The many awards won by the Everything Everywhere all at Once, including Golden Globes and five Academy Awards, are a triumph of filmmaking and also a triumph for Asian American representation. The road to reach this milestone was not a short one, and there were many films along the away that were critical to this journey, including films that set up barriers with stereotypical portrayals of Asian Americans and other that broke through those barriers. Jeff Yang explores these films in his book, The Golden Screen: The Movies that Made Made Asian America.
Yang goes through 136 films in his book. For each, he includes commentary from Asian American writers (including former 8asians writer Dino-Ray Ramos) and actors on how those movies affected them. The movies are are grouped into chapters not by time period, but thematically. Each chapter contains some introductory dialog. The Golden Screen has much similarity to Yang’s previous book, Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now. While Rise covers some of these movies, The Golden Screen is far more comprehensive.
I was initially surprised that there many non-American Asian movies that made into to the list, but that makes sense given that Yang wanted to include movies that influenced Asian Americans and how others look at Asian Americans. These include some of the best films ever made, such as The Seven Samurai and In the Mood for Love. Yang also included some infamously movies with horrendous portrayals of Asians, such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I think his approach is very effective, and I appreciated the amount of research he did into the work. I thought I had good knowledge about Asian American culture and history, but I only have seen 49 movies in his list, and there were a number of movies that I had never heard of. I appreciated learning about those, and I look forward to going to see them.
The only issue I have with the The Golden Screen is its index. I wanted to found out about Anna May Wong, but the index does not include her even though she was covered throughout the book. Also, with any kind of compendium, somethings will be left out. I was surprised that Colma: The Musical was left out, given it has been included in some lists of notable Asian American films and became a cult classic of sorts. Also, since it is a compendium, there is a limit into how much depth it can go into each movie. Some of these films, like The Seven Samurai, even have entire books dedicated to them.
Overall, I give The Golden Screen my hearty recommendation. If you are a students of Asian American culture, it definitely belongs on your shelf, along with Rise.