Archive for October, 2010

The Second Mini Festival of Recent Asian American Films @ The Claremont Colleges (November 5-6, Pitzer College)

ORGANIZED AND CURATED BY STUDENTS IN ASIAN AMERICANS IN MEDIA (MS100PZ) from films shown at the 2010 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

Still from Red Dust (2010)


Location: Broad Performance Space

From bed to batteries to breaking the law, the documentaries featured in this program illuminate untold stories from very different worlds. First is a light-hearted glimpse at the home life of George Takei and his partner Brad Altman, followed by a gripping expose of the plight of Chinese factory workers suffering from cadmium poisoning. Wrapping up the program is a chronicle of Army Lt. Ehren Watada’s fight against what he believes is a constitutionally illegal war.
GEORGE AND BRAD IN BED (2010) Dir. Jessica Sanders
RED DUST (2010) Dir. Karin Mak
LT. WATADA (2010) Dir. Freida Lee Mock

In Person: Karin Mak

Still from Raspberry Magic (2009)

RASPBERRY MAGIC (2009) Dir. Leena Pendharkar
Location: Benson Auditorium

11-year-old Monica Shah believes raspberries are “the perfect balance of sweet and sour, the good and the bad.” Her father has just lost his job and left his family, her mother has fallen into depression, and now her little sister refuses to go to school. It’s up to Monica to bring them all back together, all while trying to win the science fair by proving human touch makes raspberry plants grow faster. RASPBERRY MAGIC offers an inspiring tale of love’s power to reunite and the value of following your dreams.

In Person (via Skype): Leena Pendharkar and Megha Kadakia, Producer

Still from Lyrical Empire: Hip Hop in Metro Manila (2010)


Location: Broad Performance Space

This program showcases a collection of film and video shorts that attempts to challenge the dominance of a mainstream narrative. It resonates with a diverse audience by showcasing the stories of a series of voices, long suppressed—those belonging to children of internment, underground hip hop artists, devoted grandmothers, the transgender community, and imaginative childhoods. The collection promises to leave the audience with a renewed appreciation for the tapestry of diversity that constitutes our society.
HALF KENNETH (2009) Dir. Ken Ochiai
THREE TIMES ME (2009) Dir. Wendy J.N. Lee
GRANDMA (2010) Dir. William Kwok
WIND IN A BOX (2010) Dir. Tani Ikeda

In Person: Tani Ikeda and Mark Villegas

FESTIVAL RECEPTION outside Broad Performance Space

Come share delicious snacks and beverages with Festival filmmakers, organizers and other guests!

Still from The People I've Slept With (2009)

THE PEOPLE I’VE SLEPT WITH (2009) Dir. Quentin Lee
Location: Benson Auditorium

Angela Yang loves sex. She loves it so much she makes baseball cards of her lovers to help her remember all of them. But when she finds out that she’s pregnant, can she put it all behind her and lead a normal life? As we take a dive into the world of Angela, we laugh, we cry, and we sometimes cringe as we follow her on her search for the baby daddy.

In Person: Quentin Lee


This Festival is funded in part by Strategic Initiative Fund/Pitzer College Campus Life Committee, Pitzer Media Studies, and the Intercollegiate Department of Asian American Studies (IDAAS). Additional thanks to Abraham Ferrer and Visual Communications.

Further inquiries, contact: Ming-Yuen S. Ma, email:

October 31, 2010 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

Year of the Dragon (1985)

Released in 1982 by MGM, Year of the Dragon is a thriller starring Mickey Rourke (who has not aged well), John Lone (famous for The Last Emperor) and Ariane Koizumi (her first role). The film was met with controversy for its depiction of Chinatown and Asian Americans by the Chinese American and Asian American community and as a result a disclaimer was attached to its opening credits. With a production budget of $24M the film made less than $19M, making it a commercial flop. It was based on a novel by Robert Daley (written in 1981) which in turn was adapted by Michael Cimino who brought in Oliver Stone (Platoon, Wall Street, JFK, W.) to help due to time constraints. Michael Cimino is also the director, his previous include Magnum Force (Dirty Harry movie) and The Deer Hunter (also another movie which a presents a view of Asians and Asian Americans).

The plot of the film is about two similar men in their respective communities and how they do not really fit in. Both Stanley White and Joey Tai do not obey superiors or elders and are aggressive men who do what it takes to get the job done. This often puts them in direct conflict with the status quo of their communities. Both the police and Chinatown triads have an agreement and a status quo that both these characters disrupt. White vows to cleanup Chinatown by any means necessary while Joey Tai ruthlessly rises to top of his criminal organization. In the end, White is ultimately victorious (though he loses his wife) and Tai commits suicide.

