Politically Active Filmmaking: A Conversation with Director Jy-Ah Min

Filmmaker Jy-Ah Min grew up in Southern California. In college she got involved with politics – registering students to vote, organizing young Korean Americans, and putting together peace marches–and had planned to be a lawyer. But while studying at the University of San Diego she met Jean-Pierre Gorin, a leftist who worked with the French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard. Gorin suggested Min watch Godard’s revolutionary 1966 movie, Masculin Féminin. When Min saw the film about “the children of Marx and Coca-Cola,” as Godard notoriously described it, she was fascinated by his use of text as images and rapid sound cuts, and she saw parallels between '60s youth in France and her contemporary peers in San Diego. She wanted to explore this idea with her camera, and ended up making her first feature film, M/F Remix, about roommates Mimi and Philip. M/F Remix –– which is not a remake of Masculin Féminin, but, like the title says, a remix –– made its U.S. premiere at the International Asian American Film Festival in San Francisco in March, and will screen at the Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival from April 6-17th, with more screening dates viewable here. AlterNet spoke with Min about reinventing a classic, infusing art with politics, and filmmaking as activism.

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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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