An Interview with Kirsten Strayer: Screenshot: Asia Programming Coordinator

The following interview is between Kirsten Strayer, Asian Studies Center staff member and programming coordinator for Screenshot: Asia, and Communications & Media intern, Jenn Nguyen. Strayer is thrilled about the recent launch and expansion of Screenshot: Asia, the Asian Studies Center and Film & Media Studies partnership to deliver Asian-American and American cinema to Pittsburgh. To learn more about Screenshot: Asia, spread the word, or donate, please visit

How did you start working at the Asian Studies Center?

I helped run Silk Screen, an Asian and Asian-American film festival, in 2018. Subsequently, the organization folded. Lynn Kawaratani, one of the staffers at the Asian Studies Center, was an advisory board member for Silk Screen, and a few people at Pitt, including herself, were really invested in the idea of preserving Asian and Asian-American film in Pittsburgh. We were in conversation off and on with the Film and Media Studies Program until, finally, the Asian Studies Center was able to gather the materials to put on our own Asian and Asian-American film series at Pitt with them.

What do you specialize in at Pitt and at the Asian Studies Center?

At the Asian Studies Center, I specialize in programming all of the media, film, and film associated and media associated partnerships. It’s a bunch of everything – I write grants to help with the launch of the Screenshot: Asia festival, manage all of the films that come in during the year and work with Lynn and other faculty members to choose some films, and oversee all of the nuts and bolts stuff for the festival.

My technical specialty is global cinema. I have a PhD in film, and I’ve published on a bunch of different global moments in different places to invoke answers to questions about circulation. For example, I researched and wrote about how film circulated in the 70’s throughout Latin America, global Bollywood, and the contemporary film movement in the post-20th and 21st centuries.

What region do you think produces the best films?

I mean, I think they’re all so different. I’m very attached to Latin America and Mexico, obviously, because I wrote my dissertation on that region. I think film scholars are coming to terms with the idea of how there have been networks in Latin America, Africa, and Asia since the beginning of film, so if I had to choose, I’d say my favorite region for film is the southern half of the world. If I had to choose one specific region, I’d say Latin America, for sure.

You talked a little bit about Silk Screen. Can you explain exactly what the program was, and how that led you to create Screenshot: Asia?

Silk Screen was an organization dedicated to promoting Asian art and culture in Pittsburgh and was around for about 12 years until its closing. When I was there, I learned a lot about both contemporary Asian film and what was going on in the Asian film industry and the nuts and bolts of running a film festival, which is really hard and a huge time commitment. I really wanted to bring those skills to Pitt in hopes of launching an even bigger project.

For Screenshot: Asia, are you partnering with a professor in the Film and Media Studies Program or moreso with the department as a whole?

We have an executive committee, which consists of Seung-hwan Shin, Kun Qian, Charles Exley, and Neepa Majumdar. They’re basically the people that work most extensively on Asian film, but the director of the Film and Media Studies Program who is currently on sabbatical, Randall Halle, is most engaged with the series. We’ve worked with Halle a lot. He’s most excited about having a constant art and film presence in Pittsburgh and transforming the city into a place that has entertaining movies always being streamed, especially on the weekends.

The question is, “How do we take all of these celebrations – the Polish film festival, projects at Carnegie Mellon University, and the Pittsburgh Shorts film festival – and create a more coherent understanding of the arts?” Halle has a big vision for arts programming in Pittsburgh, and the Asian Studies Center tightly works with him to turn his vision into a tangible product.

What are your current favorite Asian and Asian-American films?

It’s really hard to choose one favorite. For Asian films, I love In the Mood for Love (2000) and 2046 (2004), which are both from Hong Kong. In The Mood for Love is so beautiful. I love the main actor, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, and how gorgeous and immense the film is. In general, I like every genre of film.

I love a lot of Asian classics, too, which includes anything by Japanese film directors Akira Kurosawa and Yasuijro Ozu. I love Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well (1960), in particular, which is based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Kurosawa is the master of black-and-white film. You have to remember, Asia is so big, which means Asian film encompasses such a variety of countries and genres. I’m a fan of Iranian film, too. Some of the best projects are from Iran. It’s as if the whole world is in Asia, in certain ways.

