Student Film Festival winner explores racial stereotypes

A film that tackles racial stereotypes impacting Asian Australians is the winner in the Year 12 category of the ISV Student Film Festival.

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

A challenging yet witty film about the impact of culture clash and racial stereotypes has won the Year 12 award in the annual Student Film Festival conducted by Independent Schools Victoria (ISV).

The Banana in Me, directed by Rosey Feng from Korowa Anglican Girls’ School, exposes the difficulties, dilemmas, and prejudices confronting young people who are seen as ‘the perpetual foreigner’.

Judges of the film festival, Christine Evely and Garry Westmore from the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), describe it as a smart, confident film that tackles racial stereotypes in a humorous, yet unsettling way.

The 2023 film festival winners – selected from entries submitted by young filmmakers in four categories, ranging from early years to Year 12 – were announced on 8 November.

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Asian Australian trope tackled with satire

“My film is inspired by the ‘Banana Asian’ trope, compelling me to examine The Banana in Me’ as an Asian Australian who is seen as ‘yellow on the outside’, albeit ‘white on the inside’,” winning film-maker Rosey Feng told EducationDaily. “More specifically, I am inspired by my own complex relationship between maintaining a deep connection with my Chinese culture, whilst trying to assimilate into western culture as an Asian Australian through exploring the themes of intergenerational trauma, cultural identity and racism.”

“Now, whilst I wasn’t corrupted by a racist corporation to buy a bleach blonde wig, I haven’t actually been typecast as ‘the Dog Eater’ in any of my acting pursuits, and I definitely can’t say I’ve changed my legal name to ‘Sarah Smith’, beneath all the satire, this is a very real and authentic story. From the candid conservations with my Asian immigrant mother, to the jarring feelings of insecurity in my own culture, to a final acceptance of my identity – this film is a true reflection of all the ugliness and beauty embedded into who I am.”

Supportive teacher played important role

Ms Feng says she is grateful to her media teacher, Jessica Robinson who was, she says, was “incredibly supportive and helpful throughout the production and post-production process; constantly giving me feedback and instilling confidence in me to pursue my artistic vision”.

“I am also incredibly grateful for my school, in which I had accessibility to a range of media equipment and technologies to produce my short film. My school was also supportive in creating a safe space for me to explore such confronting themes,” Ms Feng says.

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Having already applied for the Screen and Media Production course at RMIT University as her first course preference she hopes to study film next year in her life beyond secondary school.

“I am incredibly passionate about expressing my stories and experiences through the lens of film and hope to one day become a successful director and create feature length films for the world to see.”

Winning the award, Ms Feng told EducationDaily, “means the world to me”.

“To have my body of work acknowledged and celebrated from the broader community is something special and motivates me to continue creating media that sparks conversation and criticism. I always intended to create a short film that spoke to a larger issue than myself; that represented a community larger than myself, so I am truly elated that my work has been met with such love and support.”

Investment in media studies matters

Her media teacher at Korowa Anglican Girls’ School is Jessica Robinson, who says, while a few students have entered younger year level categories in previous years, it is the first time a Korowa student has received an award in the annual competition.

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“Korowa offers Media as a subject from Year 10 to Year 12, with an exciting new Year nine Multimedia subject also being offered from next year. As a relatively new subject at the school, students have access to brand new industry-standard media equipment and editing software to bring their media creations to life. This includes Canon DSLR Cameras, a photography studio, green screen facilities and a dark room,” Ms Robinson told EducationDaily.

“We are thrilled that Rosey’s work is being recognised by the broader community for the heartfelt message it sends about the impact of representations and cultural stereotypes on young people. We hope that her work inspires more students to harness the storytelling power of the media to share their voices and experiences with others.”

Celebrating creativity in film-making

The festival, held as part of ISV’s long running arts program, is open to schools in all sectors and all states.

And the winners are…

Judge’s award winners

Winners in the judge’s awards were:

  • Year 12: The Banana in Me, Yan Zi (Rosey) Feng, Korowa Anglican Girls’ School
  • Year 11: I Am in Charge, Ned Cox, Scotch College
  • Year seven–10: Church Goers, William Longley, Blake Wilson, Max Phelps and Charlie Zelouf, Scotch College
  • Years three–six: ACT Now! Kids News Show, Grade 5 Media Class, Al-Taqwa College

People’s choice winners

In addition to the judges’ awards, each category was open to ‘people’s choice’ voting, which attracted more than 2,000 votes this year.

Winners were:

  • Year 12: All In, Theo Renner, St Michael’s Grammar School
  • Year 11: Consumed, Tiger Doultree, Firbank Grammar School
  • Year seven–10: Baking Choc Chip Cookies, Aerynn Khong, Shiven Rewal and Liana Spencer, Huntingtower School
  • Year three–six: ATC Now! Kids News Show, Year five Media Class, Al-Taqwa College

In congratulating the winners, and commending all students who entered, ISV Chief Executive Michelle Green said the festival was now an established and highly popular part of ISV’s arts program.

‘These wonderful films reveal the talent, creativity, imagination and technical skill of students in a wider range of schools and from all age groups,” Ms Green said.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]