Asian and Asian American influences in ‘Black Panther’ (minor spoilers)

One of the many impressive aspects of the Black Panther movie is its costume design.  The look of the Dora Milaje, the elite Wakanda guard, is particularly striking. 

That said, I was surprised to found out from The Wife about this article about Anthony Francisco, a developmental illustrator for Marvel Comics, where he says that apart from the obvious influence from different African cultures, that there are Asian influences in the Dora Milaje costumes.  In this Buzzfeed article, Francisco details influences as disparate as Filipino tribesman and Japanese Samurai.

Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

Francisco grew up in the Philippines, where the Igorot people of Ifugao are well known for their UNESCO heritage rice terraces.  Some of their traditional garb influenced his design.  In addition, the table runner from Francisco’s Aunt’s house became part of General Okoye’s uniform.  Other Asian influences include Samurai style boots.

You can see these and other influences on costume design in the Buzzfeed article

For a better look at Francisco’s work (which includes Baby Groot), check out his Instagram.

Comparing Chinese Death Beliefs with Disney/Pixar’s ‘Coco’

During opening weekend, I took my daughter to see the new Disney/Pixar movie, Coco.  It’s a movie she’s been looking forward to seeing for almost a year, since the trailers for the new movie came out quite some time ago.  I didn’t have much expectations for the movie, as I figured it would be similar to a previous animated film, Book of Lifeanother film centered around Día de los Muertosor the Day of the Dead.  But the movie is completely different, and definitely worth a viewing.  As I watched the film Coco with my 12 year old, I began to realize that many of the practices and beliefs that were being practiced by the Mexican families were similar if not identical to many practices that we performed for my deceased ancestors as a Chinese/Taiwanese immigrant family in the United States.

Before I make the comparisons, I’ll remind readers that discussing the dead, or customs and practices around death is generally considered taboo in Chinese culture.  But I have previously broken this taboo by writing about Chinese funerary customs, so I’ll wander again into dangerous waters.  If you’re from a Chinese family, you might want to refrain from talking about this topic with the elders in your family.  In fact ghosts and the supernatural are generally still considered forbidden topics in mainland China, and it was a surprise that Coco made it past Chinese censors without any edits.

One of the major Chinese holidays is also known as 盂蘭節 or Ghost Festival.  The holiday is sometimes called Chinese Halloween, and is very similar to the Mexican Day of the Dead.  I remember when I was growing up, that my mom would set up an altar on major Chinese holidays, like the Ghost Festival, and the center of the altar would have the photographs of the deceased ancestors.  We would burn incense, and joss paper and lay out food offerings, typically oranges and cooked rice with other dishes for the deceased, so they would have food and money in the afterlife.  We would eat the food it had been left out for a long time, long enough for the deceased to partake their portion of the food.  It’s common for Chinese to burn paper replicas of cars, boats, houses, etc. for the deceased to have these things in the afterlife.

Similarly on the Day of the Dead, in Coco, there’s a strong importance to having the photograph of the family ancestor placed in the family ofrenda.  The belief in Coco, is that if your photograph is not in the family ofrenda, you won’t be able to pass over on the Day of the Dead to visit your relatives.  You’re essentially forgotten.  In Coco, if you’re forgotten, your spirit will disappear from the afterlife and cease to exist when the last person who remembers you dies in the real world.

Similar to Chinese culture, the Mexicans lay out food for the deceased, so they’ll have food in the afterlife.  The amount of food the deceased have in the afterlife varies by how much they were remembered and offered food in the real world.  So a popular singer, like the character Ernesto de la Cruz in the movie Coco, had an abundance of food in the afterlife from all his devoted living fans, while Hector, who was forgotten had none.

By the end of the movie, these similarities between the two cultures got me wondering if they arose from the same source.  My guess is yes, since at the end of the movie Coco, there was a disclaimer saying the beliefs around the Day of the Dead, had roots in Mexican and indigenous peoples. And with the knowledge that indigenous peoples traveled from Asia to settle in the Americas, I think we’re fairly safe in assuming these beliefs have a common beginning.

In case you haven’t seen Coco yet, won’t spoil any more of the movie for you, but I will say it’s one of the best kids movies I’ve seen in a while, and well worth the price of admission.




CAAMFest 2016: March 10 – 20, 2016 | San Francisco & Oakland


One of the things I’ve enjoyed over the years while living in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1999 is the the annual Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) Film Festival, better known as CAAMFest, “Celebrating Asian American Film, Music and Food.” This year’s festival is taking place this March 10 – 20, 2016 in San Francisco & Oakland.

