Valerie Soe is an Asian American artist, filmmaker, and writer. She is currently on faculty at San Francisco State University's Asian American Studies Department as an Assisstant Professor in the Asian American Studies Department.[1] Her films commonly employ the technique of détournement, "in which all pop culture is fodder for recontextualized politilicization." [2]
She has won various awards for her films including Best Bay Area Short, Golden Gate Awards, San Francisco International Film Festival for Picturing Oriental Girls: A (Re)Educational Videotape, Best Foreign Video, Festival Internazionale Cinema Giovani; First Place, Experimental Category, Visions of U.S. Festival for "ALL ORIENTALS LOOK THE SAME,". She currently authors a blog under the title, beyondasiaphilia, where she writes posts regarding Asian/American art and culture.[3] The blog is titled after her film, Beyond Asiaphilia, an experimental video that explores miscegenation, lust and Asian masculinity.

Her manifesto regarding her work and why she creates is "Why do I make art? Mainly because I'm annoyed that with upwards of fifty channels available on cable TV, there's still nothing to watch. As a species we surely must be able to come up with something more thought-provoking than reruns of The Partridge Family. With that attitude I've gone about making my own TV, since I can't find anything I like made by the people who supposedly know how."[1]


Valerie Soe was born December 19, 1961 in Berkeley, California. She is fourth-generation Chinese American.



Valerie Soe began her career as a black and white film photographer, she quickly moved on to video once she learned the technology. Her first film, "ALL ORIENTALS LOOK THE SAME" examines the common stereotype identified by the title phrase and forces the viewer to confront his or her own prejudices about Asian Pacific Americans.[2] ALL ORIENTALS LOOK THE SAME" won several awards: First Place in the Experimental Category in the Sony Corporation "Visions of the U.S. Festival," Honorable Mention in Experimental Video in the 12th Atlanta Film and Video Festival, and Best Foreign Video in the Festival Internazionale Cinema Giovani.[4]

In 1987 Soe created Scratch Video a four minute video that explores the problem of allergies and the effects it has on the body. She also created New Year, Part I&II, where she illustrates the innner conflicts of a child between her Chinese American background and the image of Asian Americans portrayed in Hollywood film and television.

In 1990 Soe created a six minute short, Black Sheep, where she tells the story of her "black sheep" uncle, examining the idiom within and without a marginalized community. The film was exhibited in the Asian American International Video Festival, in "Nasty Girls," by Other Cinema in San Francisco, California and also in "Freewaves from J-Town," by Visual Communications. In 1990 Soe also created, in collaboration with Chan Cheong-Toon, a three-channel video installation titled Diversity that was exhibited in the One Person Show, at Sushi, Inc., at The Women's Building ,and in "Official Language," at the McBean Gallery, San Francisco Art Institute.[5]

In 1991 she made two short films, Destiny and Cynsin: An American Princess. Destiny was an "impressionistic response" to Operation Desert Storm, examing the patriotism and the silencing of dissent in the United States during the conflict in the Gulf. [2] It was exhibited at the Asian American Film and Video Festival, in "VCR Videos: TV Pirates," and at the San Francisco Cinematheque. Cynsin: An American Princess, follows the career and transformation of Chinese American actress/model Cynthia Gouw, as she changes from an outspoken, socially conscious woman to a TV Spokesmodel on the television show StarSearch.Cynsin:An American Princess won Director's Choice in the Image Film and Video Festival.[5]

In 1992 Soe made two films, Heart of the City and Mixed Blood. Heart of the City was about the signifigance of food in maintaining a culture and was screened at the 1994 Asian American International Film Festival and the Market Street Art in Transit Program.Mixed Blood was exhibited in "New World (Dis)Order," at the Center for the Arts, at the National Women's Museum of Art, at the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, and on KQED-TV, Free Speech TV. [5] In 1994 Soe made Walking the Mountain, which she calls an "ofrenda" to her aunt Lula who died at the age of 4. The film was exhibited in "Festival Gala" at the Film Arts Foundation, in the Asian American International Video Festival, in "Rooms for the Dead," at the Center for the Arts, and in the Poetry Video Festival.[5]

Soe's film Beyond Asiaphilia was created in 1997. She describes it as "an experimental video that looks at miscegenation, lust and Asian masculinity from a personal perspective, as filtered through the lens of Hong Kong movies."[3]

In 2002 Soe made a documentary about the Ong family in Phoenix (who settled in the area in the late 1800s) that examines "the American dream" and its true accessibility to non-European immigrants.[6]In 2002 she also created Carefully Taught, she has called the film her "...rant about how 9/11 unnerved people and is being exploited by President Bush to push forward the conservative agenda."[7]

In 2010, in collaboration with Russel Jeung, Soe created the documentary called The Oak Park Story. The Oak Park Story is a documentary film that tell the stories of three different families -- from Cambodia, Mexico, and California – who band together at a run-down slum in Oakland, CA and win a landmark settlement against their landlord.[8]

Soe's latest film, The Chinese Gardens, premiered in April 2012. The film looks at the Chinese community in Port Townsend, Washington, examining the anti-chinese violence perpetrated in the Pacific Northwest in the late 1800's and drawing connections between past and present race relations in the U.S.[9]


Lecturer, Theater Arts Board, University of California, Santa Cruz; Lecturer, Asian American Lecturer, San Francisco State University, Inter-Arts Center (1990-91; 1994)
Chair, Film/Video Department, California State Summer School for the Arts (1990-2006)
Studies Program, University of California, Santa Barbara (1992)
Lecturer, Cinema Department, San Francisco State University (1994)
Lecturer, Art Department, San Francisco State University (1995)
Instructor, Media Arts Department, School of the Arts, San Francisco, California (1996-98)
Lecturer, Asian American Studies Department, San Francisco State University; California College of Arts & Crafts, Oakland, California; and San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California (1997-2006) [6]
Assistant Professor, San Francisco State University (2007- )


