Safe Among Stars is a short film about Jia, a Asian-American, who, after surviving sexual assault develops the ability to teleport via masturbation. Jia lives with her first generation immigrant mother. Jia’s academic excellence is the pride of her family, but she has lost her scholarship and has to take a semester off to take care of her mental health. Her magic and teleportation leads her toward a decision that will alter the course of her life forever.
Safe Among Stars is written, directed, produced, acted and production designed by a community of queer and trans people or color. It explores the galaxies that can be made and truths that can be told when the power to tell ones own story is given to a community we rarely see on screen.
BACKGROUND & INSPIRATION
My name is Jess X Snow (she/they), I am a queer Asian-Canadian poet, and public artist and now a director of film. I’m currently a first year student at NYU Grad Film. Due to the demands of school, I haven’t been able to keep up with my art career, which means I don’t have the ability to feed my crew, pay for production and VFX costs, pay woman of color actors the rates they deserve, and submit to festivals. If this story means something to you, supporting me at this early point in my filmmaking journey will be immeasurable in making sure I stay at work in an industry where less than 0.5% of major films are directed by women or color. If I am able to acquire funds to create small projects like these, I intend on dedicating the next few years to infiltrating media with the stories of queer and trans women of color healing that I never had a chance to witness as a child.
Following the visual look and cinematography of Asian cinema classics like "Happy Together" and "In The Mood For Love," Safe Among Stars is a fictional adaptation of my own story. It took me more than five years of experiences of having my boundaries be violated by lovers to realize I too am a survivor. It took me years of trying to process my dysfunctional relationship with my family to realize I am also a survivor of inter-generational immigrant trauma. The intersection of these traumas have sometimes make it very difficult for me to get through daily life, which is something me and my first generation immigrant mother don’t have the language to talk about. My mother grew up in the country side during the Cultural Revolution. She raised me with the love and pressure to become the artist, and scholar that she never got the opportunity to be. Because of our different cultural backgrounds we hardly know how to express “I love you” in the same language. Because in my mother’s generation, trauma is normalized, we don’t have the language to talk about mental health and healing. This film explores the intersection of these dynamics: sexual trauma, and Asian-American family pressures, and one woman’s journey toward healing and self love despite what she has had to endure.
Like Jia, I have been held by queer partners and chosen family when I no longer want to keep going in this world. Like Jia, through my wounds I discovered portals into galaxies where I encounter the sense of home that I was unable to experience in this world. Like Jia, I have found homes within myself. This film is for my queer asian community, and for the larger community of immigrant queer people of color, and all people who have never had the courage to name their trauma and see that they too are survivors. I want to use this film to say: no matter which part of your healing journey you are on, no matter how dark this world might feel, you are so, so brave for just being here.
Though this film is rooted in Jia’s experience, it’s relevance expands far beyond the edges of JiA’s body. 3 in 5 women have traumatic sexual experiences in their lifetime. Very few times are these stories those of women of color.If the world can understand Jia’s experience and witness her heartbreak, her pain, her healing, and her joy, perhaps we would be inspired to shift rape culture and decolonize this violent world into one that looks like the one she visits in her imagination.
Survivors of all kinds of trauma and abuse, be it sexual, familial, racial or societal—have resourcefully relied on their own magic in order to keep going. Sometimes their magic leads them to discovering their own healing and self love. These are the stories I want to dedicate my life to telling.
The role of Jia was initially written for my friend, incredible Asian-American actress, Akemi Look, who is unfortunately no longer able to appear in the film due to a major jaw injury. Akemi Look appeared in A Wrinkle In Time and the short, and Woman In Fragments, which played at Cannes in 2015. This film is dedicated for Akemi, and her sister survivors. Akemi Look is an amazing friend of mine. She is also a survivor. Earlier this year she appeared in court to publically sentence Larry Nassar alongside her sister survivors for his assaults of many former members of the US Olympics Gymnastic team. She is one of the bravest people I know and also is one of the people who has been there for me all year and not a day goes by where her courage and fearlessness and hunger for life doesn’t inspire me to keep going. I intend now working with Akemi for a new film once she recovers.