I’ve seen terrific movies over the years, highlights which have included Bend It Like Beckham, LINSANITY and Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority in the past, and most recently as of last year, Seoul Searching. This year’s Opening Night presentation is the Bay Area premiere of TYRUS:

TYRUS is an inspirational documentary about the art, life, and enduring impact of 105 year-old pioneering Chinese American artist Tyrus Wong, best known for the conceptual artwork that gave Walt Disney’s Bambi its distinctive and unforgettable look.”

You can catch trailers of most of the films at CAAMFest here on YouTube

For more information about the festival

You can also check out the program guide here:


Be sure to buy tickets in advance if you can, since a lot of the films are often sold out.

Gays In Asia Hidden In A “Perfect” Marriage: ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’ at LAAPFF 2013

EDITORS NOTE from Joz: 8Asians is proud to be a community co-presenter of various films at the 2013 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, presented by Visual Communications.

Among the many heavy topics in the films of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival from May 2 to 12, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow provides a touch of humor in a bitter story of a gay man trying to hide his sexuality in a marriage with a woman.

After marring to Ah Feng for nine years, Weichung has never really enjoyed a single day of his marriage or family life, because of his secret that he is gay. He used this marriage which looked perfect in an outsider’s eyes to hide his sexual orientation. To others, he was a loving husband, a hard working man and a caring father. He tried to stay away from his old circle of gay friends in order to maintain his marriage, or the façade he built just to shelter his secret.

“Nobody will find out, because I am already married,” Weichung told his old friend Stephen, a wedding photographer who is also gay and married to a lesbian.

Things changed when his wife Ah Feng wanted a second child. Subsequently, questions were raised in Ah Feng’s mind when she found out Weichung’s strange behaviors and his effort to avoid having sex with her. At the beginning, she thought her husband was having an affair.

Continue reading “Gays In Asia Hidden In A “Perfect” Marriage: ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’ at LAAPFF 2013″

San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival Now CAAMFest – 3/14 – 3/24

When I first moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the first annual events I attended was the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF). Yes, that is quite a mouthful, so maybe that is why the San Francisco-based Center for Asian American Media – CAAM  (which used to be known by the archaic National Asian American Telecommunications Association) re-branded the traditionally February / March film festival as CAAMFest. CAAM also throws a terrific party to kickoff the film festival usually at the Asian Art Museum. CAAMFest runs from Thursday, March 14th to Sunday, March 24th.

I’m not sure when or what movie I first saw at the film festival, but I clearly remember seeing two fantastic films at the film festival in my early days of attending: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as well as Bend It Like Beckham in 2003, where director Gurinder Chadha had actually met her future husband at the film festival something like ten years prior. At the time, I had no idea who David Beckham was nor what it meant to “bend it like Beckham” (which is to kick and  ‘bend’ a soccer ball into the opponent’s goal). That was also my first memory of the lovely and talented actress Keira Knightley.

Another film I’ve seen at the film festival that I recall is the interesting documentary about Yao Ming’s first year in the NBA, Year of the Yao. And last year, I saw the terrific CAAM-supported documentary, Mr. Cao Goes To Washington.

This year’s showcase film kicking off the film festival will be LINSANITY, a documentary about NBA basketball player, Houston Rockets’ Jeremy Lin.

LINSANITY premiered at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, which Jeremy Lin attended during the later part of the Q&A session, where it has garnered a lot of glowing reviews. I can’t wait to see the documentary and a whole lot of other films. If you have any interest in independent films, definitely check out CAAMFest!

8Asians Chats With…The Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival

The Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival celebrates its Sweet 16th birthday Nov 6-11 in Toronto and Nov 16-17 in Richmond Hill.

I sat with Aram Siu-Wai Collier, the Director of Programming for this year’s festival to go over some of the highlights and what we can expect, including musical performances, Rum’n’Roti and the festival’s first 3D film screening.

This is part 1 of a 2 part post on the 16th Annual Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival.

SXSW 2012 Has a Nice Handful of Asian Movies

This year, SXSW (a.k.a. South by Southwest) film festival has a very hearty helping of Asian-ness — and I’LL BE THERE! YAY!

Sure, the music and interactive portions of the popular festival are big draws, but when it comes to the film festival, I am totally all over it.

This year they will be featuring big time movies like the Jonah Hill/Channing Tatum comedy romp 21 Jump Street and Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods — but the selection of Asian-centric films are in abundance. From Indonesian forest-based thrillers to Olivia Munn trying to get preggers, here’s a list of them in no particular order.

Continue reading “SXSW 2012 Has a Nice Handful of Asian Movies”

L.A. Giveaway: Advanced Screening Tickets for Takeshi Kitano’s ‘Outrage’ + DVDs

UPDATE 11/9/11: Congrats to our winners Lailanie and Anika!

