A/PI directors make white people movies for Sundance

Well what can I tell ya. I went to Sundance with a movie I was in.My first time at the festival and it was delicious and gorgeous. After a year trapped in a cubicle (ok 6 months but it feels like ten fucking years) I was gratified to be in an artistic environment where new thoughts are encouraged, independent spirit applauded, badasses given a voice and people open to sharing ideas and their work. Everyone was very vulnerable and very confident at the same time which is how art really flourishes.

I made sure to see two features by A/PI director/writers. I feel like we are at a time where every ticket sale counts, every bit of support we can offer matters. There was also a short by a Korean director about two gay dudes going to a "Dol" (first birthday partner) that was shot in LA and made me happy at the SAG brunch to see the cast milling around proudly repping. But I digress. So these two films, feature length, to some degree supported, fund raised for, entered in the competition and showcasing young A/PI artists lacked something really significant, 2 things actually. Asian actors and Asian American stories.

I was shocked in the talk back periods to hear that both scripts were based on the auteur's actual families. Can you imagine a black director setting his film in whitey white whiteville, based on his own family. Can you imagine a Latino American writing a story about making it in America but using a lens of an Ohio farm fed whitebread family to do it? I was so very sad. And mad. Not at the film makers. I get it. We all want hollywood to look at us and say "You belong. Your voice is interesting and relateable and you are a good director" etc. I also get that Asian America is still very very culturally no man's land, with a diaspora of distinct national identities (Chinese American, Filipino American) etc riding out in front of our shared identity as Asian Americans. That is because generation to generation, culture to culture we all have different stories about how we got here, and our experiences in America lack the kind of cohesion, history or shared mores that African Americans and to some degree Latin Americans can share in unify around. However. Whether or not you are from Hawaii, or a daughter of a Japanese immigrant, or a FIlipino living in Queens NY, you are an American. And your stories matter. To all of us.

I guess we are looking for some common cultural experience to express asian-american-ness. I personally am reacting to the self effacement and refusal to take a distinct place at the American table that many Asian americans eschew in order to fit in, feel accepted, be heard. The part of me that was outraged quickly turned into inspired. We have to write stories, fearlessly. We have to give asian actors a chance to be expressive. We have to represent whatever part of Asian America is true to us. Nobody else will. We belong here. You dont have to write me a movie about a white guy searching for his identity through alternative rock music to show me that you are an american. You don't have to align yourself with the majority to be heard. There are kids all over america WAITING for movies and stories and plays and music that speaks to them. Trust me. I have been to colleges all over this great nation, and I have heard the pain of feeling unseen and I have participated in the talk backs enough to know that now is the time. NOW.

I am encouraging all Asian American writers and directors to get courageous. Look at the messages you have internalized both from the "man" and from your own parents that tell you that American succes=white. I cant tell you how many times my mom said "Why cant you be more like Gwyneth Paltrow" to me while I was studying at Juilliard. And I know we all feel it, because unless we are telling the story of some chinese fishing village or three generations of asian women weaving their family tree into a silk fan, nobody wants to listen. Make them listen. Be brave. We are all behind you.