Tenderness is the Sharpest Resistance

Tenderness is the Sharpest Resistance

A Film Series on Asian/Pacific Feminist Realities 

Curated by Jess X. Snow With assistance from Kamee Abrahamian and Zoraida Ingles 

Across Asia and the Pacific, and all of it’s vast diaspora, fierce women and trans folks have been fighting for a future where they can all be free. As rising sea levels threaten the Pacific islands, and the coasts of continental Asia, the fight to protect other Earth and the Ocean intensifies all over the globe. Our planet stores a geologic memory of everything that it has experienced. The rise of colonization, industrialization, and environmental destruction is connected to the rise of the binary patriarchal nation state. The power within the Earth, to reincarnate, heal, and bloom in the face of violence, must then be connected to the woman, to motherhood, to indigeneity and all forces that are expansive, sacred and queer. It is no coincidence that Feminist Realities unite the fight to protect the rights of women, trans and LGBTQ+ people with the fight to protect the Earth. From mother-daughter protectors of Mauna Kea in the Kingdom of Hawaii, to the complex mother-child relationships of Vietnamese refugees, to queer sexual awakenings in conservative India, the reclaimation of home in Inner Mongolia, to the struggle toward LGBTQ liberation in the Phillipines -- this collection of films is a cosmology of the ways current-day Asian Pacific women and queer and trans folks champion the journey to our collective liberation across oceans and borders. 

All of these films have a strong sense of place: indigenous activists protect their sacred lands, youth peel back colonial narratives of their homeland to uncover hidden truths, complex motherhood and relations of care are explored, and characters turn to their own bodies and sexuality as sanctuary when the family and city that surrounds them threaten their safety. 


By Jess X. Snow

“A haunting film with stunning shots invoking feminist environmental resistance and how deeply rooted this is in connection to cultural history and land…”
    - Jessica Horn, PanAfrican feminst strategist, writer and co-creator of the temple of her skin

In the experimental documentary, Afterearth, four women fight to preserve the volcano, ocean, land and air for future generations. Through music, poetry, and heartfelt testimonial that honors locations touched by the Pacific Ocean–Hawaiʻi, the Philippines, China, and North America, Afterearth is a poetic meditation on four women’s intergenerational and feminist relationship to the lands and plants they come from.


By Jalena Keane Lee

In Standing Above the Clouds, Native Hawaiian mother-daughter activists stand together to protect their sacred mountain, Mauna Kea from being used as a site to build one of the world’s largest telescopes. As protectors of Mauna Kea, this film highlights the interconnected relationship between Aloha ʻĀina (love of the land) and love for one’s elders and the future generations to come.


By Quyên Nguyen-Le

In the experimental narrative short, Nước (Water/Homeland) a Vietnamese-American genderqueer teen challenges dominant narratives of the Vietnam War in Los Angeles, California. Through striking dream sequences and breaks from reality, this film follows their journey to piece together and understand their mother's experience as a Vietnam War refugee. 


By Kimi Lee

In Kama’āina, a queer sixteen-year-old girl must navigate life on the streets in Oahu, until she eventually finds refuge by  way of guidance from an auntie at Pu’uhonua o Wai’anae–Hawaiʻi’s largest organized homeless encampment. 


By Karishma Dev Dube

In Devi (goddess in Hindi) a young closeted lesbian, Tara risks both family and tradition to embrace her attraction to her family’s maid. Set in New Delhi, Devi is a coming of age story, as it is a commentary on the social and class lines that divide women in contemporary India today.


By Yuan Yuan

In Heading South, Chasuna, an 8 year old girl, raised by her mother in the Inner Mongolian Plateau, visits her abusive father in the big city. While at her father’s house, she is introduced to a new addition to the family, and must come to terms with the fact that her true home is inseparable from her mother and land.


By Johnny Symons & S. Leo Chiang

In the feature film, Outrun, we follow the journey of the first transgender woman in the Philippine Congress. Facing oppression in a predominantly Catholic nation, her triumphant journey becomes an outcry for the rights of LGBTQ+ people globally. 

Spanning documentary, narrative, and experimental forms, these films illustrate that community care, self-love, and deep transformative listening between our loved ones is a portal to the Feminist Realities we are bringing into existence today.  From all across the Asia Pacific and it’s diaspora, these stories teach us that in the face of violence, tenderness is the sharpest force of resistance.

Watch our conversation with the filmmakers

Jess X Snow:

Jess X. Snow is a film director, artist, pushcart-nominated poet, children’s book author and community arts educator who creates queer asian immigrant stories that transcend borders, binaries and time. 

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