It’s the midway point of Sundance 2013 and it’s been a very busy few days. Aside from covering the Festival, which includes watching as many films as I can (my next reports will be capsule reviews and highlights), I wanted to frame this report as a current state of Asian American representation at Sundance.
We kick off with Offender Justin (and head honcho of YOMYOMF) participating in a panel this past Saturday called THE POWER OF STORY. He was in distinguished company including Jane Campion (THE PIANO and her new miniseries TOP OF THE LAKE), Richard Linklater (SLACKER, DAZED AND CONFUSED, BERNIE and in town for BEFORE MIDNIGHT, third chapter to BEFORE SUNRISE & BEFORE SUNSET) and Mike White (CHUCK & BUCK, FREAKS AND GEEKS and currently producing and acting in HBO’s ENLIGHTENED).
The purpose of the panel was to talk about the “power of story” and how these established film directors are exploring other formats and mediums, primarily television and the web. Justin was on the panel to talk about YOMYOMF and it was totally surreal to have the BANANAPOCALYPSE video, which has hit 3 million views, play in front of a Sundance audience. It was also funny to see Jane Campion with a somewhat perplexed “what did I just witness” look after viewing the clip.
Everyone was very approachable and funny when the moderator asked pretty general questions about their thought process and workflow when it comes to different formats. Justin, however, was pretty straightforward in his answers, with one in particular about working in the studio system vs. YouTube, saying that the rule book should be thrown out when it comes to new media and how working with YOMYOMF co-founders Ryan, Kevin and Chester was a refreshing experience because of their direct, authentic connection to the audience. In the development of content, Justin also said it’s about being relevant and immediate. Oh, and also the fact that fantasy basketball keeps him grounded too. Linklater nodded with acknowledgement.
After the panel, I went out to brave the crowds of Main Street and I run into these guys:
That’s right, it’s Phil Yu aka AngryAsianMan and LOST and HAWAII FIVE-O’s Daniel Dae Kim. They just came out of a swag spot. DDK apparently got a couple of Samsung Galaxy Note II smartphones, among other cool things. What a lucky bastard, to be so damn handsome and suave. Errgh.
But seriously, DDK was in town to support LINSANITY, which after it’s world premiere this past weekend, has been garnering strong reviews. Directed by Evan Jackson Leong, the documentary chronicling the rise and fall and ascension of Jeremy Lin was truly lightning captured in a bottle. Leong has come a long way, since directing BLT GENESIS almost a decade ago (You can watch BLT GENESIS as part of our YOMYOMF Classics series here).
The sheer fact that Leong and his producers were following Jeremy since his Harvard days, and to get a front row seat when those magical “two weeks” in February of last year where Jeremy was at the brink of being cut from the Knicks (after being cut from the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets a few weeks before) and becoming the most defining sports story in recent memory, was truly magical and amazing.
The story of Jeremy Lin, is also a quintessential Asian American immigrant story as well, imbuing strong values, family life, perseverance and ethnic identity. Although he is a dynamic, wunderkind athlete, he was constantly ignored because he was Asian, which the film chronicles in a balanced way. Jeremy also comes off as a regular, affable, and dorky dude, which endeared him with the audiences, who thoroughly enjoyed the film. Below is an image of the LINSANITY team during the after film Q&A.
The film has been criticized for an over reliance on faith and God, but I don’t find these criticisms sound because the truth is, the guy is religious. He considers his journey as an act of God. There was a comment from the audience that Jeremy was texting another religious sports figure, Tim Tebow. I think the guy was joking. No matter what, his faith is what defines him. What I find more fascinating, however, is his iconography on the global scale, especially in China. The film barely touches on this subject, but Lin is a work in progress and will definitely become one of the most dynamic figures in the NBA for years to come.
Since we are on an Asian American theme here, I wanted to end this report with the launch of A3′s newest initiative. But a quick backstory… A3, which stands for Asian American Artists Foundation, was soft launched a few months ago and was started by three friends (Julia Lam, Philip Fung, and Franklyn Chien) who were early Facebook employees and became interested in supporting emerging Asian American creatives, and developing programs that are different from current systems.
Their first initative, which started a few months ago, was to support young artists in new media. YOMYOMF was a recipient with a grant given to Offender Jerome to work on our YouTube channel (Chris Dinh and Sam Bay was also issued grants to work at Wong Fu).
For their next initiative, which was announced during their A3 reception on Monday night, is potentially ground changing. A3 will partner with the Sundance Institute to sponsor a fellow in their Director or Screenwriting Lab in 2013 or 2014. The normal Sundance fellowship is very competitive with about 2,000 applications for about 25 slots. They’ll be self-funded the first year, and hope to see about five to 10 fellows in the next year. You can read more about this new initiative over at Tech Crunch.
Finally, there was another reception honoring API filmmakers participating in both Sundance and Slamdance film festivals. Officially called the 10th annual Asian Pacific Filmmakers Experience in Park City, it was a fun event, with actually good Chinese food (a rarity in Park City) and lots of filmmakers and attendees representing Asian cinema this week in Park City. Here’s some photos, provided by Visual Communications’ Abe Ferrer:
Overall, strong Asian and Asian American representation at Park City this week. More Sundance reports on the way, including my personal film picks from the festival.