-Written and Posted by Jonathan Soon & Megan Kilroy

October 29, 2010 at 2:13 am Leave a comment

China as New Foreign Threat to America + “Evil Chinese Professor” Contest

Part of this class is a discussion on how foreign Asians are portrayed in America. A lot of the class has discussed the “Yellow Peril” theme of the past. Today in terms of foreign enemies, it looks like the Chinese are the new Japanese for Americans. Where once America saw the Japanese as foreign threat (WWII, 1980s economic warfare) we’ve now apparently reached the point where China is the new threat.

It makes sense. Even though we aren’t fighting a physical war with China, we are involved with increasing economic tensions (China owns most of our debt! China is keeping their currency artificially low! China may cut off our supply of Rare Earth Metals!). Add to the fact they are “Communist” and most of our manufacturing is done over there and you can probably see why some people feel threatened.

Case in point, check out this YT video by the Citizens Against Government Waste Coalition:

It’s a new Red Scare! I especially like the comparison of America to the British and Roman Empires. And how you can tell you are in Beijing in the opening shot because of the huge Mao and Communist imagery posters. Also the cool classroom technology of the future is great. Indeed, digital effects are put to great use in this.

DISGRASIAN, in conjunction with 8Asians, Angry Asian Man, and Reappropriate are running a contest where you can re-subtitle the video for hilarious results. There is a prize though they don’t specifically state what it is. Still, your resulting video will get some serious views if it wins which can be worth something.

Campus Progress Action has apparently already entered this contest. Check out their video here. (It’s vimeo so I can’t get it to embed in wordpress.)
There’s also another one here, which was done for an NPR piece on this whole issue.

I’m also reminded about the upcoming remake (featuring Chris Hemsworth aka Thor) of Red Dawn. For those of you too young to remember (or avoid cheesy 80s films), the original Red Dawn told the tale of a Soviet & Cuban invasion of the Mainland United States. The film centers on the experiences of a bunch of teenagers in Colorado who are caught in the middle of the invasion. The opening scene is of Cuban paratroopers taking over the high school the kids go to. (Obviously high schools are a high value target.) Lead by Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen, the teenagers soon wage guerrilla warfare against their new Communist oppressors under their high school mascot “WOLVERINES!”. The remake updates the enemies to the Chinese as they are the only threatening Communists left I guess. I’m not going to lie, I love the original Red Dawn because it is so ridiculous (high schoolers waging guerrilla warfare against Communists) and has some great scenes (invading forces uses lists of registered gun owners to round people up, establish re-education camps, etc.). I’m sort of looking forward to the new one. Maybe the Chinese Americans in the new Red Dawn will be like Manchurian Candidates and have genetic triggers that cause them to betray America! That would be hilarious.

-Written & posted by Jonathan Soon

October 28, 2010 at 6:33 pm Leave a comment

Eating Welfare

Today was the screening of the documentary “Eating Welfare.” This event hosted by SACE (Southeast Asian Community Empowerment), a newly-formed committee at the AARC dedicated to issues surrounding the Southeast Asian community and the refugee experience.

Having been a part of organizing this event, tonight was the second time watching the documentary. But what surprised me so much was how different and new it seemed after having the in-class discussion on “The Fall of I-Hotel.” Call me a nerd, but I got super excited as my brain started making connections to what I learned in class just a couple of hours before. The biggest thing that struck me was the similarity of “Eating Welfare” with “Fall of I-Hotel.” These two films were made a decade apart and focused on different issues, but the connection was undeniable.

“Eating Welfare” was produced by a group of Vietnamese- and Cambodian-American youth who are a part of the Southeast Asian refugee community in Bronx, NY. They documented the lives of their families and their community, and how they were impacted by the 1996 welfare reforms (Clinton’s Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act).

Having been created by a group of students who lacked an extensive education in filming/editing techniques, the documentary is definitely rough and reminded me of the “anti-slick” characteristics of “Yellow Brotherhood” and “Homecoming Game.” The youth tell their stories through sit-down interviews, “on-site” interviews with their parents, clips of their welfare rally, slideshows of images, and student-led tours of their neighborhood and homes. The purposeful choice of the filmmakers in interviewing the student activists in front of a framed picture of Malcolm X seemed to echo similar settings which we saw in interviews in “Homecoming Game.” The raw footage from their rally at the welfare offices brought to mind the protest scenes in “I-Hotel.” The subjects of the films were strikingly similar as well. Both “Welfare” and “I-Hotel” show young members of a community fighting for the rights and well-being of their elders — their parents and their manongs, respectively.

