I HuMAN: BECOMING VISIBLE
by Ruth Almodal
In 2016 I had just given up on my dream of acting. By doing so, I also gave up on ever seeing my face and to a lesser extent, people who looked, talked, and sounded like me on the big screen.
In 2023, this is no longer the case. The film Everything Everywhere All At Once - a joyful, mesmerising and heartbreakingly relatable film with such authentic representation of the immigrant Asian experience is one of the most widely discussed and decorated films this season, with 10 BAFTA Award and 11 Academy Award Nominations including Best Film, among many others.
When I saw that film, I knew that I was wrong. I knew that I, and people like me, deserved to be on that screen. People wanted to hear us, celebrate us, want us.
Which is why, in October 2022, I responded to an email from City, University of London about a collaborative project they were doing with King's College London and Moongate Productions entitled ‘I, Human’, an artistic, academic and community response to anti-Asian racism.
And on the 6th February, these responses premiered at the Omnibus Theatre to a sold-out audience. The experience was incredible: so many diverse, passionate and creative pieces (from a film about an Asian Barbie doll on a date to the live performance Angry Asians Anonymous) about the Asian experience. Even though the sight of my face projected onto a wall was enough to get me curled up into myself like an armadillo, hearing people laugh, groan and clap at my monologue and the feelings it inevitably induced was so, so rewarding and inspired me to do so much more.
I only hope that, going further, the conversation blooms, grows new branches and bears new fruit as more nuanced experiences are explored and appreciated. I certainly enjoyed seeing such beautiful representation of my culture, from the film ‘Maligayang Pasko’ about British Filipinos celebrating Christmas to the lovely vegan pancit provided by Baboy Club.
This is a space that has not only invited conversation about the British East and Southeast Asian experience, but actively encouraged to and contributed to it. Asians are not a monolith. We have made clear that we are allowed to be queer, mixed, disabled, scared, hurt, angry, radiant, desperate, passionate, without any questions or backlash.
I am so proud to have been a part of this project. Meeting so many new friends from different cultures (and even a few from my own!) was so inspiring and rewarding. The sight of so many people that looked like me all crowded in one room made me tear up several times. I hope that this is only the start for mainstream authentic, joyful appreciations of the ESEA experience.