What you have just seen is a clip from "BLT: Genesis", which is a documentary on the film "Better Luck Tomorrow." After viewing this clip, let me ask you something... what comes to mind when you think of Asians in movies? After reading the results from a survey I conducted, many think of martial artists, exotic women, delivery boys, computer science geeks, nail parlors, laundry mats, and broken English. Director Justin Lin's new movie, "Better Luck Tomorrow", shatters these misconceptions and is on the verge of making history. Today, I am going to attempt to persuade you into viewing and supporting the film "Better Luck Tomorrow." I feel that I am a credible source because I recently attended a MAASU (Midwest Asian American Student Union) conference in which one of the actors, Roger Fan, came to speak to us. He showed us "BLT: Genesis" and spoke about the film.
The audience, including myself, attained further information through the MAASU brochure and the "Better Luck Tomorrow" website. I will speak about three aspects of the movie: How BLT differs from other films, obstacles it has had to overcome, and reasons to why you should see and support the film. BLT differs from other films in many ways. First off, it's a predominantly all Asian American cast. Rebecca Louie, author of "Hoping for a little bit of 'Luck', found that according the 2000 census, Asian Americans make up 4. 2% of the U.
S. population, but a Screen Actors Guild study from the same year also indicated that only 1. 7% of all lead roles cast went to Asian/Pacific Islanders. Now, you may have seen films that show Asians or Asian Americans starring as the main characters, but another main difference between BLT and other films is that the main characters do not play stereotypical roles.
Parry Shen, another actor in BLT said, "For the first time, we are not on screen for some function just because of our faces. We don't perform martial arts, we aren't struggling with our identity as Asians and we aren't the translator in a scene. There is no specific reason for being on screen besides just being regular characters that everyone can relate to." Jack Song, a Cal sophomore agrees as he says, "I'm excited about the movie because it deals with universal things that youth can relate to, but it's an Asian American film and it's really empowering. And they " re not portrayed as a kung fu fighter or kimono-wearing people...
it makes me feel legitimized." Another way in which BLT differs from other films is that during its premier at the Sundance Festival, it was the first ever Asian American film to be picked up for distribution. L. A. Chung, author of "Looking beyond the stereotypes of ethnicity", said, "It's hard for independent films to get distribution and promotion - and even more unusual for Asian American-made films to make that cut." Another huge success that BLT accomplished while at the Sundance Festival, was the fact that it was the first film ever to be acquired by MTV films. It may seem like a fairy tale - being the official selection of film festivals, being picked up for distribution, and being acquired by MTV films, but it has been a long, hard battle and BLT has faced many obstacles. First off, Justin Lin had to find a company that would accept the film the way it was.
While trying to make his film, many companies offered large sums of money under one condition: that he would change the cast from all Asian Americans to all Caucasians. Roger Ebert questioned why not having a film featuring an all Asian-American cast as he wrote in an article, "For years, filmmakers have tiptoed around the sensibilities of ethnic groups, afraid to offend. Maybe the tiptoeing is the real offense. If Justin Lin had made BLT about white teenagers, no one would have batted an eye - and his cast of gifted young Asian American actors would have been denied important roles." Justin Lin refused to change his film, a very noble and courageous act, took out his life savings and maxed out 10 credit cards in order to make his movie the way he envisioned it. Another huge obstacle BLT has had to overcome was criticism from audience members. It has endured a lot of disapproval and people have denounced it for moral emptiness...
especially since the "immoral" roles are played by Asian-Americans. During the third and final screening at the Sundance Festival, a man seated near the rear of the theater said, "I'm really depressed from the film. Because one, it looks very good. Two, the actors are very good.
