A filmmaker will document Asian history at W&M for the centenary

  • Behind the camera:

    Marissa Aroy, William & Mary’s Distinguished Asian Centenary Film Researcher, will create a documentary about the Asia-Pacific experience in the Middle East at the university.

    Photo by Tony Gavin

by Jennifer L. Williams


March 16, 2022

Documentary filmmaker Marissa Aroy will be on campus in April to begin work on a video story of Asian people’s experiences at William & Mary.

Aroy is a Distinguished Fellow of Cinema for the University’s Asian Centenary. Roberto Jamora in Fine Arts and Rinabeth Apostol in Theater are also Centennial Arts Fellows.

“I just feel a lot of privilege, and I feel like I just want to make everyone proud of the work that I’m doing for the centennial,” Aroy said.

Aroy is co-founder of video production company Media Factory, based in Ireland where she currently lives with New York. She teaches film at Trinity College Dublin and an online documentary filmmaking course at the New School in New York and has been a guest lecturer on several W&M courses.

Aroy won an Emmy Award for his documentary “Sikhs in America” ​​and received an Emmy nomination for “The Delano Manongs: Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers Movement”, which along with “Little Manila” was broadcast on PBS. A Fulbright scholar, Aroy previously worked as a video producer and assignments manager at the United Nations Children’s Fund. At W&M, Aroy received the inaugural Hatsuye Yamasaki Award for Visionary Leadership, which is named for the first known Asian American woman to attend W&M and one of the first Asian American students in the school. ‘university.

“I focus and found my wheelhouse making documentaries about underrepresented people in the United States,” Aroy said. “A lot of this is about Filipino Americans and Filipinos in the United States, but it’s also about Sikhs, Sikh Americans. And then in general, (I) looked at the social problems in the United States with various documentaries having worked for other scenario writers, then for myself.

Aroy grew up in Bakersfield, California with a love of movies that came from his father. He had always watched movies growing up in the Philippines and enjoyed the experience with his daughter both at the cinema and at home after the videotapes came out, Aroy said.

“So I always thought I wanted to be a filmmaker,” she said.

Francis Tanglao Aguas, professor of drama and Asian American and Pacific Islander studies and co-chair of the Asian Centennial Committee, will serve as the executive producer of the W&M video project. Aroy will create a documentary on the history of the Middle East Asia-Pacific at W&M with Deenesh Sohoni, professor of sociology and co-chair of the centenary committee, who leads the research arm, and Lisa Crawford, director of video and multimedia, as head of production.

“There has been a lot of help from the Asian Centenary Committee and especially from some of the William & Mary students who are helping with the research,” Aroy said.

Student research on Pu-Kao Chen ’23, who came from China to become the university’s first Asian student, is a starting point. His writings describe his journey, the treatment of those around him and his impressions.

“We’re going to use it a lot in this account of the experience of some of the very first Asians to enter William & Mary,” Aroy said.

The project will likely take the remainder of this calendar year.

“It’s going to be kind of an evergreen piece that shows what it was like for Asians coming in, but also as a sense of William & Mary’s openness to people of color,” Aroy said. “It will also humanize for us now these black and white photos of people from the past and contrast that with some of the students who are there now, especially those who are doing the research.

“We are in a different place with what Americans, in particular, think of Asians, how they are treated. And I think it’s good to always be able – in a centenary celebration and commemoration as well – to commemorate by looking at what was in the past and trying to understand what it was like then, but by understanding that we’re looking at it through a lens of us now and that’s a very different lens.