Last Thursday I attended the closing of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival for 2018. As usual, the closing was awesome in terms of the turn out and the Asian diaspora and Asian American celebrities who graced all of us with their presence. The closing film was MATANGI/MAYA/M.I.A who is the brave and radical Sri Lankan British rapper who not only made waves with her form of rap, but also talked about racism, being treated as the perpetual foreigner in the UK and talking about the conflict in Sri Lanka with the civil war between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. For me, I was looking forward to this closing film because I have been following M.I.A since she started ( her resilience and the ” I don’t give a fuck” attitude really appealed to me as a very young adult), so it was extremely awesome to have an insight into her life in the film. I won’t say anymore about the film because I think everyone should go out and watch it.
Now on the closing red carpet. There were celebrities and filmmakers who I have already interviewed and/or written about, who were present, but I did get to chat to a few “veterans” (KELVIN HAN YEE and PETER KWONG) of the acting game about their journey as well as their insights into whether they have seen changes in visibility and representation of Asians and Asian Americans in Hollywood.
So I first had a very quick chat to PETER KWONG, who has had a very long career including roles in LETHAL WEAPON, JAMES BOND’s GOLDENEYE, original MIAMI VICE series and so forth, but his most well known role was when he played the character of ‘RAIN” in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. Some of the thoughts he shared was how he has seen a gradual but positive step in how Asian roles are being portrayed and that there seems to be a movement in seeing Asian characters NOT being the perpetual foreigner, but just acting as regular humans/Americans. Inspiration wise, Kwong attributes his career to all the forebears such as SESSUE HAYAKAWA, ANNA MAY WONG and BRUCE LEE for really paving the way for his generation of actors and beyond.
KELVIN HAN YEE was another “veteran’ of acting with whom I had a chance to have a quick word to. Charismatic with shit loads of energy, it was enjoyable to learn from him about his insights and observations. Similarly Yee echoed similar sentiments to what Kwong stated but also added that we do need to see more Asians as leads and heroes in Hollywood films. Where we are gradually moving away from the “perpetual foreigner” narrative, there is still a long way to go and there needs to be more portrayals of Asians as primary leads/heroes, which again is not “perpetual foreigner” inspired. Yee also talked about some of the roles he has more recently played such as “Hondo” on S.W.A.T and on Westworld where he plays a Chinese “coolie” (but not the typical type we expect), so it was really interesting to be able to pick his brain as well as Kwong’s brain who can reflect on their long career experiences.
Asian New Zealander Actress ANGELA ZHOU of SUPERGIRL
Asian Australian actor CHAI HANSEN of Netflix’ LEGEND OF MONKEY
CAYLEE SO, Director of film IN THE LIFE OF MUSIC
Asian Australian actress SHUANG HU of THE FAMILY LAW
CHERYL SONG, actress in SOUL TRAIN
REN HANAMI, Actress (Glow and S.W.A.T and National Chairperson (SAG AFRA APAM)
The SUDARSO Brothers ( YOSHI and PETER)
Asian Australian actor DESMOND CHIAM of The Shannara Chronicles
VISAL SOK and SOPHIN ZOE (Director and actor ) on IN THE LIFE OF MUSIC
Oh…. and….. HANDSOME ASIAN DUDES!
So all in all – a very fun evening with a great movie and company. Can’t complain really, so I will end it here, but please enjoy the pictures from the night! A great end to a busy film festival.