1985 BA, Art, University of California, Los Angeles
1987 MFA, Video and Photography, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago[6]


  • Scratch Video (1987)
  • New Year, Parts I & II (1987)
  • Black Sheep (1990)
  • Diversity (1990)
  • Destiny (1991)
  • Cynsin: An American Princess (1991)
  • Picturing Oriental Girls: A (Re)Educational Videotape(1992)
  • Heart of the City (1992)
  • Mixed Blood (1992)
  • Risk=Fear+Need (1994)
  • Walking the Mountain(1994)
  • Binge (1995-96)
  • Beyond Asiaphilla (1997)
  • Workers of the World, Unite! (1998)
  • The House of Ong (2002)
  • Carefully Taught (2002)
  • Where Have All the Flowers Gone? (2002)
  • Mao Redux (2002)
  • Selective Memory: Valencia Street (2002)
  • Art/Film/Revolution (2007)
  • Snapshot: Six Months of the Korean American Male (2008)
  • The Oak Park Story(2010)
  • The Chinese Gardens (2012)


  • Third Place, Experimental Category, Sony Corporation "Visions of U.S. Festival," Los Angeles, California; Regional Finalist, Student Video Competition, American Film Institute National Video Festival, Los Angeles, California (1986)
  • Best Foreign Video, Festival Internazionale Cinema Giovani, Torino, Italy - For ALL ORIENTALS LOOK THE SAME (1987)
  • First Place, Experimental Category, Sony Corporation "Visions of the U.S. Festival"; and Honorable Mention, Experimental Video, 12 th Atlanta Film and Video Festival - for ALL ORIENTALS LOOK THE SAME(1988)
  • Personal Works Grant, Film Arts Foundation, San Francisco, California (1989)
  • Western States Regional Media Arts Fellowship, Rocky Mountain Film Center (1990)
  • Individual Artists Project, Art in Public Places, University of Washington and Washington State Arts Commission, Seattle, Washington; Artspace Video Production Grant, San Francisco Artspace (1991)
  • Intercultural Film/Video Fellowship, Rockefeller Foundation, New York; Market Street Art in Transit, San Francisco Art Commission (1992)
  • Director's Choice, Image Film and Video Festival, Atlanta Georgia - for Cynsin: An American Princess (1992)
  • Best Bay Area Short, Golden Gate Awards, San Francisco International Film Festival - for Picturing Oriental Girls: A (Re) Educational Videotape (1993)
  • Pioneer Fund Documentary Film/Video Grant, San Francisco, California (1993)
  • Veronica di Rosa Residency, Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, California (1994)
  • James D. Phelan Award in Video, San Francisco Foundation; Djerassi Foundation Residency, Woodside, California (1995)
  • Artist's Grant, Cultural Equity Fund, San Francisco Art Commission(1995)
  • Artist's Equipment Access Grant, Bay Area Video Coalition, San Francisco(1995)
  • Individual Artist's Project Grant, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions and New Langton Arts, San Francisco(1995)
  • Artist's Fellowship, Art Matters, Inc.(1995)
  • Potrero Nuevo Fund Prize, administered by New Langton Arts, San Francisco, California(1997)
  • Artist's Grant, Serpent Source Foundation for Women Artists(1997)
  • New Visions: Video Production Grant, Long Beach Museum of Art(1997)
  • Artist's Residency, Centrum Foundation, Port Townsend, Washington (1997)
  • Eureka Fellowship, The Fleishhacker Foundation, San Francisco, California (1998)
  • Artist's Grant, Art-in-Print, Public Art Works, Marin County, California (1999)
  • Nominee, Rockefeller Foundation Film/Video Fellowship (2004)
  • Artist’s Grant, Creative Work Fund, Haas Foundation (2006)
  • Artist’s Commission, ReNew Media 20th Anniversary(2007)
  • Presidential Award for Professional Development of Probationary Faculty, San Francisco State University (2007)
  • Faculty Travel Award, San Francisco State University(2007)
  • Filmhouse Filmmaker’s residency, San Francisco Film Society (2009)
  • Summer Stipend Award, San Francisco State University (2009)
  • Faculty Travel Award, San Francisco State University (2009)
  • Open Door Completion Fund, Center for Asian American Media (2010)
  • MediaMaker Award, Bay Area Video Coalition (2010)
  • Facilitating Research and Creative Work Grant, Office of Research and Sponsored Projects, San Francisco State University (2011)
  • Individual Artist’s Grant, Cultural Equity Fund, San Francisco Arts Commission (2011)
  • Faculty Travel Award, San Francisco State University (2011)

  1. 1.0 1.1 Soe, Valerie "Women Artists of the American West: Asian American Artists", College of Liberal Arts: Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, 1994. Retrieved on 7 June 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Hamamoto, Darrell Y., and Sandra Liu. Countervisions: Asian American Film Criticism. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2000. Print.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Soe, Valerie"The Skinny on Beyondasiaphilia",Beyondasiaphilia. Retrieved on 8 June 2012
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Soe, Valerie "Manifestations", Valerie Soe: Trying to get it right, Why I make Video Art.Retrieved on 7 June 2012.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Valerie Soe: The House of Ong", Tribeca Film Institue, New York, October 2009. Retrieved on 8 June 2012.
  7. Fox, Michael[ "Grand Illusion Bay Area filmmakers respond to a call for short works about the events of Sept. 11"], SF Weekly, San Francisco, February 2002. Retrieved on 8 June 2012.
  9. Soe, Valerie "The Chinese Gardens", The Chinese Gardens, 2012. Retrieved on 8 June 2012.
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