ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Beginning Friday evening, Albuquerque will host the first-ever New Mexico Asian Film Festival. The Asian Business Collaborative is hosting the event which will feature Asian short films produced by Asian and Pacific Islander directors, an inaugural awards ceremony, and a feature film celebrating Asians in film.

Local award-winning producer and actor Lava Khonsuwon was asked to direct the festival. “It was really important to me to be involved to help bring our voices of the AAPI community to Albuquerque and New Mexico,” Khonsuwon said.

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University of New Mexico graduate and local filmmaker Andy Bui’s film was one of the shorts chosen to be featured in the festival. He and his team produced the film during the pandemic, at the height of the violence against Asians during quarantine.

“I think it’s a very historical event where I feel like Asian Americans in the art space is still very new–it’s not a path we’re encouraged to take, so it is a very hard space to navigate. There are trailblazers now and I feel like now more than ever, we’re recognizing that it’s a space we can thrive in,” Bui said. “Any event in this capacity is something I’m always excited to see in our community.”

Bui is most looking forward to meeting other Asian American creatives in the area, something that was made even more difficult to do because of the pandemic. “Working in the industry, I didn’t get to meet a lot of people with Asian American backgrounds, so anyone who’s interested or just there for the event for what it is, celebrating the art of film, are my two favorite things combined together,” Bui said.

Khonsuwon welcomes all members of the community to attend the festival. “You don’t have to be Asian to attend the festival. It’s a variety of films we’ll be showing from short documentaries, animation, and narrative films and they all have a variety of messages, but mostly about belonging. Whatever your background is, I just want people to know whatever your struggle is with identity or finding yourself or finding community, that you belong,” Khonsuwon said.

The event is a part of the larger Asian Expo and Marketplace event on Aug. 19-20 at the Sid Cutter Pavilion Balloon Fiesta Park. On Friday, the festival kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday the festival begins at noon. For more information, visit the Asian Expo New Mexico website.