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Quendrith Johnson

Quendrith Johnson is Los Angeles Correspondent covering everything happening in film in Hollywood... Well, the most interesting things, anyway.
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What about Chinese Americans who vote in 2020: FIRST VOTE from Yi Chen

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Did you know that "until 1952, federal law prohibited immigrants of Asian descent from becoming U.S. citizens and voting? Today, Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in the United States." FIRST VOTE, from director Yi Chen, is about  "what it means to be American through personal stories of America’s fastest growing political constituency’s diverse experience at the polls in battleground states." ChenYiFIRSTVOTE2020

These quotes are rolled in from the larger news on the film's opening, but it is important to note that while this coming election has mostly been about the mud wrestling of both nominees from the parties they represent, little attention has been paid to this mostly unheard from and largely unseen demographic who will cast ballots in the US Presidential race. 

Chen's documentary, which premieres today through Nov. 3, about “a soon-to-be first-time voter,” is the filmmaker’s remarkable gaze “into the Rust Belt and South,”whereby  she “captures four Asian American voters’ grassroots political participation ignited by the 2016 rise of “Chinese Americans for Trump.” Read on for the official announcement, with links and more details.

BOSTON, MA: A co-production of C35 Films, the Center for Asian American Media, and WORLD Channel, America ReFramed’s FIRST VOTE offers unparalleled access to a diverse cross-section of politically engaged Chinese Americans. The film weaves their stories from the presidential election of 2016 to the 2018 midterms and explores the intersections between immigration, voting rights, and racial justice. Directed by Yi Chen, a Chinese immigrant and first-time voter herself, FIRST VOTE is a rare long-form look at the diverse Asian American electorate. Her thought-provoking journey into the Rust Belt and South captures four Chinese American voters’ ardent first time grassroots political participation ignited by the 2016 rise of “Chinese Americans for Trump.”  Until 1952, federal law prohibited immigrants of Asian descent from becoming U.S. citizens and voting. Today, Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in the United States. The film is a timely story exploring what it means to be American through personal stories of America’s fastest growing political constituency’s diverse experience at the polls in battleground states.

The world premiere television broadcast date for FIRST VOTE is October 20, 2020 on the PBS World Channel at 8PM ET (CHECK LOCAL LISTINGS), as part of the channel's AMERICA REFRAMED series.  The film will be repeated throughout the month leading to the November 3 presidential election and will be streaming now on PBS.ORG. FIRST VOTE is also the anchor film for the PBS World Channel's Your Vote 2020 (#YourVote2020) initiative - a multi platform initiative exploring racial diversity of voters in this 2020 election. This innovative program kicked off on September 28, 2020 with a virtual live screening for the film FIRST VOTE, hosted by WORLD Channel in partnership with several Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) film festivals. The screening was followed by a discussion of the film with filmmaker Yi Chen and film subjects Kaiser Kuo, host of Sinica Podcast, and Jennifer Ho, director of the Center for Humanities & the Arts at the University of Colorado Boulder.  The discussion was moderated by award-winning journalist and NBC/MSNBC news anchor Richard Lui.  Additionally, a panel discussion on voter participation featured Christine Chen, APIA Vote Executive Director, Janelle S. Wong, Professor of Asian American Studies, University of Maryland, Jerry Vattamala, Democracy Program Director, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Chavi Koneru, Executive Director, North Carolina Asian Americans Together, and Elaine Tso, CEO, Asian Services in Action, Inc.  The event and more about FIRST VOTE can be found at  


Additional events will take place in the weeks leading up to Election Day in partnership with Latino Public Broadcasting, Pacific Islanders in Communication and Black Public Media.  More details will be announced as they become available at  

For a complete list of original WORLD Channel programming, visit  or follow WORLD Channel on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #YourVote2020 and subscribe to the YouTube channel. 

FIRST VOTE is a character driven cinema verité style film chronicling the democratic participation of four Asian American voters from 2016 through the 2018 midterm elections. In Montgomery County, Ohio, a first-time voter Lance Chen avidly mobilizes new Americans to vote republican through his Rush-Limbaugh-style podcast and political action committee. In Orange County, North Carolina, journalist Kaiser Kuo  returns to the U.S. after living in Beijing for 20 years and is unexpectedly confronted with the rise of Chinese American conservativism in the South, personified by a rags-to-riches business woman, Sue Googe, who after an unsuccessful first run for Congress, becomes a “tough Chinese cookie” for the Tea Party. At the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, critical race theory professor Jennifer Ho takes her activism to the classroom teaching about the complexities of race and racism in the American South. 

Who is WORLD Channel?

WORLD shares the best of public media in news, documentaries and fact-based informational programming that helps us understand conflicts, movements and cultures that may be distinct from our own. WORLD's original content examines issues too often ignored by mainstream media by sharing stories from a diversity of voices. WORLD has won a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award, a National News and Documentary Emmy Award and other national honors -- including 1st and 2nd place Native Media Awards, an RTNDA Kaleidoscope Award, a Media for a Just Society Award, two Lesbian & Gay Journalist Awards, two Gracies and an Asian American Journalists Award. WORLD is a growing platform carried by 174 partner stations in markets representing more than 72% of US TV households. It is also available on and social media platforms. Funding for WORLD Channel is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the MacArthur Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts and Artworks. WORLD Channel is curated by GBH in partnership with WNET and is distributed by American Public Television (APT).

Let’s hope this post doesn’t get throttled when shared on Social Media, because it’s not so much political, but a cross between a civics and anthropology lesson as part of this year’s general election lore.

Official Facebook: @firstvotefilm Instagram: @firstvotefilm Twitter: @firstvotefilm

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About Quendrith Johnson

Johnson Quendrith

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