You might be familiar with the name of the hip local restaurant Hapa Izakaya. But are you hip to what hapa means?
In case you don't know, the word hapa comes from the Hawaiian language. It originally meant a piece or fragment of something larger. However, it's since been adopted by the English language, but used to refer to someone who is of interracial ancestry.
It's particularly used in the North American Nikkei community (Nikkei means Japanese living or born outside of Japan). The Japanese Canadian community, has the highest interracial marriage rate of all minority groups in Canada. (In my own extended family, for example, all of my cousins and most of my second cousins are of interracial descent.)
Local hapanese filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns (who hails from Kelowna) is of both Japanese and European descent. He's best known for his animated shorts like "Yellow Sticky Notes", but he most recently made the feature-length documentary One Big Hapa Family, which explores the interracial composition of his extended family as a microcosm of the larger Japanese Canadian community.
The trailer for that film as well as his short "What Are You Anyways?" will be shown as part of the Mixed Flicks program at the four-day Hapa-palooza Festival, which runs from September 7 to 10 at Robson Square. The free screening, to be held on Thursday (September 8) at 7 p.m. at the Vancouver Public Library's Central Branch (350 West Georgia Street), will include six shorts and two trailers.
The lineup will cover everything from crayons discussing the politics of colour ("Crayola Monologues") to a mashup of Lou Diamond Phillips's various ethnic characters ("The Others"). It'll be followed by a Q&A session with the filmmakers.
Chiba Stearns will be hosting a panel of hapa actors, including Fanshen Cox, Kim Kuhteubl, Christopher Musella, and Kyle Toy talking about how interracial identity is represented in film.
There have been quite a number of actors with interracial Asian heritage who have made in-roads into Hollywood in recent history, including Keanu Reeves, Rae Dawn Chong, Tia Carrere, Brandon Lee, Jennifer and Meg Tilly, Russell Wong, Dean Cain, Devon Aoki, Kelly Hu, Kristin Kreuk, and many more. It'll be interesting to see what the actors have to see about their experiences in the industry.
There's plenty of other stuff hapa-ning (sorry) at the festival so check the website for full details.
You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig.