A vibrant film culture has existed in Asia for a long time, but only recently has it become so available to the rest of the world. For Asian Americans, Asian cinema offers an opportunity to learn about our parents and ancestral homelands in a way that may have gotten lost in the immigration process.
Joining Teen and Chris are Anthony Kao and Richard Yu, the founders of Cinema Escapist. Theirs is a website dedicated to not only reviewing international cinema but placing it in the context of politics and culture. Together, they pick some of their favorite Asian movies and why people, especially Asian Americans, should watch them.
Twitter: Cinema Escapist (@cinemaescapist),
The following are edited excerpts from “Fuck Hollywood, Watch Asian Cinema,” the 38th episode of Plan A’s podcast, Escape From Plan A.
Richard and I, especially being Asian American, and Richard living in Asia and me studying Chinese history as an undergraduate, we are more natural with our heritage with that context talk about the social background of these films and make them more accessible. Make them not just esoteric artistic things that only old people watch but make them relevant to audiences around the world, especially those of a younger age who aren’t necessarily film buffs.
— Anthony (Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Cinema Escapist)
Another movie I’d recommend is “My Old Classmate.” It starts off as a more typical coming-of-age going-to-college romance movie, but there’s a big twist in that the male lead moves to America to chase the American dream. He’s in New York, working in a typical Manhattan office and he’s imagining how great his life but in reality, his boss is always yelling at him and his apartment is slummy. I think this is a cool movie for an Asian American because it could resonate with us. I was living in NYC when I first watched and I could relate to this character.
— Richard (China & Asia Editor and Co-Founder of Cinema Escapist)
[With “Yiyi”], I saw that this was what my parents were talking about every time they were talking to my aunts or uncles about this gossipy shit. I’ve always been curious about what they were talking about, and when I was watching “Yiyi,” I got the sense of what this family drama in Taiwan was about. I think it’s worth watching movies by people from backgrounds similar to your parents to get a much better of where you’re coming from because your parents are never gonna take the time to tell their story the way that a great filmmaker tells that story.
I think the important thing [about movies like “A Taxi Driver” and “May 18”] is that there’s this myth that the immigration and assimilation process in America instills in Asian Americans, that we don’t fight back and we come from these very passive, almost weak, societies in which we just let shit happen to us. A lot of our parents tell us not to be political and American society makes us think that it’s because Asians are inherently submissive and shit like that. But it’s because our parents saw their friends get beaten and even killed [for being political].