"All I did was smile and say hello” - Soon King Yaw

August 30, 2020

Tawau born Soon King Yaw, 28, is making waves as a young film maker in the USA. His latest accolade is an animated documentary titled “All I did was smile and say hello” which premiered at the KQED Homemade Film Festival, USA in May 2020. The short film’s background was the rise of anti-asian racism across the country and it was about how Michelle, an Asian American pharmacist responded with the spirit of love and forgiveness to the discrimination shown against her. Working in the front line as a health care worker, she was treated kindly when she was in her white coat but as soon as it was off, she was ridiculed. King Yaw was moved by her  story and wrote and directed the acclaimed animated documentary “All I did was smile and say hello.”

An alumnus of San Francisco State University (SF State), King Yaw studied cinema, after completing a 3 year Digital Animation course at One Academy, Subang Jaya. As an undergraduate at SF State he achieved distinction when he won the Campus MovieFest National Best Picture Award for the 2016-2017 with his short documentary “Something Carved and Real.” It was about how 3 people got their scars. The inspiration came from his roommate who told him a personal story about his scar that he was ashamed of. King Yaw felt very moved about the confession and wanted to create a film to tell him that his scar was beautiful. The moving story won the hearts of the judges of the Campus MovieFest. It overwhelmed the young man.  His destiny and goal to be a film director was no longer in doubt.

“Deep and personal stories inspire me,” Soon said of his work. “I believe that there is tremendous strength in vulnerability. And I want my art to be a vessel of that,” he told Luna Khalil of The Daily Californian (16 August 2020). King Yaw’s other works include the Chinese short film  “My Mother, Myself and I”, which captured a series of conversations in 4 acts between a son and his single mother who considered murder-suicide when the son was 5. The brief mother-son moments at different ages of the son’s life (5, 10, 20, and 25) offer glimpses into the tender relationship between them. The poignant words from this film “when you know how much the truth hurts, why would you ever tell it to your loved ones,” show how good a story teller and script writer King Yaw is. 

His next projects are “When I see the Wind” which is a collaboration with Andrés Gallegos, another Bay Area cinematographer, and a Chinese short film which centers around his father’s childhood experiences. We look forward to that very much.  

We must expect that the best is yet to come from this young Sabahan film maker.

Read more

  1. KQED. Aine Henderson. 11 May 2020. All I did was smile and say hello. https://www.kqed.org/arts/13880026/all-i-did-was-smile-and-say-hello
  2. Adi Iskandar. June 2020. Superficial made real – All I did was smile and say hello. https://thoughtsonfilms.com/2020/06/22/soon-king-yaw-all-i-did-was-smile-and-say-hello-review/
  3. The Daily Californian. 16 August 2020. Luna Khalil. Multitalented San Francisco filmmaker King Yaw Soon envisions world through animation. Film and Television. https://www.dailycal.org/2020/06/11/multitalented-san-francisco-filmmaker-king-yaw-soon-envisions-world-through-animation/
  4. Center for Asian American Media. CAAMFEST 37. May 9-19 2019. Soon King Yaw. My Mother, Myself and I. Four vignettes, four mother-son moments, one unspoken truth. https://caamfest.com/2019/movies/my-mother-myself-i/
  5. OCA. Asian Pacific American Advocates. My Mother, Myself and I. Directed by Soon King Yaw.  http://www.ocahouston.org/programs/haapifest-2019/films/my-mother-myself-and-i
  6. Soon King Yaw. 13 October 2016. Something Carved and 6. real. In this documentary about the perception of perfection and beauty, three people share the stories of how they got their scars. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8xmPYYJn2o
  7. Film Freeway. King Yaw Soon. https://filmfreeway.com/KingYawSoon
  8. College of Liberal and Creative Arts. 5 December 2017. Gospel Cruz. Something Carved and Real. Student King Yaw Soon Honored for Documentary. Campus MovieFest’s award for Best Picture.  https://lca.sfsu.edu/lcanews/2017/12/05/817442-something-carved-and-real-king-yaw-soon-honored-short-documentary