Going Against the Grain: Lee Ann Kim

SDAFF Founder Lee Ann Kim

Honored by San Diego Magazine as one of the Top 50 People to Watch in 2009, Lee Ann Kim is the founding executive director of the San Diego Asian Film Foundation, a nonprofit media arts organization best known for its annual film festival.  Lee Ann also worked for nearly 12 years as a news anchor/reporter for KGTV Channel 10, where she earned numerous awards for her journalism, including a regional Emmy for investigative reporting.

Lee Ann was recently honored by the San Diego Film Critics Association with the 2011 Kyle Counts Award for her commitment to cinema;  the KPBS Hero of the Month for May 2010;  San Diego Metropolitan Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2007;  as well as Director of Excellence from the 2008 International Film Festival Summit.

Full name

Lee Ann Yi Yun Kim


Seoul, South Korea

Current city

San Diego, CA


 Korean American

What does it mean to you to “Go Against The Grain?” 

Go with my gut and what I know is right, instead of what may be pleasing to others.  To take risks. To be me!

What made you decide to pursue a career in journalism and then later film festival programming?

My life commitment is to be the voice… and SDAFF’s commitment is to connect those diverse voices with an audience.

What have been some of the challenges you faced/lessons you learned as an Asian American in this field?

1) We are still defining what it means to be Asian American, and so many of us still exist in silos which is never good when we’re trying to create a collective voice and collective energy.  2) And we cannot support all projects just because they’re made by or about Asians. 3) Change starts in my own home, raising my two sons to be active members of the community, to give back, vote, and serve the greater good.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment, and why?

Starting the San Diego Asian Film Festival and Foundation.  I started it from nothing, and 13 years later we’re still around with 6 full time staff presenting 40+ events throughout the year.  I’m very proud of the community in which SDAFF created and the impact we’ve had on the lives of independent artists and students.  I never even went to one film festival before I started one.

What’s up next?

Creating a filmmakers fund and an experimental mobile cinema project.

Quote to live by:  “Work hard, play hard.”

Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac):  Dog, Virgo

Passionate about: My family, friends, justice, and 80s music

Favorite food: I don’t have one. But I need dark chocolate once a day.

Can’t live without: Love… and mascara

The San Diego Asian Film Foundation will host their annual Spring Showcase April 19-26. For more information, visit the SDAFF website.

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