New York's Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) likes to honour talent from Hong Kong: Michelle Yeoh Choo Kheng, Sammo Hung Kam-bo and Andy Lau Tak-wah have received awards. This year, it's Maggie Cheung Man-yuk's turn to receive the CineVisionary Award for contributions to international cinema. But the AAIFF pays an equal amount of attention to work by home-grown filmmakers. Nestling among the films from abroad were a number of movies by America's fast-growing community of Asian-American (AA) filmmakers. This year's centrepiece presentation was Michael Kang's The Motel, a drama about a Chinese-American trying to understand where he fits into white suburban America. The festival also runs a number of workshops and seminars to help Asian-Americans make movies. 'The AA filmmaking community has grown a lot over the past 28 years,' says Risa Morimoto, executive director of Asian CineVision, which organises the festival. She says the 28-year-old AAIFF is the oldest Asian film festival in the US. 'Today we get a good selection of work to choose from, but 20 years ago, we were grateful that people were making films at all.' Styles have changed, too. 'The community began by making documentaries, but now more filmmakers are working on feature films,' Morimoto says. It's true that a young group of Asian-American filmmakers are gaining a high profile in the US. Some, such as Justin Lin, have already succeeded in Hollywood. Lin, whose indie crime story Better Luck Tomorrow got him noticed, is now slated to direct the Hollywood feature The Fast and the Furious 3. Other successful filmmakers include Alice Wu, whose lesbian story Saving Face was marketed to the mainstream as an all-purpose romantic comedy. Maverick director Gregg Araki, a Japanese-American who always works with non-Asian casts, has continued to win acclaim with his moody child abuse story Mysterious Skin. These successes reflect a broadening of Asian-American films, Morimoto says. Cultural identity used to be the sole subject on filmmakers' minds, but that's changing. 'Filmmakers are now reaching beyond identity issues such as 'am I Asian or am I American?' Identity issues are valid, but we were seeing too many movies about them. It was time to move on.' Some filmmakers see themselves as part of a wider American culture - they're Asian, but they don't consciously refer to the fact. 'Some Asian-Americans make films which don't feature ethnic stories and casts,' she says. 'That approach is reflective of our experience. Not all Asian-Americans grow up around each other. Some identify more with the majority white culture.' The ethnic boundaries are collapsing, Morimoto says. 'We're now seeing more generic Asian-American filmmakers. They don't so much define themselves through their ethnicity. They regard themselves as Asian rather than Korean, Japanese or Chinese. This is helping to create a true Asian-American identity.' Most viewers don't distinguish between AA films and Asian films from abroad. 'People in America don't really know the difference between Asian films and Asian-American films. We think the difference is important. One of the aims of our festival is to make this distinction clear. The Asian experience and the Asian-American experience are different, and we want to reflect that.'