Schooling audiences, stealing hearts: Asian Pacific educator, cardiologist share their stories

Tune in to FusionFest’s Facebook Live event to join the conversation

MYgration Films. (Image: FusionFest) (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – What do a Chinese-born cardiologist and a Hawaiian-Tahitian business owner and cultural educator have in common? The two are both Central Floridians featured in Tuesday night’s virtual MYgration watch party, an event hosted by FusionFest and Asia Trend Magazine.

On May 11, Dr. Puxiao Cen, MD, and Teuruhei “Tee” Buchin will share the screen on Facebook Live as part of FusionFest’s monthly film series, a countywide cinematic project that rolls out the red carpet for Central Florida’s diverse cast of characters.

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Each month, the nonprofit’s steering committee selects and shows movies that spotlight key community players with roots around the world —proving all Central Florida’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.

May brings us two short films: Puxiao Cen by filmmaker Thuyvi Gates and Aloha Orlando by student filmmaker LaMont Chaney II.

“We are showing (these films) in May because of Asian Pacific Heritage Month, and (Cen and Buchin) are both people of Asian Pacific heritage,” said Orange County’s Chief Arts Instigator Terry Olson.

Now, Olson and his team host the watch parties in a virtual setting to better accommodate social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, bringing audiences to the films in a different way.

But adapting to life-changing circumstances isn’t anything new to one of the watch party’s stars.

Cen, who started her American medical career in 1995 at the tail end of the AIDS epidemic, shows you can still build connections in the midst of medical crises. At the same time one of the world’s worst viruses rampaged her hospital, Cen was learning more about U.S. culture through her patients.

She didn’t just fix hearts. She captured them.

“After I sign out at 7 ... I would stay behind and care for them more,” Cen said of her patients in Puxiao Cen. “They are pretty lonely at the very vulnerable time. So I felt that I’m helping them too. We are helping each other, I have to say, and they become my community.”

In the film, Cen talks about how her father’s strength and wisdom, in resisting and turning down invitations from the Communist Party, helped shape how she grew up and who she is now.

Thuyvi Gates tells the story of Chinese-born cardiologist Puxiao Cen.(Photo Credit: FusionFest)

Much like Cen, Buchin cites her family as a big influence in her journey as Chaney explores in Aloha Orlando.

“Being here on the mainland, the first generation on mainland, it’s very important for me to keep my culture alive because Polynesians are very rich in heritage and family is one of the most important things. It is the core of our culture,” said Buchin, in the film.

In the 1980s, Buchin’s family moved to Orlando to become theme park performers at SeaWorld and Disney and never looked back. Since then, she’s started her own family, hailing both the islands she grew up on and the city her children are growing up in as havens of multiculturalism.

LaMont Chaney II tells the story of Hawaiian Tahitian cultural educator and Orlando business owner Teurehei "Tee" Buchin. (Photo credit: FusionFest)

MYgration film screenings are only part of FusionFest’s larger mission, which culminates in an annual two-day festival honoring over 100 cultures in downtown Orlando the Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving Day.

“Our festival as a whole is about showing the world who we are as Central Floridians,” Olson said. “We are a place where people can live together with different ethnicities, nationalities, cultural backgrounds, lifestyles with the basis of respect and love as opposed to fear and hate.”

He said the idea for FusionFest and its steering committee, a melting pot of 40 Orange County residents,was born in 2016, when he and former Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs met to discuss how to better support local diversity.

In 2018, two years after Terry Olson helped form the FusionFest steering committee, Orange County hosted its first festival in downtown Orlando. (Photo credit: FusionFest Facebook)

And it all started with one thing: Food.

“The arts are always the thing that expresses people’s culture. So, eating is the very basic (foundation) of that,” Olson said. “When we started the very first exploratory (sessions) creating this organization, it started with a big international potluck buffet.”

Eventually, they brought different components of culture to the table, including dance, music, sport, and of course, film.

“Filmmakers sign up to be part of it and then people sign up to tell their story,” Olson said. “We have 50 of these great films about Central Floridians and their stories of how they or their family came to be Central Floridians, what their cultural influences are and how they keep those alive.”

The MYgration film contest entries premiere at the Enzian Theater’s Global Peace Film Festival. (Photo credit: FusionFest Facebook)

Olson said the goal is to see what we can do together if we infuse different cultures, like tattooing Japanese Taiko drums against the swelling of American swing bands or Irish step dancing to the beat of New York City hip hop.

“The more opportunities we have to mix people up, to come in contact with people who are of a different culture than them, the more we can be this dynamic, creative place that benefits from all those different influences,” Olson said.

To join the free virtual MYgration watch party, where audiences are invited to ask questions and engage in conversation with the film subjects and their directors, click here.

About the Author:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.