A quirky, intensely intimate, totally captivating story about love, marriage, “yellow fever”... and documentary filmmaking.
We've made our goal with time remaining! THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!!!
So what happens now? Stretch goal: $25,000!
Please read Updates # 8-11 to find out more about our stretch goal...
seeking asian female is a feature-length personal documentary about the unlikely romance of Steven and Jianhua (a.k.a. “Sandy”) - an American man who is obsessed with marrying any Asian woman and the Chinese woman half his age who agrees over the Internet to be his fiancee. Debbie, a Chinese American filmmaker, documents with skepticism and humor, from the early stages of Steven’s search, through the moment Sandy steps foot in America for the first time, to a year into their precarious union. From one unexpected turn to the next as these two online pen pals attempt to overcome vast differences in age, language and culture for the sake of a real-life marriage, the filmmaker gets pulled deeper into their story. And as her role morphs from documentarian to translator to couple’s counselor, this roller coaster relationship becomes more intimate and more human, ultimately becoming a strangely compelling love story for the ages.
How and Why I Made This
As you may have guessed, it’s been years in the making!
For the first few of them, I borrowed equipment, spent my savings and doggedly interviewed dozens and dozens of men who posted online personal ads exclusively seeking Asian women through websites like Craigslist personals and Asiafriendfinder. I followed a matchmaker and recent immigrant from Beijing who specializes in introducing immigrant Asian women to American men in Silicon Valley. I interviewed experts and academics, poets and activists, and men and women who had very strong opinions about this ever-growing cultural phenomenon. But years later when Steven, who was one of my early interview subjects, actually found Sandy, and she agreed to let me film her, everything changed.
First I jumped into to what was obviously going to become a new and different film. Then for the first three months of their relationship - which was also the first three months of Sandy’s life in America, I practically lived with them as I observed whether or not Sandy would marry Steven before her 90-day fiancee visa expired. I wanted to understand what were Sandy and Steven’s real motivations to make this relationship happen? I went on to film another year and a half, and in the end, all of my expectations about them and the film I had intended to make were shattered. At this point, many years into production, I also finally received my first grant - from the California Council for the Humanities (Cal Humanites). Since then I’ve been supported by Chicken and Egg Pictures, the Center for Asian American Media, Women in Film Foundation, ITVS and KQED.
With the support of these many wonderful organizations and having just had our world-premiere at SXSW film festival, you might wonder why we’re having a kickstarter...
The truth is, the hard work of seeking asian female continues...and we still need to raise the final 20% of our budget in order to ensure that the film makes its way to YOU!
So What Happens Next?
After all the positive reception by audiences and press at SXSW, the PBS TV series, Independent Lens, picked up our piece for their next season. This means that you will be able to see it -- but before this happens we must cut the film down from feature-length to television hour. This means:
- Go back into the editing room to cut 30 minutes out of our film
- Additional color grading of new material
- Compose new music and secure additional music rights
- Revise titles, subtitles, credits, voice-over, sound mix and online.
- Submitting to film festivals nationally and internationally
- Travel and promotional expenses
- Additional music rights for home video and education
- Developing the tools to support community engagement and education
You Can Help Us Make It Happen!By backing our project, you will be instrumental in helping us complete our one-hour broadcast version AND to express our deepest thanks we’re offering you a chance to see the 84-minute director’s cut, before the broadcast next year.
When you join our kickstarter, you will be an investor in the film’s future. The one-hour broadcast version will allow us more opportunities to show the film to many different people in many different communities - and for example, can be used in schools and universities and other environments for learning.
Many of you have already helped us along the way, and we want to thank you for your ongoing support. Every little bit helps, including telling all your friends how much you love our project too!
All of us here from the SAF team want to thank you for considering our kickstarter campaign. We are very excited about our film. We want you to see it. We want the world to see it. Please help us get it out to more audiences!
Thank you for your support!
The SAF Team: Chris Guevarra (Co-Producer), Cianna Stewart (Co-Producer, Interactive Media), Debbie Lum (Director, Producer, Writer, Editor), Tina Nguyen (Editor, Co-Writer, Co-Producer), S. Leo Chiang (Consulting Producer), Maikiko James (Engagement Consultant), Corey Tong (Producer's Rep)
Don't just take our word for it. Here's what reviewers are saying:
“The end result is mesmerizing...nearly every assumption you have at the film's beginning is ultimately countered and overturned by its conclusion.” -- Jeff Yang, Wall Street Journal (wsj.com)
“terrifically engaging... stripped of talking heads and whizzy effects... Just a compelling, subtle story...” -- Catherine Shoard, the UK’s Guardian
I loved this film! -- Adam Frazier, MovieHole
Before the opening credits of “Seeking Asian Female” have finished rolling, producer/director/writer/editor/camera-woman Debbie Lum has already broken the fourth wall. She tells you (yes, you) what this documentary-style film is about—the aging, “Yellow Fever”-afflicted Stephen, his courtship of the native Chinese woman Sandy, and her own direct involvement and sway throughout their entire relationship. But that’s just one way to describe what “Seeking Asian Female” is actually about. Its story raises issues about latent racism and sexism in America. Its context highlights American imperialism and ethnocentrism. Its themes expose U.S. immigration policies and marriage rights. And the finished product raises so very many questions about the role of a filmmaker in a so-called documentary. Though at times frustrating and downright disturbing, “Seeking Asian Female” succeeds through its storytelling of a rarely publicized social phenomenon. And in so doing, Lum forces audiences to acknowledge the controversial thematic and cinematic aspects of the film and to reach individual conclusions through their own moral and artistic compasses. --Hilary Saunders, Paste Magazine
Pledge today at $50 or above and you don't have to take their word for it - you can see the film for yourself!
