La Mesa teenager takes inspiration from her own life in short film about mental health among young Asian Americans

She thought her dream of making movies was behind her, so Mikayla Kim found a new one focusing on a career in mental health.

But the San Diego Asian Film Festival‘s Voice coil program for high school filmmakers allowed her to combine these two dreams and make them come true with her first official film, “Covered. “Her nine-minute short features the voices of other young Asian Americans discussing how their upbringing has influenced their relationship with mental health.

“I chose to focus on mental health mainly because of how triggering this topic is for me. It made me realize how stigmatized mental health is within immigrant households, because I am always very uncomfortable talking about my past, with my family, ”she says. “I wanted to explore if other members of the Asian community felt the same, and I continued to create an emotional outlet and a safe space for individuals to share their struggles after years of possibly suffering in silence.”

The annual film festival is in its 22nd year, showcasing more than 130 films from more than 20 countries, in 30 languages. Screenings take place at the UltraStar Mission Valley, the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park and the Angelika Film Center in Carmel Valley. Tickets range from $ 12 to $ 295, with discounts for students, seniors, military, and members of the Pacific Arts Movement. The shorts from the Reel Voices program will be screened Sunday noon at the UltraStar in Mission Valley.

Kim, 17, is in her final year at Helix Charter High School and lives in La Mesa with her family and “two of the best 4 year old pit bulls I could have asked for.” She took the time to talk about her film debut and her own journey with mental health.

Question: Tell us about “cloudy sky”.

A: “Overcast” is approximately nine minutes long and is a documentary-style short film featuring young Asian Americans who explain how parenthood plays an important role in education and their relationship to mental health, while also addressing the realities of growth in an immigrant. Housework. This was motivated by my personal experience with mental health, growing up in an immigrant home, which made me wonder if there were other young people facing similar experiences.

I started working on the film in the first week of June this year and made a lot of progress pretty quickly since I already knew I wanted to focus on mental health. I finished my film in about 10 weeks, per the program deadline, although it would have been nice to have more time to work on it. I am however happy with the end result and had a wonderful time working alongside my peers and mentors on the program. They were all so genuine and kind the entire time we worked together. I’m sad it must have ended so quickly.

Question: Can you explain why you chose to focus on the topic of mental health?

A: I wanted my topics to finally be heard by an ally who could relate to their issues and connect their stories to a larger audience. It was important to me that the voices of young Asians finally express how tedious it is to work to live up to the standards that immigrant parents tend to have, and not being able to communicate properly about what we feel because we are afraid of being rejected, misunderstood or ignored.

Question: If you are comfortable talking about your own relationship with mental health, especially in the context of being young and Asian American, can you tell us a bit about your experience?

A: When I was 16, I remember feeling slightly dizzy and glued to the spot as my friends and family sang “Happy Birthday” to me. I was experiencing intrusive thoughts and felt immensely forgotten and ignored as I was the center of attention at the time. I sobbed silently in bed and thought, “I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate the life you gave me. I’m sorry I couldn’t contact you to count on you. I’m sorry that I wasn’t the aunt you wanted me to be. It was this continuous cycle of self-degradation, and I was too afraid to ask for the appropriate support.

I was unhappy, demotivated and discouraged because of the pressure to succeed in my studies that had weighed me down my whole life. Asian households are known to demand academic excellence; I felt like a failure that I couldn’t exceed my parents’ expectations, and I finally started to give up on myself. I was finally able to pull myself out of this six-month period of desperation, finding the resilience that allowed me to be here today. My parents still ignore the restless nights and tears I shed isolating myself from everyone, but I understand that it was my fault that I never contacted them about this. Mental health is rarely, if at all, mentioned in Asian culture. This is something our parents weren’t really exposed to when they were growing up in other countries, so I would never blame them for my bad relationship with mental health. I just wish they had the opportunity to learn about such an important topic as this.

What I like about La Mesa …

One thing that I love where I live would definitely be the community because I have grown up in the same area all my life. I have been able to observe the people, nature and diversity of my neighborhood and see it flourish over the past 17 years. I love being able to take quiet walks with my dogs and greet all my friendly neighbors with their lovely pets.

Question: What did you mean about this relationship that young Asian Americans have with mental health, especially for those who grew up in immigrant households?

A: I would hate to assume that every household is the same, but my personal experience was that I was often compared to my friends, family, and other peers growing up. It was very painful for my self-esteem, but I always knew my parents never had any malicious intent. I would like to believe that by comparing me to people who were relatively close to me, my parents saw their comments as motivation for me to perform at the same level as everyone else. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way because I’m quite sensitive and take everything very personally.

Instead of expressing how I felt about the situation – because in Asian culture it would be seen as a cue – I stayed silent and just learned to accept it. I think there are countless young people who have gone through the same thing. Some of us struggle in silence because we don’t have the courage to speak properly, and we don’t want to ruin our family image, be treated differently by our parents, or be rejected for asking for help since. that our own parents wouldn’t fully understand due to the differences between growing up in American culture and growing up in the cultures of their home country.

Question: What was rewarding about your work on “Overcast”?

A: One of the most rewarding things about this movie would absolutely be the immense amount of love and support I have received in recent times. At first, I wasn’t going to tell anyone about “Overcast” because I’m so self-critical that I wasn’t proud of it. I don’t feel comfortable sharing a job that I’m not happy with. Despite this trait of self-criticism, I received so much praise and I couldn’t be more grateful. I am also more than happy to be able to share such a neglected topic within my community. Mental health is very important to me, so being able to promote it in such a conservative culture means a lot to me.

Question: What did this job teach you about yourself?

A: I learned that I’m bad enough at comforting people, but by working to interview people for the film, I was able to improve my comforting skills dramatically.

Question: What’s the one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?

A: While constantly exhibiting an upbeat and silly personality on the outside, I’m like everyone else who has internal struggles and uses humor as a coping mechanism.

Question: Please describe your ideal weekend in San Diego.

A: My ideal weekend is to get up early to walk my dog ​​and watch the sunrise early in the morning, preferably somewhere near the beach so I can feel the breeze and the light mist from the ocean. Then I like to meet up with friends for breakfast and follow up with a spontaneous adventure on the road. To end the day, it would be nice to make some type of dessert, light a scented candle, and watch a cute animated movie with my siblings in our living room.

About Debra D. Johnson

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