As Anna May Wong quarters roll out, a younger generation reflects on the actress’ legacy and her impact on the film world
On October 11, 2011, actress Anna May Wong stood at the podium in a large, white hall at the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF).
This was her first PIFF as the vice president of the film board, a position she assumed after the retirement of actress Soon-Yi Choo, who had been appointed to the position eight years prior.
Wong first appeared on the festival’s main stage to introduce the awards, and then took the seat of honor, her hands pressed against the podium to signify her humility.
It was a simple, but effective moment.
It was one she told me she had written down at the time, before she was ever a PIFF vice president, a letter in which she urged the organization to continue its tradition of honoring Asian American actresses, whom she said made films that were not only important, but inspiring.
Wong’s first year on the festival’s board was no exception.
Over the next two years, PIFF would give 11 awards to her, and that year at the podium she was joined by her husband, James Wong, and daughter, Annalise Yung.
It was a moment as a celebration of love, and her career, and her community. It was a moment that helped cement her legacy as one of the more influential Asian actresses in the history of Hollywood. It is also a moment that continues to influence the way Asian Americans are treated, especially in the industry.
This year’s PIFF, coinciding with the opening of its 18th season, was its most diverse to date. It was host to the first Asian American and Afro Asian American director’s luncheon, a guest appearance from “Dancing on the Edge” star Michelle Yeoh, and Wong’s very first appearance alongside director Wong Kar Wai, her mentor and a man described by Wong as her “mentor and role model all the time.”
It was a time for Wong to reflect on several years of progress,