***NEW REWARD*** Uncle Peng Tzu's
Gift: (Only 12 available)
One - 100% cotton t-shirt, hand-painted with original Chinese watercolor design by Debbie's Uncle Peng Tzu, and One - Pre-Release DVD.
Mr. Peng Tzu, a 69-year-old painter and calligrapher of Tang Lake Style, lives in Chengdu, Sichuan. He is vice president of Ark orphanage in Sichuan Province, China. He is also the Peng Family Culture Research scholar and senior adviser. His t-shirts come in 6 original color designs and 6 black and white. Each is an original painting on a Men's Large t-shirt. (You can only specify color or b/w.) Here are two examples in color and b/w:
Make a point with our set of 3 buttons!
"His and Her" T-shirts!
Seeking Asian Female Artist! Original ceramic piece by Jeri Au, one of Debbie's favorite Asian American female artists from her hometown, St. Louis, Missouri. (Only 1 available)
"The Asian Mystique" by Sheridan Prasso! Autographed and Out-of-print hard cover!
Original "Seeking Asian Female" poster - signed by Debbie Lum!
Thank you to everyone for all of your support! We couldn't do this without you!
Our goal is the minimum amount we need right now as we complete the final edited TV version and will also help defray all the many expenses related to promoting the film and getting it out there to locations around the US and the world. If we go over our goal and have any remaining funds, we will funnel all your support back into the project to cover direct costs of expanding our website with new content. Right now we're making plans to develop an extensive web component that connects us to you, using 100's of hours of footage that we shot but left on the cutting room floor. This includes thought-provoking, fascinating and entertaining material that reaches beyond the intimate, personal story told in seeking asian female to encompass: online dating, interracial relationships, the role of race in romance and dating, "yellow fever" and Asian women.
You can create a pledge in any amount that you want to give (from $1 and up). You can then select not to be sent one of our awards when you check out. You can have the confidence that the entire saf team will be forever thankful of your support!
The DVD available now is a pre-release, autographed version currently available only through Kickstarter, as a thank you for supporting seeking asian female! The final DVD will not be available to the public for another a year.
Kickstarter is all-or-nothing funding. That means that if we don't hit our goal, we don't receive any of your pledges. We are so close and need your support in any amount. Please help us with the final push!
You can help us spread the word by sharing the link to our kickstarter to all your friends. You can also have the confidence that the entire saf team will be forever thankful of your support!
The DIY Box contains valuable materials and insight that working filmmakers always need, but rarely get - stuff they can't teach you in film school! This was Debbie's first feature documentary and it took her years to develop her initial concept into the final film -- piecing it together through fundraisers and funds awarded from 6 separate film organizations, before it finally premiered at one of North America's most prestigious film festivals (SXSW) and was then programmed for national US broadcast on PBS! In addition to the Pre-Release DVD, poster and pins, you will get two versions of the SAF fundraising trailer: one that didn't work to get funding and one that did. It will also include one deleted scene along with written commentary from Debbie about why a scene that once seemed like a pivotal scene was not included in the final edit.
Right now seeking asian female is being released in theaters solely through invitations by film festivals and other special venues around the world. We are using all our resources to find a way to release the film to broader audiences, including looking for a distributor to help us do this. This takes an enormous amount of diligent, professional, promotions, visibility and networking.
We created our top premium for those who just cannot wait for seeking asian female to find its way to them, and want to see it right now with a group audience in their own city. If you don't have enough to cover that pledge entirely on your own, we suggest finding a co-sponsor who would like to co-host the screening with you. As an extra bonus, unlike many other screenings, Debbie will attend the event to engage in a private Q&A and meet your guests.
Yes we're happy to ship to our international fans! We'd be very grateful if you could add $10-20 to ship the DVD, depending on where you are and how fast you want it. For the other rewards that require international shipping, please pledge so we know which reward you want, then include a note to us where you are from outside of the US. We'll calculate the costs and you can go back in to manage your pledge accordingly. Thank you!
No. You will need to create an account with Kickstarter, but you can do that without joining Facebook. Just follow the directions on the Kickstarter signup page to enter your email address, etc.