The use of audio/music also paralleled some of the discussion in class. The songs chosen to accompany certain scenes and images matched the political motivations of the film. They drew their picks from a variety of underground hip hop artists when showing scenes of the youth active in their neighborhood and on the streets. The song accompanying the slideshow of the students in action was clearly chosen for its ability to evoke emotion from the audience.

This blog post is becoming a bit too long, so I will try to wrap it up.
Overall, it was inspiring to see these empowered students (in high school or younger) stand up for their community. They united to raise their voice and break the silence that dominates much of the Southeast Asian communities and their issues.
It made me think, ‘What was I doing when I was 16?’

Posted by Jasmine Kim

October 13, 2010 at 5:56 am Leave a comment

The Fall of the I-Hotel

“Even as the story unfolds toward the inevitable tragedy of the building’s demolition, Manong Al’s presence gave one an impression of hope. Not that idealistic hope that, perhaps, the fight against the city’s “development” plans might somehow prevail.
No, this hope was and still is something greater. Some fights that aren’t won are still victories — as evidenced by the outpouring of community support and internationalist solidarity for the I-Hotel. Though the building was lost, Manong Al and them laid the groundwork for all of us who continue their tireless work to stand up for our communities. The Fall of the I-Hotel, more than a story about a building, more than a story about its tenants or even the fight to save, is a rally cry still heard loud and clear nearly 30 years later.”
-Geologic (Blue Scholars)
Appeared in Racialicious Blog, May 6th, 2009

The I-Hotel, properly known as the International Hotel, was built in 1907 on Kearney St, a main artery in Downtown San Francisco (an area known as Manilatown). This period of time in San Francisco and many major cities on the west coast was characterized by mass development, expansion and renovation. The I-Hotel was designed to accommodate mostly lower income housing and its main tenants, although not exclusively, were Filipino immigrants. By 1968 the first eviction notices were sent out to the residents and all tenants had been evicted by the summer of 1977. The Fall of the I-Hotel is an Asian American documentary chronicling the struggle of the residents, local activists and the Asian American community.

The Fall of the I-Hotel is significant as an Asian American film as well as an emblem of the activism of the time. We have recently viewed Yellow Brotherhood, Manzanar and Homecoming Game to gain an understanding of what early Asian American cinema was like. Between these films we see that early Asian American cinema was relatively crudely made. There’s little crosscutting, a high level of fuzziness in the picture and most of the films appear to be hand held. We see an evolution in The I-Hotel, with its use of more formally recognized interview sequences, voiceovers and even claymation. There are, however, some remaining traits carrying on from the early Asian American film era that are readily apparent in particular scenes within The I-Hotel, one of which you will see today. Pay attention to how Manong Al Robles’ poem is read along with a man walking through the empty hotel.

This is a portrayal of an Asian American community as we have not seen yet in this class. The I-Hotel certainly stands apart from Hollywood cinema and the idealized Chinese community in Flower Drum Song. It is also unlike the Los Angeles urban blend that we see in Yellow Brotherhood. Curtis Choy and the producers of The Fall of the I-Hotel, made this film with a particular purpose and achieved a depth with the Asian American subjects of the film we have not seen previously.

October 7, 2010 at 7:39 pm 1 comment

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

(I don’t think we talk about video games enough in class probably because they are such a new form of media. So here’s my take on a recent development.)

This week is the release date of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, a game by Ninja Theory, aka the studio that brought us Heavenly Sword.

What is interesting about this game is that it’s based on Journey to the West, a classical Chinese novel. This game is receiving quite a bit of attention for this, which is interesting because I’m sure if this game was instead based on a classical Western novel there would be less attention. (Apparently all the magic has been replaced by technology since it’s set in the near future after an apocalyptic event.)

I found it interesting that in the developer interviews for this game that one of the lead developers was surprised to learn that the Monkey King story is essentially part of a Chinese classical novel. I guess even with famous works like Dragon Ball and Saiyuki most people don’t know Eastern legends/works of art. (Or maybe most people just don’t know ancient legends/works of arts at all?)

The game is actually getting good reviews: 80 on Metacritic and 82% on Game Rankings.

It’s will be interesting to see how well it sells; if it sells well we could see more “Western” (Ninja Theory is European) developers making games based on “Eastern” tales. I’d like to see that as I’m tired of games always using Judeo-Christian legends or Classical Grecco-Roman mythology. I’m also tired of Japanese developer’s seeming obsession with Norse mythology.

We will be seeing another game based on “Eastern Mythology” sometime in the near future: Asura’s Wrath (video trailer below)

-Written and Posted by Jonathan Soon

October 6, 2010 at 8:02 pm Leave a comment


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