On Wednesday, October 28, 2020, more than 35 attendees gathered over livestream to watch a panel discussion on the documentary film First Vote. Following the stories of four politically engaged voters during the 2018 midterm elections, First Vote crafts an insightful look at Asian Americans' diverse experiences at the polls. 

Director Yi Chen and two subjects of the film, Kaiser Kuo and Jennifer Ho, joined in the discussion. Kaiser Kuo is host of the Sinica Podcast, a weekly discussion on current affairs in China. Jennifer Ho is professor of ethnic studies and director of the Center for Humanities & the Arts at the University of Colorado Boulder, and president of the Association for Asian American Studies.

The discussion highlighted the important role that Asian American voters play as the fastest-growing segment of eligible voters in the United States. The panelists discussed the range of political views in the Chinese American community and how those views may have been influenced by personal experiences. Several questions concerned racial dynamics in the United States, including the “model minority” myth of Asian Americans.

Director Yi Chen shared how what had initially begun as a project exploring her own personal journey meeting voters in her community evolved into a character-driven film following four Asian American voters over the span of almost two years. Key challenges included locating the characters and gaining access to some of the spaces in the documentary.

Associate Vice President and Dean of International Programs Meredith McQuaid thanked the panelists for their time, insight, and commitment to a free and well-informed democracy, and China Center Executive Director Joan Brzezinski moderated the discussion and asked questions from the audience.

In addition to the panel discussion, the China Center made the documentary available for online streaming for two weeks.

Watch a recording of the webinar


About the Film

Poster for First Vote film featuring four voters on red and blue backgroundsFirst Vote is a character-driven documentary film with unparalleled access to a diverse cross section of politically engaged Chinese Americans: a gun-toting Tea Party-favorite candidate courting GOP votes in the South, a podcaster in Ohio who became a citizen in order to vote for Trump, a progressive journalist confronting Chinese Americans for Trump after moving to a battleground state, and a University of North Carolina professor teaching about race and racism in the U.S. A vérité look at Chinese American electoral organizing in North Carolina and Ohio, the film weaves their stories from the presidential election of 2016 to the 2018 midterms, and explores the intersection of immigration, voting rights, and racial justice.

Until 1952, federal law barred immigrants of Asian descent from becoming U.S. citizens and voting. Today, Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in the United States. More than 11 million Asian Americans will be able to vote in 2020.

Directed by Yi Chen, a Chinese immigrant and first-time voter herself, First Vote is a must-watch and rare long-form look at the diverse Asian American electorate.