Film by Toby Medina
Commentary by Jio Park
Toby Medina created “Still I Rise” last year, a semi-autobiographical short film made for her Intermediate Film Class at PCC. The story chronicles an autobiographical Asian teen girl who faces obstacles as a woman, an object, a victim, and a cross dresser.
The film was created to not only spread awareness of the difficulties surrounding people in these positions, but so that Toby could take control of a situation mirroring her own life.
“[‘Still I Rise’] remains a singular story based upon me and the way I interpreted things. In particular, the car scene was a painful memory of sexual assault that I really wanted to recreate for the purposes of doing what I had always wished to do in this situation when it happened—have control. “
In one of the most uncomfortable scenes, the character ends up trapped within a nightmare. One would have expected there would be some level of discomfort while filming, but Toby’s position of control over the film gave her the comfort to express what needed to be expressed:
“I thought seeing it visually really had a bigger impact than my words could’ve ever done. The intimacy of the details—the blood on her fingers, the heavy breathing in the car—were meant to immerse you in a situation designed to make you feel powerless, vulnerable, and overall, uncomfortable.”
“Throughout the movie, the character is forced into roles she feels obliged to fit into—an object of fetishization first, and then the counter opposite as a cross dresser. In neither role did she feel safe, accepted, or comfortable. At the end of the film, she learns to represent herself the way she wants to—regardless of any previous social constructs. This level of self love was a sense of realization and empowerment that took me many years to embrace and be comfortable with. Finally, she could be all of her and not have to feel compromised.”
As the main character breaks through the social constructs built around her throughout the course of the film, each scene is captured skillfully in a way to invite the viewer to reflect on the many expectations of women in society. Not only does Toby incorporate many important aspects dealing with women as they grow into adulthood, but also addresses an issue very uncommonly discussed – the fetishization and oppression of Asian women. It takes incredible strength and knowledge as a filmmaker to express these issues in the form of a short film, especially when Toby herself is an Asian woman, and the story behind the film is not one of complete fiction.
“Asian fetishization, or almost any form of Asian oppression is hardly ever discussed and yet so prevalent in the way we date and see each other. As a woman set to be demure and submissive, growing out of that mold was one that was difficult but extremely rewarding.”
The combined force of the realistic backstory and raw cinematography allows the film to truly live up to the poem it was named after.
Toby Medina is an award-winning filmmaker (she recieved first place at the PCC Film Fest for Still I Rise)!. Find her on instagram @thegoatgurl_ and watch “Still I Rise” on Vimeo here.
Editor’s note: Welcome Jio Park to Tunnel Staff!