As for Asian-American films, I love H.P. Mendoza’s Bitter Melon (2018), which was aired at Silk Screen last year. It’s a hilarious yet dark comedy about a Filipino family in San Francisco. The movie is one of the smartest takes on the contemporary Asian-American experience that I’ve seen. I’d love to screen it again for the Pitt community.

An Interview with Amy Cheng: Los Angeles-based Film Production Assistant & Pitt Film Alumna


The following is an email conversation between Chinese-American film editor and Pitt alumna Amy Cheng and Asian Studies Center Global Ambassador Anthony Gavazzi. To raise awareness about Screenshot: Asia, Pitt’s new Asian and Asian-American film series, and its fundraising campaign, ASC interns are interviewing Pitt film alumni of Asian-American backgrounds to learn about the university’s impact on their careers. For more, visit

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I graduated from Pitt in April 2018. I grew up just north of Pittsburgh and went to Pitt to study science. I was a biology major on the premed track for two years, but two weeks before my junior year, I completely changed my schedule and switched to a film and media major. I knew from the beginning that I had an urge to explore film and express my creative energy somehow, but it took me two years to realize that I wanted to pursue something film-related professionally.

I moved to Los Angeles in the fall of 2018 without a job to begin a career in the industry, specifically in post-production. I was an intern for the American Cinema Editors Internship in 2018, which has provided me with a valuable network of professionals in Los Angeles so far. A year later, I still think it is the best decision I’ve ever made. The program brought me many unexpected encounters, industry knowledge, valuable work and life experiences, spontaneous adventures, and the desire to make a living with something I genuinely enjoy!

What was it like being Chinese-American in Pittsburgh and at the University?

Growing up, our family had a circle of Chinese family friends. I went to Chinese language school every Sunday, and my parents spoke Chinese to my brothers and me. Over the years, I lost touch with the language and grew further away from the culture. I found out that I did not relate to the Asian kids I grew up with and unconsciously developed a contempt for my own culture. I desperately wanted to assimilate with the white majority of my school, but I eventually began to feel like I couldn’t relate to the kids I wanted to be like either. There was always an uncertainty about where I belonged throughout my childhood, and I didn’t understand at the time that this dissonance was associated with my racial identity.

At Pitt, I joined the Chinese American Students Association (CASA) and Asian Students Alliance (ASA) to regain a familiarity with Asian culture, but both didn’t really give me the peace of mind that I had hoped for. Now, because I am no longer passively existing in Pittsburgh, I am slowly gaining the ability to see myself as Asian-American, respect the cultural roots that have been laid for me, and actively understand the potential impact that I can exert through my hyphenated identity.

Did any Pitt classes, professors, or students help you explore or think about Asian and Asian-American identity?

There was one experience at Pitt that made me think about my Asian-American identity. I made a last-minute decision to go on a study abroad program senior year, the Pitt in London Film Program. The people I met in London often asked me where I was from, which I would respond confidently, “America!” They would then always follow up with, “But where are you originally from?” as if my first answer was not acceptable.

It was there that I had truly felt two separate identities. I was American, but I was also Chinese. Until then, I had thought of myself as just one singular identity: Chinese-American. I never bothered to separate the two because there was never a context in which I needed to. It made me wonder: Why couldn’t I just exist as me? I’m still navigating what it means to be American and Asian, what it means to both, and what I can do to uncover the Chinese heritage lost over all these years.

How did your time at Pitt lead you to your current career?

I don’t view my first two undergraduate years studying science as wasted time. If anything, those experiences led me to discover that I was drawn towards film, media, and digital arts. A professor I worked for during my first summer in the research lab actually encouraged me to explore film classes and said that she didn’t think molecular research was something that I actually wanted to do. Being young and naive, I brushed it off and tried to prove her wrong even though she was right.

Pitt’s film department provided me with ample opportunities to learn film theory and access the tools necessary to get hands-on experience with set equipment. Carl Kurlander, one of the professors, was also instrumental in helping connect me to Pitt alum working in the industry. He’s a great resource to obtain insight on how the industry operates and connect Pitt students to those now working in the field.

How do you feel about Pitt launching an Asian-American and Asian film festival? 

I’m really glad to see Pitt expanding its film courses and opportunities for students to get more production experience. This film festival will be a great way for the University to showcase Asian voices and stories since they are generally underrepresented in popular media and at Pitt. It’s important to tell these stories to bring attention to the nuances of Eastern culture and to validate the shared experiences of minority groups. I hope the festival can be a space to celebrate local Asian filmmakers, bring awareness to the importance of cultural identity, and provide opportunities for students from all backgrounds to participate in every facet of the festival process.