You know how to make a movie. But why would you, with the talent up there, and yourself, make a film that is so empty amoral for Asian-Americans and for Americans?" Roger Ebert, who usually remains quiet during Q & A sessions, stood up and said, "What I find very offensive and condescending about your statement is, nobody would say to a bunch of white filmmakers, 'How could you do this to your people?' The film has the right to be about these people, and Asian-American characters have the right to be whoever the hell they want to be." A clip of this can be seen on "BLT: Genesis" Now that I have told you how the film differs from other films and the obstacles it has had to overcome, let me give you reasons as to why you should see and support this film. First off, critics gave it rave reviews. Example: Ebert and Roeper t gave it "two big thumbs up", Claudia Puig of "USA Today" said, ""The film's clever plotting and intriguing characters will stay with you well after leaving the theater" and James R occhi of "Netflix. com" said, "Justin Lin's look at overachievers who achieve bad things is a thriller, a social satire, a character study -- and one of the year's best." Second, BLT has won numerous awards like Variety's 10 Directors to Watch 2002, San Diego Asian Film Festival (STAFF) Visionary Award, UCLA Institute of American Culture Fellowship, and Jack Nicholson Distinguished Directing Award.
The third reason why you should support this film is because it breaks stereotypes of Asians/Asian Americans. While explaining his vision of the film on the BLT Official website, Lin said, "I wanted to make a movie that was real and non-apologetic, one that resisted the standard stories and stereotypes typical of recent Asian American cinema. I strove to create a film space that did not define Asian Americans in opposition to "whiteness," but rather, to establish them as active participants in the ever evolving face of Americana." Leonard Wu, actor and a recent UCLA graduate sees and agrees with Lin's vision as he says, "This movie marks a pivotal moment within the entertainment industry and the media as well because although it is not the first all-Asian American cast, it is the first time that Asian Americans do it on their own terms. It breaks the rules, not following the stereotypes that have become calcified over time and consequently stigmatizing Asians as only being able to handle one or two types of genres." Indeed, BLT portrays AA as humans rather than just some Hollywood stereotype. Finally, one of the most important reasons to see and support this film is that it gives Asian/Asian Americans a slice of the American film industry pie.
Lin went to a meeting with studio marketing execs as he was curious about learning how to publicize his film. Five studio reps sat around him, sifted through numerous pages and they came to a pie chart that broke down the American film going audience by race. Lin studied the chart and noted the large slices marked "African American" and "Caucasian." He also noticed a little sliver marked "Latino", but nothing that said "Asians." When he asked why, the reps said, "Asian-Americans don't exist in the film marketing world. We consider them the same as a white audience." Lin was stunned and thought to himself, "We don't even have our own piece of the pie... how can we get our own piece of the pie?" If this film is successful, then it will give Asians their own slice of the U. S.
film pie and give the green light to other Asian American films. In an interview with Cindy Yoon, Lin said, "For an independent film, it is really important for people to show up. Anyone who has complained about representation and cookie clutter movies needs to support movies like this because that is the only way you can communicate to studios that we want to see more films like this." In conclusion, while BLT has an intriguing script and won numerous accolades in the independent film circuit, it is more than just a movie. It is a significant leap forward in a movement to bring equality of representation of Asians and Asian American in U. S. cinema.
Supporting the film means the production of more Asian American films and if BLT is a huge success, then it " ll make history and break many stereotypes of Asians/Asian Americans. I urge and encourage you all to see and support BLT when given the chance. It opened April 11 th in select cities, but because of its continuing success, it is now being played nationwide starting the 25 th. Better Luck Tomorrow Official Website 7 April 2003 Chung, L. A. "Looking beyond the stereotypes of ethnicity." The Mercury News 8 October 2002.
"Ebert and Roeper Review 'Better Luck Tomorrow'." Better Luck Tomorrow Official Website 8 April 2003 Ebert, Roger. "No Place for Political Correctness in Film." Chicago Sun-Times 18 January 2002 Keh r, Dave. "With a Dash of Difference." The New York Times 4 April 2003 Lin, Lynda. "Movie Review: 'Better Luck Tomorrow' breaks stereotypes." Asiansinamerica.
org 7 April 2003 Louie, Rebecca. "Hoping for a little bit of 'Luck'." New York Daily News 8 April 2003. Uba, Tracy. "MTV Seeks Mainstreams Success for AA Film 'Better Luck Tomorrow'." Pacific Citizen. 20 March 2003. Yeung, Bernice.
"Making Their Own Luck." SF Weekly 10 April 2003. Yoon, Cindy. "Interview with Justin Lin, Director of Better Luck Tomorrow." Asia Source. com 8 April 2003.