Two Angelenos are combating white supremacy and anti-Asian racism through filmmaking and storytelling. Her Studio founder and executive producer Lucia Tran (and former Zooey magazine founder/editor) and director Natasha Lee unveiled their newest documentary, In the Visible, which features an entirely Asian American cast and crew and shares the stories of 12 people across several generations.
The approximately 10-minute film features pro golfer Tisha Alyn, designer Joy Cho, American Housewife actor Jake Choi, stylist Benjamin Holtrop, L.A. City Councilmember Nithya Raman, comedian and Good Trouble actress Sherry Cola, former World War II internment camp survivors June Berk and Mas Yamashita (both are also docent at the Japanese American Museum), L.A. restaurateur Lien Ta, Dr. Ken actor Albert Tsai, local mechanic Larry Sir, and Finding Ohana actress Lindsay Watson.
"We wanted to give our community the opportunity to tell our own stories," Tran tells UncoverLA. "That was the first time I felt like we were taking back our narrative. Our stories have been told by our white counterparts for far too long."
During the film's second and final week of filming, eight people at three Atlanta-area massage parlors were shot and killed. Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis recently announced that the alleged gunman, a white man, will be indicted on hate crimes, and that prosecutors will also seek the death penalty. The murders further shook the United States' Asian communities, which were dealing with an increase of hate crimes related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lee says that making In the Visible and being around her peers helped her process these traumatic events. As a photographer, Lee previously worked with Apple, Airbnb, Conde Nast Traveler, HGTV, Refinery29, and many other clients.
"Having the all-Asian crew, I felt like we were all holding space for each other during [filming]," Lee tells UncoverLA. "We all shared a little bit before we started filming, to get stuff out. We understood the collective trauma that we were all trying to process."
"The attacks on the Asian community bring back the past of the kind of threats we experience when we first moved out to our current location [in] 1975. We received anonymous phone calls [saying] 'Remember Pearl Harbor.' and we had eggs thrown at our garage door," Yamashita recounts in the film.
In a release Tran and Lee explain that the film's goal is to show that "Asian Americans have been an invisible minority for far too long. […] This community is not monolithic, not silent, not stoic, not your model minority, and certainly not your scapegoat."
The wordplay in the film's title is intentional.
"We spent all of our childhood pledging allegiance to America and then we always talk about being 'indivisible' — but, historically, people of color have never been part of that conversation," Tran points out. "Yet you expect all of us to pledge that allegiance to the country? [The same country] that put Japanese Americans in concentration camps in the 1940s?"
Lien Ta, owner of All Day Baby in Silver Lake and a subject in the documentary, adds: "I have both a responsibility and a privilege to speak up and encourage another way, to uplift our unique visibility as Asian Americans — and to inspire other Asian Americans to do the same."
The filmmakers also teamed with Seattle-based graphic designer Andy Sir to create a charitable tee and sweater ($20 to $30), with all proceeds benefitting Gold House, a nonprofit collective of AAPI creatives, founders, and leaders.
Watch In the Visible online here.