Before I even wrote the April’s Fools article Joy Luck Ranked Greatest Asian American Film Of All Time, I have contemplated for the longest time creating a list for the Top 10 Worst Asian American films of all time. There’s always lists of the good Asian American films but no such thing as a bad one. The reasons for this is actually pretty obvious:
One, the mainstream hardly knows any Asian American films. Two, most Asian Americans don’t even watch these APA films. And if one does know these films, he or she is probably in connection to the said actors and film makers who made the films and in this small Asian American film community, it is not recommended to piss off your fellow Asian peers even if you want to point out a valid criticism. Trust me, our community can be incredibly touchy when it comes to anything but praise for our fellow countryman’s works.
I put a query out asking for people’s worst Asian American films as a Facebook status update and within hours, I got private messages from fellow Asian folks in the entertainment business giving me their confessions in the Asian American films they found to be absolutely dreadful. It was amusing at first as I checked these films out but as more and more submissions came in, I became overwhelmed by how many godawful Asian American films there are.
And then I wrote the April Fool’s article and surprisingly, I somehow fooled a good number of people into believing it was real. Apparently, people don’t bother to read the article itself but only the headline. A lot of Amy Tan/Joy Luck Club fans were overjoyed at the article, only to be crushed after reading it itself. A lot of Asian American activists were furious at the article, only to be laughing their butts off after actually reading it. But the article got me thinking that despite the controversies the film has, the film itself is actually pretty well made with solid acting and a coherent story. This is something that most Asian American films don’t even have so it may be sad to say that at the very least, Joy Luck Club is actually one of the greatest Asian American films of all time.
But then I need to backtrack a little bit: Why are most Asian American films so bad? Is it because many of the stories linger on the Asian American identity crisis and develop an entire story line on a cultural identity thesis? Is it because most of them are poorly directed, edited, acted, and produced? Or is it really because Asian Americans are not given the same resources as white film makers and thus the severely limited resources impact the film making and storytelling of such films?
For me personally, while I have some standards of the technical aspects of film such as the need for good, clean sound..story and acting comes first. If you don’t have me with characters I care about or a story that is worth following through, you are wasting my time. I don’t even care if the film was shot a FlipCam as long as you put the heart and soul in what you want to tell. But that can be a problem in itself as there seems to be a confusion with telling a coherent story to telling a thesis straight out of a college paper.
I know there are some great Asian American films out there but I can only count them with two hands, and even then, it’s somewhat pushing it. I am fully aware we are still in the infantile stages of development and now we are entering into a time where we can tell stories focused on Asian Americans without making it about the Asian American identity crisis. (“Am I Asian? Am I American? Can I eat kimchi with my hamburger?”)
So what do you think? What are your best Asian American films? And if you’re up for the challenge, what are your worst? Is it even fair to even have a “worst” list? Tell me your thoughts!