Film poster for "First Vote" with four people in blue and red.
Film poster for "First Vote" with four people in blue and red.
Asian American voters in battleground states


Regular price $349.00


​STRONGLY RECOMMENDED - Video Librarian | "Must-watch" - IDA | OFFICIAL SELECTION - AFI DOCS | OFFICIAL SELECTION - Los Angeles Asian American Film Festival

Asian American Studies • Asian Diaspora Studies • Critical Race Theory • Political Science • Ethnic Studies • Racial Politics • American Studies • Immigration Studies • History

Date of Completion: 2020 | Run Time: 59 minutes​​ | Language: English, Mandarin Chinese with English Subtitles | Captions: No - Transcript Available Director, Producer, & Cinematographer: Yi Chen | Editors: Yi Chen, Kristina Motwani & Bryan Chang | Composer: Ryan Blotnick

Following the stories of four politically engaged voters during the 2018 midterm elections, First Vote crafts an insightful look at Asian Americans' diverse experiences at the polls. Taking her camera on the road, filmmaker Yi Chen introduces us to a diverse cross section of politically engaged Chinese Americans: an avid Trump supporter in Ohio; a Democratic podcaster whose views have alienated his wife’s conservative friends; a gun-toting, Tea Party-favorite in North Carolina; and a progressive University of North Carolina professor. Speaking with distinct political voices, they share the common goal of seeing Asian Americans take their rightful place in American political life.

Visit the First Vote website here for more educational materials.

University of Maryland | Janelle Wong, Professor of American Studies & core faculty of Asian American Studies
"First Vote is the perfect way to introduce students and the public to how broad trends in U.S. politics, such as political polarization and mobilization, affect small, but fast-growing segments of the electorate like Asian Americans. The film offers an important and unique window into ideological development and democratic participation in the U.S."

San Diego State University | Brian Hu, Assistant Professor in Television, Film and New Media
"While many Asian American films have argued for inclusion into an American body politic through assimilation or authorship, FIRST VOTE is a film that comes along to remind us that there are different stakes: that inclusion in the American project means voting. What is so fascinating about FIRST VOTE is that this project requires us to interrogate the terms of assimilation and immigration, as well as the political stakes of navigating that strange civic terrain that ultimately renders you as strange too: a perpetual foreigner, a minority between white and black, an immigrant in search of a claim in an America deemed a 'battleground' for the future of American democracy."

Video Librarian
Strongly Recommended 

IDA | Patricia Aufderheide, Professor of Communications Studies at American University in Washington, D.C. & Director
"Must-watch ... Yi Chen, herself a Chinese immigrant, gained unparalleled access and never loses the thread."

The Moveable Fest
"First Vote is rewarding because Chen opts to go after something far more complex and ambiguous that one would expect from the provocative hour-long documentary centered around the 2018 midterm elections, largely unconcerned with the end result, but fascinated with how a quartet of Asian-Americans plan to participate in the democratic process.

"Asian-Americans can't be seen as some monolithic voting bloc and as Chen illustrates vividly, a shared heritage can yield wildly different attitudes towards politics based on other personal predilections, an observation that is bound to become more prescient in the years to come not just specifically as it relates to Asian-Americans, but as the fastest growing minority group, the country as a whole."

AFI - American Film Institute
"This beguiling and refreshingly non-partisan political travelogue from Washington, DC-based filmmaker Yi Chen introduces us to a diverse cross section of politically engaged Chinese Americans determined to make a difference."

The Mercury News

First Vote "emphatically proves there is no single Asian-American voting bloc"

Educational Media Reviews Online | Timothy W. Kneeland, History and Political Science Department, Nazareth College of Rochester, Rochester, NY
Highly Recommended “The cinematography is good. The individuals well-defined by their own words, and Li Chen allows the viewer to determine for themselves which pair of voters have a better grasp on U.S. society. This film will generate a great deal of discussion about identity, Asian-Americans in U.S. society, and American politics. At 59 minutes, it is suitable for a middle school to college classroom or community viewing in a public library or other settings. Highly Recommended.”

Special Jury Award for Art & Craft of Documentary Form
| Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

Official Selection 
National Association for Multicultural Education Film Festival
Official Selection | Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
Official Selection
Official Selection | CAAMFest
Official Selection | Los Angeles Asian American Film Festival
Official Selection | Houston Asian American Pacific Islander Film Festival
Official Selection | Hawaii International Film Festival
Official SelectionNevertheless Film Festival
Official Selection | Silicon Valley Asian Pacific Film Festival
Official Selection | Vancouver Asian Film Festival
Official Selection | Asian American International Film Festival
Official Selection | Austin Asian American Film Festival
Official Selection | Boston Asian American Film Festival
Official Selection | DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival
Official Selection | Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival
Official Selection | San Diego Asian Film Festival

America ReFramed
WORLD Channel's Your Vote 2020 Initiative
OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates National Virtual Summit
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Carolina Asia Center in partnership with Asian American Student Center
University of Colorado Boulder
Colorado State University
Bellevue College
National Association for Multicultural Education
National AAPI Leadership Summit
Asian American Journalists Association Conference
Center for Empowered Politics & Seeding Change
Chinese Americans for Political Participation
Chicago Chinese American Museum
Plum Radio

Yi Chen is a documentary filmmaker based in Washington D.C. She is a Soros Equality Fellow and DC Arts and Humanities Fellow. Her debut feature documentary FIRST VOTE has screened at festivals including AFI DOCS, Hot Docs Doc Shop, CAAMFest, LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, Houston AAPI Film Festival, Nevertheless Film Festival and Hawaii International Film Festival. Her short film CHINATOWN won Best Documentary Short from IndieCapitol Awards.

Yi’s work has received funding from the Ford Foundation JustFilms, Open Society Foundations, Center for Asian American Media, ITVS, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Kartemquin Films and Southern Documentary Fund. Her short films have screened at the Environmental Film Festival, SAG Foundation Shorts Showcase, Clermont Ferrand International Short Film Festival, DC Independent Film Festival, Virginia Film Festival, Vancouver Asian Film Festival, and Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum. Her work has been featured on WHUT, NPR, Washington Post, NBC4, National Geographic, Voice of America, and WAMU 88.5.

Yi holds an MFA in Film and Media Arts from American University. She has taught documentary production and editing courses at George Mason University’s Film and Video Studies program, Fairfax Public Access, Docs In Progress, and Marymount University. She has also taught workshops at the Film and Video Association National Conference, OCA National Summit, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Convention, East Coast Asian American Student Union National Conference, DC Historical Studies Conference, Edmonton Chinatown Conference, CAAM Filmmaker Summit (session on Documentary Story Development & Process), and National AAPI Leadership Summit (session on Story Power: How to Use Film to Engage the AAPI Electorate).