Joy Dietrich and Tie a Yellow Ribbon at AAIFF in NYC

July 27, 2007

I asked her about how she arrived at the different motifs present in the film, such as the use of the Andrew Wyeth painting Christina's World.


Said Dietrich:

The film is about a woman searching for home. I think Asian American young women are sort of sometimes lost in the United States. And I want talk about being Asian and being American. And it's such an American iconographic painting. And the same thing with [the song] "Tie a Yellow Ribbon"—it's so American. ... So I think that the central idea ... is a search for home. A sense of belonging. And that is the metaphor for the film.

Which version of "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" were you thinking of?

To tie a yellow ribbon is to remember, to honor. ... Traditionally it's about war. This [film] is about the statistic that Asian American women have one of the highest rates of depression in the country. And I think one of the highest wtihin in one age group, I think it's 15 - 24...

What ideas are you carrying through [your films]?

Well, because I'm a Korean adoptee, I'm really really interested in making connection, the idea of connection. How when you feel so disconnected, do you stay frozen, or do you make that first leap of connecting with other people? I think for adoptees, it's particularly hard to trust people. And the feeling of abandonment is something you will have carry with you for the rest of your life. So I liked exploring the ideas of adoption, connection, disconnection, alienation, and you know, I generally do social issue films. I'm thinking already of my next project, and I'd like to do one more theme on birth and adoption. ... For some reason every Korean adoptee is now doing a film, a documentary—and I'm just not interested in the mother/birth search, or finding your family, I'm more interested in the psychology—what happens to you on the inside, to adults and to children, and to the families.


More recently, she mentioned over the phone that her film had done better at the more generalized film festivals than the Asian American ones, to where she was awarded Best Narrative Feature at the Urbanworld Vibe Film Fest and Best Director at CineVegas Film Festival. It's interesting that she felt it was received better at non-Asian American venues, since it is very much an identity film, and one that deals with a very critical topic—depression and Asian American women. What are the implications of this?