What projects have you been working on lately?

When I first got to L.A., I didn’t know anyone here or anything about the city. Through networking events and cold e-mailing, I managed to get my first job in the industry as a post-production assistant on a Fox Searchlight feature film, Antlers. The project ended this summer, but I am extremely blessed I had the opportunity to work alongside talented editors and studio assistant editors, as well as learn the intricate post-process for Hollywood films.

After that, I worked temporarily at Blumhouse Productions, a horror production company, as a post-production assistant. Now, I’m freelancing on the side and working on becoming an assistant editor and eventually an editor for television and film projects.

Club Profile: Pitt Fresh Entertainment by Student Artists (FRESA)

By Grace Dong, Asian Studies Center Events Coordinator

Pitt Fresh Entertainment by Student Artists, often referred to as FRESA, is a student-run organization at the University of Pittsburgh that celebrates various Asian pop cultures through music and dance. From teaching dance choreography and filming dance covers, to editing videos and hosting showcases, the executive board and club members manage and run every aspect of the club.

This is my second year in FRESA, and I cannot express how much I changed after joining. Before college, I was already interested in K-pop, but I never imagined myself covering their dances. Auditioning, learning routines, cleaning up messy sections of choreography, filming, and editing, each step required to produce a polished dance cover, is memorable and remarkable. As a K-pop fangirl, dancing idols’ songs definitely makes me feel closer to them.

At the end of every semester, FRESA hosts a showcase for members to perform their dances in front of an audience. This is always my favorite part. Not only do families and friends come to the showcase, but I am also able to watch other members’ performances. We work and prepare for the whole semester for each showcase, and it is a new experience every time I go. I used to be a very shy person, and I refused to perform in front of people. At showcases, I learned to step out of my comfort zone and be open in front of a crowd.

I became more confident after two years in FRESA. I used to be a very shy person, and I refused to perform in front of people. At showcases, I learned to step out of my comfort zone and be open in front of the crowd. Cheering for one another brings us closer together, and I always make a lot of new friends. This club is more than an extracurricular club – it has also revealed to me a new version of myself and introduced me to life-long friends.

University of Pittsburgh Homecoming

By Weiping Xiao, Asian Studies Center Chinese Social Media Intern

Last week, the University of Pittsburgh held a series of Homecoming events, which hosted hundreds of students, alumni, faculty, and staff in attendance. Everyone was filled with passion and enthusiasm.

On Saturday, October 26th, I went to the biggest Homecoming event ¾ the Pitt football game. Since moving to Pittsburgh, I have not watched a football game because of my busy schedule. I was excited that I was able to carve out time to see the homecoming game. For a $10 student ticket and free transportation from campus, it was worth it, too.

It was a raining on Saturday, which dampened the atmosphere. However, I was looking forward to watching the game in action. For this event, our rival was the University of Miami, a very competitive member in our division. My friend and I took a bus from campus to Heinz Field and arrived at 11:30 PM to find seats. The game started with a music performance from the University of Pittsburgh marching band. Hundreds of band members spared no efforts to give the audience a fantastic performance. Afterwards, the game started.

During the game, Pitt’s football players found it difficult to make a touchdown and made a lot of mistakes, which gave the rival a bunch of opportunities to control the game. The game ended with a win by the University of Miami.

I really like the sports culture in the United States. It was exciting to see how enthusiastic students were and watch them continuously chant, although the team ultimately lost. I am looking forward to visiting Heinz Field again for future games and immersing myself more in Pitt’s sports culture.

Korean Language Social Hour

By Xinyu Zhang, Asian Studies Center Confucius Institute Intern

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On Friday, October 11th, the Asian Studies Center (ASC) held a Korean Language Social Hour with the English Language Institute (ELI) in 4130 Posvar Hall. There were a lot of Korean international students and American attendees interested in learning Korean and participating in the planned activities.

At first, students were shy and were not open to socializing with one another. During the event, however, the hosts organized a bingo game and an information gap activity. These games allowed students to warm up and talk to one another. They enjoyed pizza and snacks while chatting with one another in Korean or English and learned a lot about how to speak conversational Korean. The Korean international students in attendance were able to practice their English speaking skills, too.