Christopher Wong looks for stories of ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things, with a focus on the Asian American experience. Being a documentary filmmaker allows Christopher to delve into people’s lives and reveal their untold stories.
“I was really drawn to this project to help showcase the impact of hep B on the Asian community,” says Christopher. “One of my relatives is affected by hep B and I felt compelled to help raise awareness so others can do something and reduce the impact on their families.”
His feature-length documentary “Whatever It Takes” garnered multiple "Best of Fest" awards from film festivals nationwide, as well as a broadcast on PBS' Independent Lens. Christopher has received production grants from The Sundance Documentary Film Program and the Center for Asian American Media. He has also been a Fellow of Sundance’s Story/Composer Lab and Producer's Lab and was named one of The Independent’s “10 Filmmakers to Watch in 2009.”
Alan Wang is an Emmy award-winning Chinese-American journalist living with chronic hep B. Alan and his siblings were infected with the virus at birth; however, he was not diagnosed until the age of 28. Like many people, at first Alan did not take hep B seriously – until he began experiencing periodic flare ups. He now regularly monitors his liver and actively manages his hep B.
“My main goal in sharing my family’s story is to help erase the ignorance associated with this virus in the Asian American community,” says Alan. “I hope this film helps reduce the stigma and encourages more people to talk about it. We really need to create a cultural shift in the way hep B is perceived in this community.”
Alan grew up in Kingsville, Texas. He studied communications at the University of Texas at Austin and landed his first television news job in Laredo, Texas in 1991. He has been reporting on camera ever since.
Alan now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and three children. He is an advocate for increased testing for hep B and an active spokesperson for San Francisco’s Hep B Free organization.
AJ Jabonero, a devoted father, husband and avid cyclist, contracted hep B at birth. As a child, AJ experienced an episode of jaundice, and a subsequent liver biopsy revealed he had hep B. His family also learned that his sister, Shawne, as well as his mother and father had the disease. His father later passed away from liver cancer, a complication of hep B.
AJ’s mantra, “be about it,” means living life to the fullest and taking action. AJ and his wife, Melissa, taught their children to practice this attitude and stay true to what they believe in.
A first-generation Filipino American, AJ grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and met his wife, Melissa, at San Francisco State University. At age 30, a CT scan revealed a large tumor on his liver. As a result of his hep B, AJ had developed liver cancer.
Melissa Jabonero, wife of AJ Jabonero, is the mother of their three young children – Izzy, Levi and Shiloh. While Melissa and AJ knew he had contracted hep B at birth, they did not understand the severity of the virus. It was simply not talked about in their family, even though several of AJ’s family members were diagnosed with hep B.
“We were blind to the risks, not realizing that being on top of your checkups is equally as important as eating right and living the active lifestyle that AJ did,” says Melissa. “I want people to be more aware of hep B. What we went through was really tough – if there’s a way to prevent that for others by sharing our story in this film, I’m all about it.”
Melissa is a stay-at-home mom and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Shawne is a first-generation Filipino American living with hep B. Both Shawne and her brother, AJ, contracted the virus from their mother at birth. Shawne’s viral loads are currently undetectable, and she has a chronic form of the disease that is regularly monitored to detect potential liver damage. Her father and brother, however, had high viral loads, and eventually both of them developed liver cancer.
At the time, Shawne and her family were not aware of the serious risks associated with hep B. She recently became an advocate to raise awareness and empower people to get screened and know their status.
“Spreading the word and helping others is something AJ inspired me to do,” says Shawne. “This film and my advocacy work are a great tribute to my brother and his fight.”
Shawne is a devoted wife and loving mother of her 3-year-old son. She recently obtained her Masters of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is currently working as a board certified acupuncturist and herbalist. She looks forward to using her educational and personal life experiences to help others to live a healthy and balanced life.