The buzz and excitement for Uploaded: The Asian American Movement was tremendous at the world premiere, even before the film began. But I was not among one of them and instead, I was quite the doubting Thomas. I was reluctant to watch this in the first place because I am extremely critical of many YouTube stars but I came down to support the crew team who put more than 8 months of work into this, especially by producers Farah Moriah & Julie Zhan, and the several Uploaded interns I know dearly well. So what did I think of the documentary after it ended? Read the synopsis and review after the jump.
Five years ago, it was hard to name more than 10 recognizable Asian entertainers in mainstream America and the few that could be named only played stereotypical roles like the nerd or the martial artist. Even more problematic was the lack of acknowledgement of this problem by the general public. However, in the past few years, groups of young Asian American artists are emerging in entertainment with roots in new media, specifically YouTube. They are taking action into their own hands and redefining how Asian Americans are perceived and valued in society. This documentary explores the visibility of Asian Americans in pop culture since the inception of new media and focuses on the current struggles and successes of important Asian Americans in the areas of music, film, and dance. Directed by Kane Diep.
Uploaded: The Asian American Movement made a jaded Asian American like me have a renewed sense of hope in our community and our ability to make some real change in this world. Yes, I’ve heard that folks like NigaHiga and KevJumba are making tremendous amounts of money from just doing their silly antics but I never took it really seriously. But it was when the documentary went into depth of how these YouTube stars are making real meaningful change in the world that I started to get out of my Ebeneezer Scrooge mentality. This documentary experience was also backed by a 2 hour conversation I had the previous night with the Fung Brothers (who were featured in the film) about the true power of YouTube and how a conventional actor like myself does not have to rely only on studio networks to be seen. I have heard this countless times before but I never really felt it until I saw Uploaded.
Now people have asked me in the past why I’m so critical of these Asian American YouTube stars (and the Asian American entertainment community as a whole). And I would respond to them honestly that I find that they stick with what they’ve always done for so many years and after a while, it gets extremely repetitive and cheesy. I would find myself groaning at yet another lame joke from a Wong Fu skit or wondering how many Ritalin pills NigaHiga will take for his next video. But despite my criticisms, the documentary has reinforced my respect for them that they have millions of fans at their fingertips, fans of all ages & ethnic backgrounds–that they are making a living for themselves by doing exactly what they love to do without anyone telling them otherwise. While I will still not be a fan of their works, I appreciate their pioneering contributions to the Asian American community and beyond.
Because I’m very critical of the technical aspects, I’m very pleased to give this film high marks for making an extremely well polished and effective product that hits all the right intellectual and emotional points. Although there was one moment that the film sounded like it dropped the mic and made a loud kaput noise and some random black screens, the film was finely made for the limited budget resources and crew they had to make it happen.
My final verdict? 9 out of 10. This film needs to be seen. It deserves to be seen. It needs to be in every single college campus, every high school, and every middle school. It needs to be seen by young Asian Americans across the country and so it can empower them. It needs to be seen by jaded Asian American actors like me and have us start believing again. It needs to be seen by the mainstream so they can see for themselves the tremendous power and influence we can create for ourselves. At this current moment, the Uploaded team needs a sponsor so that they can literally upload the film on YouTube and have it be featured by them so it can be free for all. Spread the word, 8Asians readers.