Posted by Natalie Hulla
Can you provide insight into your position and responsibilities?
I'm a summer intern at the USDA White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI). I am involved in organization and production process of a short video that features Asian American women farm operators. The video participants have unique stories and life experiences, and I am quite excited to work on this assignment. I am working with the USDA Office of Communication in order to gain interview, editing, and organizational skills.
What interested you about the internship?
I found this internship through Edmund S. Muskie Summer Internship Program that assists international Fulbright students with internship placement and provides stipends. Although Film Studies was not listed among majors eligible for participation I decided to apply because I am interested in cultural exchange and social development - the focus topics of the Muskie program. When the Muskie team proposed me to intern at USDA I was confused. USDA was very different from my internship expectations and my major. But covering stories of Asian American women seemed to be related to my graduate thesis on transnational women and my research interest in hybrid cultures. During my thesis project research, I was suggested to go and explore the world beyond cinema. The USDA project gave me an opportunity to combine learning some video production skills with learning about migration and women's labor.
Have you integrated your studies at OU Film into your internship? How?
Yes and no. I have never studied history of Asian Americans or agriculture. In this regard, I have to learn a lot of new things about farming practices and policies. But my studies of transnational theory and women representation in cinema helped me to form my project topic and start research. When I started reading about Asian American pan-ethnicity I was amazed by rich history of displacement, trauma, exclusion, and misrepresentation that Asian American groups went through. What was new is that issues of social discrimination and exclusionary practices were described through relationship to land, agricultural labor and foods. Another important aspect of my internship is being able to narrate the story, and that's where knowledge of film narrative becomes crucial. In this sense, knowledge and skills gained during my education in Film Studies program were important.
What have been some of your memorable experiences so far?
My most memorable experiences is conducting my first interview with the project participant. Before the interview, I spent time researching and collecting information about her and reading her wonderful blog on farming but interviewing requires completely different set of skills than reading and writing. It was challenging but I enjoyed organization process and the interview. I learned so much while working on this project. I'm happy that my project highlights women's experiences because I think that more of women's stories should be recorded and shared to empower other women, especially young girls. Also agriculture is a sphere which is not traditionally associated with women although women have always been involved in farming labor.
I also love the local film scene represented by nice movie theaters including Landmark E Street cinema, AFI Silver Theater at Silver Spring, and Bethesda Row Cinema that screen classics and new independent movies from around the world. While in DC, I volunteered for the AFI DOCS Film Festival which exhibits international documentary films. Honestly, I volunteered because I wanted to feel a film festival atmosphere again - this real excitement about great film narratives, and of course, to see how the famous doc festival works. As a volunteer, I had an opportunity to watch some movies for free. I really wanted to see The Look of Silence - a sequel of Joshua Oppenheimer's famous documentary The Act of Killing. In overall, volunteering at AFI DOCS was a good experience.