This opinion piece by NYWIFT Member Mellini Kantayya originally appeared in The Washington Post. The following is a brief excerpt.
“Part of me feels like I need to go to every single Indian person in this country and personally apologize,” actor Hank Azaria recently said on a podcast. The source of his remorse was the 30 years he spent voicing the character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the Indian immigrant Kwik-E-Mart clerk on “The Simpsons.”
The apology comes after years of complaints about the character. The debate was brought to the fore with the 2017 documentary “The Problem With Apu.” In the film, Indian American comedian Hari Kondabolu criticized the character and Azaria for perpetuating harmful racist stereotypes. Azaria announced last year that he would stop voicing Apu.
When I learned of the apology, I listened to the podcast. And much to my surprise, I cried.
As an Indian American actress, for me the shadow of Apu loomed larger in my life than I realized.
Welcome to NYWIFT, Melisa Ramos! Melisa is a filmmaker and professor from Puerto Rico, bringing 14 years of post-production and motion graphics experience to New York. Her first production, Puerto Rican Voices, a docu-series about the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Following Puerto Rican Voices, Melisa continued to share Puerto Rican and Latin American stories. In 2020, she directed and produced From Performers to Spectators, a doc-series showcasing New York City performers during lockdown. She is currently in production on Hoop Warrior, her first feature film. Read all about Melisa’s journey as an editor and artist here!READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Seeley Björkstén! Seeley is an NYC-based filmmaker and digital artist who is mostly interested in telling impactful nonfiction stories through film. Their passion for incorporating animation and other types of unconventional creativity into their work is reflected in their short film Who I Wasn’t, among other projects. Having studied at American University and FAMU, one of the oldest film schools in the world, Seeley is currently the Marketing & Social Media Manager at the Bushwick Film Festival. As someone who believes that art has the power to change the world, they consider their creations to be a form of activism. Seeley spoke to us about what drew them to animation, their creative journey, and their most personal project to date.READ MORE
Signe Baumane’s "My Love Affair With Marriage" is a brilliant animated film for a decidedly adult audience. It’s a semi-autobiographical musical exploration of love, sex, romance, and gender as viewed through the lens of neurochemistry – not your average animated love story! New York Women in Film & Television was proud to present Baumane with a NYWIFT Ravenal Foundation Feature Film Grant for the film, and even prouder to then see it premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Festival! We sat down with Signe to discuss her wildly inventive, intelligent, and very fun film.READ MORE