THE CHOSEN FAMILY BEHIND THE FILM
Here is some more information about the community behind the scenes. My healing journey has been made possible by chosen family, and it is the same chosen family who have shown up to for me to work on this film. We are stronger together than I could ever be alone.
Rachel Gordon (She) is a dual degree MFA/MBA candidate at NYU. She comes from a background in analytics at Veterans Affairs and The New York Times. She wants to highlight under explored areas through fiction and non-fiction and is interested in issues ranging from race and gender, STEM diversity, and the role improving mental health can play in reducing mass violence.
Kit Yan (Playwright/Poet/Performer/Lyricist) is a Yellow American New York based artist, born in Enping, China, and raised in the Kingdom of Hawaii. Kit's award winning work has been shown at the NY Musical Theater festival and the American Repertory Theater.
"My dreams lead me to write about the fractures in my life and in this world, the times I fucked up, the times I was held accountable by my family and communities, the times of collective struggle on a path towards collective liberation. Above all else, I write about queer love smashing racism, patriarchy, and systemic oppressions. I am a self-taught writer learning my craft by talking story with elders/family/friends, kanikapilas (backyard/beachside jam sessions,) collaborations, and by watching queer/trans/poc art in bars, lounges, poetry readings, subways, sidewalks, living rooms, and secret places where queer artistic magic & power exists." (www.kityanpoet.com)
Poppy Liu is a first generation Yellow-American New York City based actor, poet and community organizer who will be starring in the film alongside her real Mother, Leah. Poppy was born in Xi'An, China and raised between Minnesota and Shanghai. Poppy is the founding director of the production company Collective Sex which has the mission of decolonizing queer femme stories about body, sex, love and healing. To find out more, visit (www.collectivesex.org)
"I believe in art as a spirit practice that invites us into our bravest and most compassionate selves.I believe that as hyphenated diasporic people, when we speak our stories we are building houses of healing for our communities, for our ancestors and for our next generations."
Jess X. Snow is a queer asian-canadian public artist, filmmaker, poet and educator. She holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and is currently studying directing in the MFA program for film at the NYU Tisch School of The Arts. Her work has been supported by the Tribeca Film Institute Migration Co/Lab, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific Center, and has appeared on PBS Newshour, The LA Times, and NBC Asian America and outdoor walls across the country. As a filmmaker, she directed AFTEREARTH (2017) which is part of the official selection of CAAMfest, Outfest Fusion, and LA Asian Pacific Film Festival.
Peter is a queer Cambodian designer based in New York City. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Rhode Island School of Design in 2011 and has worked in diverse art and design projects that incorpates graphic, illustration, and motion graphic design. Peter's work has been featured at SFMOMA, The Smithsonian Museum Asian Pacific American Center, Tribeca Film Lab and USAID. (www.papeter.com)
Melissa Li is a composer, lyricist, and performer. She is a Jonathan Larson Award winner, whose most recent musical 99% Stone (The Theater Offensive), about the 1969 Stonewall riots, received an NPN Creation Fund and a NEFA Grant. Her first musical, Surviving the Nian (The Theater Offensive), won an IRNE award for Best New Play in 2007. She is currently writing her third full-length musical Interstate with poet Kit Yan and director Jessi D. Hill. (www.melissali.com)
Terrance Daye is an award winning poet and filmmaker from Long Island, New York. Terrance’s creative work reimagines traditional representations of black male identity and invests strongly in destigmatizing mental illness within the black community. Terrance received his Bachelor’s from Morehouse College and is pursuing his MFA in filmmaking from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Terrance’s most recent film project, The Colored Hospital: A Visual Poem was shortlisted for the 44th Student Academy Awards.
Dear audiences and supporters, we want to invite you to be a part of this family, and help us keep the project running as it gets made and reaches the world. If you are able to give funding, I will invite you to a private NY screening of the film this summer where you will get a free poster, or send a link online if you are limited by distance.
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