Andra Day, Daniel Dae Kim and More Discuss Diversity in Hollywood and How Cultural Representation Is Key to Box Office Success

Daniel Dae Kim, Andra Day and Carla Gutierrez joined leaders from Gold House, the NAACP and Latinx House to discuss the specific challenges their respective communities face in the entertainment industry. They outlined the work that can be done to achieve greater inclusion in conversations hosted by Variety’s Angelique Jackson at the Sundance Film Festival as a part of Adobe’s Fireside Chats with Changemakers in Film.

Watch all three conversations below:

Andra Day and Kyle Bowser, Senior Vice President of NAACP Hollywood Bureau

“I’ve been hearing this thing in the past few years about no more slave stories, no more past and all this stuff, and no more Black pain porn. And I don’t like the term because I think it boils it down. I think in order for us to be fully represented and fully realized, we need both,” said actor and singer Andra Day in conversation with NAACP senior vice president of the hollywood bureau, Kyle Bowser.

Day co-stars in Titus Kaphar’s “Exhibiting Forgiveness,” an official selection in Sundance’s U.S. Dramatic Competition, which doesn’t shy away from the pain of trauma. The film follows a Black artist who is reunited with his estranged father, a recovering drug addict hoping for reconciliation.

In addition to discussing how film should represent the breadth of the Black experience, Day unpacked the significance of the story that unfolds in “Exhibiting Forgiveness.”

She shared, “I think it examines the difference between forgiving and forgetting and the necessity of one or the other, or maybe both. So I think it just makes forgiveness and the struggle to forgive a real conversation and a real experience that you can relate to.”

Meanwhile, Bowser emphasized that the film industry does not exist in a vacuum outside of society. In illustrating that cinema can impact our lived experiences, he referenced D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation.”

“For me, entertainment is advocacy. It always has been,” he said. “[‘The Birth of a Nation’] was a film that was a cinematic tour to force in terms of this technical prowess, but the storytelling left a lot to be desired. It depicted our community as savage, inhuman, ravenous for things that we are not ravenous for. And it precipitated a rise in [Klan membership and] a spike in the number of lynchings around the country. So we saw very early on 1915 that there was a direct correlation between entertainment and what happens in the world, and we’ve been on that mission ever since.”

Watch the full conversation above.

Daniel Dae Kim and Gold House CEO Bing Chen

Daniel Dae Kim and Gold House CEO Bing Chen took the stage to discuss the future of AAPI representation in the industry.

“A lot of people don’t realize, our community is responsible for the most decorated film of all time, ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once.’ I think the world also does not realize we are responsible for the most-viewed series on the largest entertainment platform in the world ‘Squid Game,’ which is entirely in Korean,” Chen said. “By the way, we also boast the single most lucrative franchise in Pokémon, which is also super Asian. And so I think people need to realize this is not just about race … but it’s also about excellence.”

Echoing Chen’s comments, Kim discussed how centering cultural representation contributes to the success of films.

“The fact that being Asian contributes to the success of that film and doesn’t succeed despite it is the next echelon of where we’re trying to go for — not just Asian Americans, but for all communities of color. The whole idea is that we have entertainment that gets us to a place where everyone can be represented and everyone can be celebrated and not have the burden of representing all of one community,” Kim said.

The conversation then transitioned to a discussion on how the marketing of films about people of color is often only directed toward those in that community. Chen said that although he is seeing more allyship and intersectionality on the budgeting side, those in the industry should start “cross-promoting each other’s work” across industries to see further progress.

“Eighty percent of the world is multicultural in some form, women and people of color — which is to say that a minority actually runs the majority of the world. Interesting. Now, I want to be clear, I’m not anti-anyone, we are just pro-everyone,” Chen said. “When you have that imbalance, it shows that maybe a minority can rise because it has.”

Jackson added that 22% of the films that grossed more than $100 million at the box office had an Asian American director, lead actor or screenwriter. Kim said this illustrates how the industry is “looking beyond its borders in a way that it hasn’t before.” However, he said there is still much more progress to be made.

Watch the full conversation above.

Carla Gutierrez, director, ‘Frida’ and Olga Segura, founder, The Latinx House

Carla Gutierrez, director of the Sundance-premiered documentary “Frida” and Olga Segura, founder of The Latinx House, an organization that promotes Latino-led projects in the entertainment industry, spoke about the challenges Latinos face in the entertainment industry and the work that can be done to achieve greater inclusion.

Gutierrez described being able to debut a film at Sundance as “fucking amazing!”

“After working so hard with your team and pouring your heart into a creative process, just to finally connect with audiences,” Gutierrez said. “You’re hoping so much that they will be touched by the film you worked on. So, sharing it with people yesterday was just incredible.”

When prompted by Jackson to talk about what it means for Spanish speakers to “come and see ‘Frida’ and see Carla” and experience the realization of her dream, Segura said it was “extremely special.”

“I don’t know if you know, but there’s like over 17 movies with a Latinx director, below the line, above the line, in front of the camera, and it’s extremely inspiring,” Segura said. “It’s important for us to see and hear those stories, especially at Sundance, because it’s a great opportunity for filmmakers to be recognized and well-known worldwide.”

Segura was a child when she first went to Sundance as an attendee. Inspired to create Latinx House as a way to champion Latinas and Latinos working in the film and entertainment industry because of the difficulty she had when trying to network and promote her own films, she said thinking about the strives and progress Latinos have made to have their voices heard and films produced makes her “emotional.”

“This is an incredible house that we’ve built just to celebrate the excellence of our community and celebrate every single movie,” Segura said. “Now, some of these filmmakers come all the way from Argentina, Chile. They have zero access. Zero access to anything. And just the fact that we can just really celebrate them, it’s a big deal to have a movie here.”

Watch the full conversation above.

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