Outrage, the new film from Japan’s legendary Takeshi Kitano (ZATOICHI: THE BLIND SWORDSMAN, BROTHER, VIOLENT COP) opening in Los Angeles and New York on December 2, 2011. It stars Beat Takeshi, Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase, and Tomokazu Miura.

In a ruthless battle for power, several yakuza clans vie for the favor of their head family in the Japanese underworld. The rival bosses seek to rise through the ranks by scheming and making allegiances sworn over saké.

Long-time yakuza Ôtomo (writer/director Kitano, using his screen name “Beat Takeshi”) has seen his kind go from elaborate body tattoos and severed fingertips to becoming important players on the stock market. Theirs is a never-ending struggle to end up on top, or at least survive, in a corrupt world where there are no heroes but constant betrayal and vengeance…

Running Time: 109 minutes
Language: Japanese (with English subtitles)
Rating: R for violence, language, and brief sexuality

Ok, ok, so you just want to know how you can win some free tickets and DVDs? Read on!
Continue reading “L.A. Giveaway: Advanced Screening Tickets for Takeshi Kitano’s ‘Outrage’ + DVDs”

Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival: Capsule Reviews, Part 1

The 15th Anniversary of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival opens its doors this coming Tuesday, November 8th to 12th in downtown Toronto, followed by 4 special screenings in Richmond Hill November 18th to 19th.

Voted one of Toronto’s Best Little film festival, Reel Asian has grown leaps and bounds from its humble independent roster, to screen world premieres of International Asian films. Check out my reviews for Lover’s Discourse, Saigon Electric, Piercing, I, and Jump Ashin after the jump.

Continue reading “Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival: Capsule Reviews, Part 1”

War of the Arrows Movie Review: Cinematographically Awesome

Distributed by Lotte Entertainment, War of the Arrows is directed and written by Kim Han-Min. The film is something I’ve been wanting out of Korean films for a long time: an epic action film that keeps you on your toes but also has a great story line. The original film premiered in South Korea this August under the name: Arrow: The Ultimate Weapon (최종병기 활). Personally, the new English name seems a lot more fitting.

Continue reading “War of the Arrows Movie Review: Cinematographically Awesome”

Tim Burton’s All Asian American Hansel & Gretel Film

So everyone in L.A. has been visiting our beloved Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to see the latest blockbuster art exhibit featuring the art of director Tim Burton. Appropriately, this exhibit will be on display until Halloween 2011. Over the July 4th weekend, I was able to stop by the exhibit and enjoy with childish delight Burton’s amazing private collection of his own art. They even had on display all of the original figurines used in The Nightmare Before Christmas, my all-time favorite.

I was totally geeking out and chuckling as I enjoyed all of his awesome drawings and sculptures when I came across a live-action film playing continuously. It was clearly a creepy rendition of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale with an all Asian cast. The film looked old, like from the 1970’s. Intrigued, I sat down and watched the film, thinking, “Did Tim Burton make a film in Asia?” Then I quickly noticed  that all the actors were speaking with pristine, un-dubbed American English and realized it was an all Asian American cast.

It turns out Burton had made the film for Disney in the early 80’s, which aired on Halloween night 1983 and then disappeared for over two decades before being shown again at art galleries in recent years. Apparently, Burton was really into Japanese culture at the time, and this film has an all Japanese American cast.  The film footage can’t be found on online, so it looks like the only way to see this totally Asian American casted Tim Burton film right now is at LACMA. Definitely worth it.

Sexy Beijing Brings China’s #1 Internet Television

Sometimes it’s amazing the weird things you can run across on Youtube. I recently came across Sexy Beijing, an web series in China and while the video above is suitable for work,  some of the interviews may be questionable due to the content. In any case, I was totally enthralled for whatever reason because a laowai was speaking in a Northern accent, which brought me back to the days of taking collegiate Chinese when the TA liked to give me hell because I didn’t speak with the Beijing accent like he was taught. In any case, it was fascinating since Sexy Beijing not only brings out how China has grown, but as a people, what sort of internal revolutions they’ve had due to opening up to the world.

For example, one of the videos was the interviewing of a comedy film called Red Light Revolution. It’s basically about how a businessman opens a sex shop to make ends meet. What’s interesting about this interview is that the older actor said he actually remembers one of the first sex shops opening up in Beijing and it was probably around ten years ago. This also coincides with the beginning of the China Adult-Care Expo back in 2004 which began because China produces 70% of the world’s sex toys.

Many Westerners still believe that China continues to be a very closed off and isolated country due to government restrictions. But on the ground with Sexy Beijing, it seems apparent that change has been rampant in the last decade and continues to steamroll through.