South Korea, the U.S. and elsewhere are on the schedule. Only a handful of Asian films show each year on local art house screens, so for Asian film lovers, this is their chance to see more than 30 in one week and meet some of the people who made them. Last year 3,500 people attended.
Chang’s been involved with most of the festivals since her film showed. She’s done everything from marketing to coordinating volunteers. But she says taking on the top position is a commitment she carefully considered.
CHANG: “I was in the middle of finishing my MBA, and I thought, ‘What exactly do I want to do with my MBA? Would this be a good way of using that expanded set of skills?’ And I thought, ‘Yes, this would be a wonderful way of doing that.’ Instead of getting, perhaps, a high-paying, high-stress corporate job, I could translate some of my skills into this wonderful non-profit that I really believe in.”
Another reason why she thought long and hard about the job is that it’s not really a job. No one involved with the festival gets paid. Chang works for an importing company and finds the time to run the festival around her work schedule. But she says all those extra hours are her way of contributing to her hometown.
CHANG: “I feel a huge sense of pride in bringing culture to the citizens of Dallas and the DFW area. I think a lot of people in other cities kinda make fun of Dallas and say it’s a place where people just eat and shop. Watch sports. I can always tell them, ‘Did you know there’s an Asian film festival in Dallas that’s in its 10th year and very popular?’ I’m tremendously proud to be a part of that.”