Top 10 Picks at AFI Fest 2015!

15 Film Picks (1)
by Tom Nguyen

AFI Fest presented by Audi, hands down the most anticipated film festival each year in LA, returns to Hollywood November 5-12! The festival will kick off with the world premiere of Angelina Jolie’s By the Sea, which stars her and her partner Brad Pitt, as a couple in crisis in 1970s France. All told, there are 127 films (74 features, 53 shorts), representing 45 countries, in all kinds of categories.

It’s a one-of-a-kind festival where the general public can get free tickets to attend star-studded gala screenings, catch the films everyone is buzzing about on the festival circuit, and be among the first to see the work of emerging and first-time filmmakers from around the world. Here are the top 10 films I’m excited to see: Continue Reading →

14 Rappers, 14 Countries for UNICEF: Where are the Women MCs?

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by Tom Nguyen

Dear San E and UNICEF,

I was excited to discover your music video #HIPHOPISHIPHOP – Hip Hop for the World bringing together 14 rappers from 14 countries to express the unifying love of hip hop. I love that this video was made in the tradition of the iconic song We Are The World, to bring light on an important global issue: children’s access to education. Except for the venerable KRS-One, I love that I didn’t know any of the rappers. Thanks for giving talented rappers around the world a chance to shine!

Now, I ask…where are the women? I was quickly disappointed to see that out of 14 rappers, there was only one woman, YACKO from Indonesia. Why does this bother me? While every rapper in that video is talented and deserving and I applaud each of them, I have so many reasons for why this gender imbalance in your video upsets me.

Hip hop has historically been a very unfriendly and unfair place for women and it still remains so. Misogyny, homophobia and transphobia are big problems in hip hop songs, lyrics and culture. I’m afraid your video only reinforces the exclusion of women in hip hop. If We Are The World had better inclusion of women in 1985, I’m sure we can do better in 2015.

Since you are using hip hop as a platform for children’s education and your own statistics show that girls suffer greater disadvantage and exclusion from education in so many parts of the world, wouldn’t you have wanted to represent more women as role models? If you had included more women cyphers, I think your message would have been much more powerful and inspiring in your quest for gender equality in education.

After all, you released this video during Women’s History Month and right before International Women’s Day. I think you squandered a very good opportunity to not only address the inequality of access to education, but to also give strength to the message that the ones most affected by that inequality are girls around the world. You could have shown young girls everywhere that they have the same right and ability to succeed in any male-dominated space.

However, I have faith in an organization that is doing so much to achieve gender equality. We’re far from achieving equal human rights and opportunities for one half of the world’s population and it’s critical to keep empowering girls and women worldwide. There are no lack of girls and women on the front lines of society fighting for equality and freedom every day in every part of the world, and hip hop is no exception. In many countries, just being female, queer or trans in male-dominated hip hop is defiant and revolutionary. Below are just 14 of so many countless talented female, queer and trans rappers (in alphabetical order) who are not only rapping but doing so by challenging the status quo and giving voice to marginalized communities around the world. I hope you’ll consider them in a second hip hop video.

Respectfully,
Tom Nguyen

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To and From the Heart: Taiwu Children’s Ancient Ballads Troupe & Daniel Ho

taiwu 001On my day off yesterday, I had the fortune of finding out about a free educational presentation by the Taiwu Children’s Ancient Ballads Troupe and Daniel Ho at Bowers Museum in Santa Ana from a friend who heard them interviewed on KPFK that same morning. I’m so glad I made the drive down to OC to catch them!

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/105202892″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

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Cali Hustle: Come to One of LA’s Best Live Music Monthlies!

cali hustle
(UPDATE 11/16/13: The 1 Year Anniversary on 11/12 was a blast! Cali Hustle will be celebrating in December with a New Year’s Eve party at The Virgil!)
Cali Hustle is a monthly free live music night, every 2nd Tuesday at The Virgil in Silverlake, featuring Quetzal Guerrero and his band and DJ Miss Sunny Z spinning the decks. Each month, they invite other wonderful emerging, independent bands and DJs to join them. It’s an eclectic night of music and dancing that I think is one of the best undiscovered secrets in LA!

They call it Cali Hustle for the eclectic blend of music being played, “California Soul, Samba, Reggae, Rock & More”, but I think the night is aptly named for another reason: we’re lucky so many talented musicians come here from all over the country and the world for the Cali dream and they hustle and work tirelessly at their craft and passion to bring us great music. I can’t think of an artist as talented and hard-working, yet as undiscovered as Quetzal Guerrero. Originally from Arizona and of American, Mexican and Brazilian heritage, Quetzal is a violin virtuoso, having studied since age 4, and combining that with his singing, songwriting and mastery of guitar and percussion, his music is a rich, unique blend of soul, funk, bossa nova, reggae and rock.

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PBS Online Film Festival

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What does one do when stuck inside with a bad cold, while it’s glorious summer weather outside? Spend the whole day watching films online. I watched all 25 short films of the PBS Online Film Festival. I laughed, I cried, I learned a lot. Then I voted for one (which was hard to choose from my group of favorites): Continue Reading →