Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Afsaneh Nahavandi, PhD, Chair; Hans Peter Schmitz, PhD, Member; Bradley J. Bond, PhD, Member; James Fabionar, PhD, Member; Brian Hu, PhD, Member;


Film festivals, media representation, ethnic and racial identity, social identity, leadership


Media representation plays an important role in shaping how we perceive ourselves. For ethnic and racial minorities, studies have confirmed that exposure to stereotypical and negative representations can harm the development of ethnic and racial identity. Currently, however, there is little understanding of how representation can support the development of ethnic and racial identity. Essentially, what might visibility, rather than invisibility, in media representation look like, and what is the relationship between visibility and ethnic and racial identity?

This dissertation sought to address these questions by looking at the experience of Asian Pacific Islander (API) attendees at API film festivals. Compared to mainstream media, where less than 6% of characters are API, API film festivals focus exclusively on films featuring API characters, as well as international films from Asia. API film festivals, therefore, are rich sites for the study of visibility and its relationship with ethnic and racial identity.

Using an exploratory sequential mixed methods approach, this study interviewed 19 API individuals who had attended at least 1 API film festival and used their answers to create a 63-item survey about identity-related motivations for attending API film festivals. Interviews were thematically analyzed, while descriptive statistics, exploratory factor analysis, and correlational analyses were conducted on the survey data (N=114).

Results indicate that exposure to diverse and complex media representation was related to enhanced self-identification for participants with their ethnic and racial identities. Also, participants agreed that they were motivated to attend API film festivals to develop their ethnic and racial identity, access non-mainstream content, support the API community, and being with a mostly API audience.

The findings from the study have implications for media research on visibility and ethnic and racial identity, as well as for media creators and distributors who want to create more visibility for minorities. The study also provides evidence for the importance of cultural film festivals as resources for ethnic and racial identity.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies