Guest blogger Alicia Chang is the Executive Director of the Asian Film Festival of Dallas.
The Asian Film Festival of Dallas (AFFD) lost a great friend on Dec. 30. Joel Jenista has been one of AFFD’s earliest, most steadfast, and enthusiastic supporters from the beginning. Festival co-founder Stephen Carlton mentioned to me recently that Joel attended Asian film screenings and that he had organized even before the AFFD was formed 10 years ago. So one could even say that Joel’s love for film had a role in AFFD’s founding. Our festival’s other co-founder, filmmaker Mye Hoang, first met Joel when she was an 18 year-old working at the Inwood Theatre. She’s now finishing up her first feature film and had hoped to show it to Joel when it was complete.
My predecessor, Julie Hwang, highlighted how Joel’s emotional support kept her afloat before the 2009 festival in a blog post on Art & Seek. He had surprised us with a handwritten note saying “Long live AFFD!” To Julie, to me, and the rest of the AFFD board, his note was a sign that even though we do our jobs in relative isolation and anonymity, people really loved what we were doing and hoped we would do it forever.
Joel suffered from ALS for many years, but he never let it stop him from attending our screenings. When we heard the news of his passing, we wanted to do something to honor Joel. Mye pointed out that he loved martial arts films, so we will host a free screening of Ip Man on Tuesday night in his memory at the Texas Theatre. Our friends at Well Go USA, Red Carpet Crash and the Texas Theatre helped make the event possible.
More details can be found at www.affd.org.
The movie starts at 8 p.m., and we’ll be collecting funds for the MDA-ALS division. Joel was assisted by this non-profit throughout his struggle with ALS.
The AFFD team often thinks of our festival as one that is “by the fans, for the fans.” We all have full-time jobs, and AFFD is something we do because we love film and want to see more Asian films in theaters. Joel was our quintessential fan, and the one I will always think of as we plan our next festival in July 2011. Not long before he passed away, Joel sent us an e-mail thanking us for being a part of his life. He expressed regret over possibly not making it to the 2011 festival. He closed the e-mail by writing, “Long live AFFD.”
We’ll miss you, Joel.