Terminal USA and Mommy Mommy Where’s My Brain? Class Discussion

November 20, 2012 at 9:44 am Leave a comment

Asian American Punk and Underground Films


The two films we are presenting today are Mommy Mommy Where’s My Brain? (1986) and Terminal USA (1993), written and directed by Jon Moritsugu. Jon Moritsugu was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1965 and started filmmaking at Brown University in the mid 80’s. As an underground filmmaker, Moritsugu writes, edits, and distributes most of his pieces. He also works with his wife, Amy Davis, who co-writes, co-produces, and acts in many of his films. Jon Moritsugu’s films have been featured in many festivals such as Sundance, Moma, and Cannes, and his piece Fame Whore was considered for an Academy Award in 1999. Unfortunately, this film was rejected for an award because it was not screened on the mandatory 35mm.

      Terminal USA is a 60-minute film that tells the story of an alternative Japanese American family and their experiences with drugs, sexuality, and violence. One New York Times review describes this film as a scathing satire: “The family is comprised of Japanese Americans that fit into the typical Anglo sitcom family mod. The results are hilarious as they deal with drugs, sexuality, discrimination, aging, and the perils of parenting.” As we have seen in other Independent Asian American Media, Terminal USA provides an alternate and more post-modern narrative of Asian American identity, culture, and experience.

      Mommy Mommy Where’s My Brain? is a 10-minute short that Moritsugu completed at Brown University. During an interview in May 2012, Jon Moritsugu describes this film as a “Marxist critique of post-commodity representations…or…shock cuts/rotting meat/feedback/death/rock/barnyardin’/earwrecking (in an ironic way)…it’s sorta like hanging out with Derrida and then sticking your head in a toilet to escape the noise.” This piece is black and white and visually schizophrenic, with a non-linear narrative and unconventional scenes.

      Both Mommy Mommy Where’s My Brain? and Terminal USA are considered punk and underground films in the sense that they both have a “lo-fi” aesthetic, and filmed with 16 mm cameras, and produced using a limited budget. Moreover, both of these films are considered absurdist comedies that capture rebellious feelings and attitudes of American youth.

      A few questions that we want you to consider while watching the clips are, would these films be considered post-modern? How do these films present Asian American identity? In a positive or negative light? Do they reinforce or deconstruct orientalizing stereotypes? 

Additional topics:

-Terminal USA is a parody of censorship as well as a parody of Asian stereotypes

-Normal Asian American films try to have a more “truthful” representation of Asian Americans, but it’s somewhat impossible because films are not reality
           -Moritsugu utilizes this by going in the opposite direction with his films in the sense that, he greatly over exaggerates the stereotypes to the point where it’s just “silly” and no longer has meaning
-Josh Weiss & Melanie Zarrow

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

The 3rd Asian Americans in Media (AAIM) Film Festival @ The Claremont Colleges (November 30 and December 1, Rose Hills Theatre, Pomona College) “This is How I Say I Love You:” Exploring the Diversity of Relationships within Asian American Families

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


November 2012
« Oct   Dec »

Most Recent Posts

%d bloggers like this: