Archive for May, 2009

Mighty Warriors of Comedy

I explored the film Mighty Warriors of Comedy as a component of my final research paper. I thought that I’d share some clips since it was so well done and the humor was so on point. The film follows a comedy group based in San Francisco. Their mission statement is as follows: “As artists and activists, the group seeks to explore and articulate images of Asian Pacific Islander Americans alternative to what has been perpetuated in the mainstream media. One of the group’s strategies is to push the envelope as comedic performers in both style and content, as well as to break down prevailing stereotypes and promote more positive images. Much of the group’ s impact lies in its lack of hesitation in lambasting the Asian American community itself as well. Almost all the faces of Asian America are represented, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Filipino backgrounds, allowing the group to represent a wide range of cultures and perspectives.” via -Bailey

May 14, 2009 at 12:43 am Leave a comment

Fatimah Rony and Chants of Lotus

Financed by the Kalyana Shira Foundation project and with the goal of giving Indonesian woman a right to voice their opinions, Chants Of Lotus is a film with four episodes, written by Vivian Idris and Melissa Karim and directed by Fatimah T. Rony, Upi Avianti, Nia diNata and Lasja Susatyo. The intention is to tell stories from a feminine point of view in different geographical and social contexts in Indonesia.

Chants of Lotus was the most controversial winner at the Indonesian Film Awards in 2008. Presented in the full original version as the closing movie at the Jakarta International Film Festival in 2007, Chants Of Lotus (Perempuan punya cerita, or “the women have stories”) met serious resistance from the from the Indonesian film censor board, who demanded heavy editing before authorizing the film’s release. The producer and one of the directors Nia Dinata launched a vigorous campaign to defend the artistic integrity of the film as a reaction to this, taking a request to the Constitutional Court for the MFI (Masyarakat Filem Indonesia or the Indonesian Film Society) to reform the censor system. A documentary was even made about this case, but unfortunately, a censured version of the film was released in Indonesia in the end, while the full version is only available of screening at festivals and international markets.

This film was heavily censored by the Indonesian government. The uncensored version (if available) will be screened. Some scenes are graphic and shocking. This film is intended for mature audiences.

Four women filmmakers tackle four different stories about lives of marginalized women in Indonesia: In “Chant From The Capital City”, Lasja Susatyo confronts the prejudices that women, even in modern and relatively western cities like Jakarta, still have to go through. Laksmi (Susan Bachtiar), found out that her husband has died of AIDS. Barely recovered from grieve, she has to deal with the fact that she is infected with the same virus. Her mother-in-law demand the custody of their grandchild, Belinda (Ranti Maria). Laksmi struggles to keep Belinda. Trying to survive without a job, Laksmi begin to see the harsh reality: she has to choose between her daughter and her fight with HIV.

Upi Avianto is an Indonesian film director, writer and producer. He has worked on recent films popular in Indonesia. In 2004, he directed 30 hari mencari cinta (a romantic comedy) and in 2007, he directed, wrote and produced the hit Coklat stroberi. (Chocolate Strawberry, a teen drama comedy.)

In Chants of Lotus, Avianto directs “Chant From a Tourist City” which is based on a group of young people in Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta is known as a center for higher education and is the second most popular tourist city behind Bali. This segment explores what happens as young people use the internet to explore sex.

In 2000, Nia diNata founded an independent film company. In 2004, she directed the hit Arisan!, which won many awards and was the first Indonesian film with a gay theme.

She has been known to expose gender issues in her film and continues in that tradition with “Chant From A Village.” This film is about a single mother who works in a nightclub and struggles to protect her daughter from sex trafficking.

In “Chant from an Island” Sumantri is a midwife who lives on a small island that is far away from the capital Jakarta. Her role on the island is very important, and she has not told anyone that she has stage 3 cancer. When the village’s autistic girl is raped, Sumantri has to decide whether or not to give the girl an abortion, against the wishes of the religious community.

“Chant from an Island” is directed by Fatimah Rony, who visited us during the screening. She is a filmmaker, author, and educator. Her films have been screened at several international film festivals and art museums. Her filmmography includes “Demon Lover” and “Everything in Between”, which both won Director’s Guild of American Student Film Awards. She has won the Kodak Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at the Cannes Film Festival twice, in addition to a miriad of awards: Rockerfeller Media Arts Fellowship, a Fulbright to Indonesia, and a Jim Morrison Directing award. She has written articles for many publications, including Film Quarterly, Afterimage, Artforum, and Camera Obscura. Fatimah has also lectured at many institutions around the world, and currently teachers at University of California Irvine.

-Posted by Liana Engie, written by Rylee Rubalcava, Michelle Fong, and Liana Engie

May 6, 2009 at 8:45 am 1 comment


A couple of days ago in a casual conversation, my friends started talking about The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Most of them complimented the movie while one Taiwanese American said “It was good, but it was so *beeping* racist. He did not go into details as to why he thought it was racist; he just insisted that “it is just another one of those racist Hollywood movies”.

I thought this was very interesting because I knew that the director was Justin Lin, an Asian American director, and he did not make Tokyo Drift a racist film. But when my Taiwanese American friend viewed this movie, not knowing whom the director was, he automatically assumed that the movie was racist.

This also happened to me. One day, I noticed that on the sketches of my Japanese textbook, all the Asian people were drawn with common stereotypes. This made me furious. So I checked the writer and publisher of the textbook. The textbook was made in Japan, written by Japanese people, and published by Japan Times.

The question I want to raise is that does the mass media really portray Asian Americans in a racist, stereotyped way? Or do the preset mind of the viewers stereotype Hollywood.

According to Lippman, when people stereotype, “we do not first see, and then define, we define first and then see, we pick out what our culture has already defined for us, and we tend to perceive that which we have picked out in the form stereotyped for us by our culture.”

In the case of my Taiwanese American Friend, he did not first see then define. He defined Hollywood’s portrayal of Asian Americans as racist and stereotypical long before he watched The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.


May 6, 2009 at 3:23 am 1 comment


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