Thursday, July 14, 2011

In the Eye of the Beholder

When you think of Bruce Lee, what's your first thought? Fists of Fury and The Green Hornet's Kato? It does for me--the last thing on my mind would be Seattle and philosophy. However, SDAFF's June 21st Member Film Forum centered on how much appearances can mask unexpected human facets. Last month's featured forum film, Arthur Dong's Hollywood Chinese--a documentary on Hollywood's history of Chinese and other Asian on-screen representations--explored these ideas about appearance, as did an amazing YouTube clip of Bruce Lee's audition for Kato during which he did an impromptu demonstration of kung fu for the camera.

Now, even as much as I love watching Bruce Lee's kung fu, I felt a little sad that his fascinating background of studying philosophy at the University of Washington was overshadowed by the martial arts demonstration. After all, Bruce Lee is also well known for creating a new martial arts philosophy, "Jeet Kun Do" (Way of the Intercepting Fist). While watching Hollywood Chinese, I started to wonder about the backgrounds of the Asian American actors featured in the movie, such as James Hong. He's one of those iconic Asian American actors that you see or hear everywhere, such as providing the voice of Po's adoptive father in Kung Fu Panda. What surprised and impressed me was learning that he used to work as a road engineer for LA county, and until he could afford to be a full-time actor, he acted on weekends and vacations for over a year. Hollywood Chinese was a great film because it reminded everyone that even as some films strive to present complex portraits of humanity, it's very easy to see only what you want to see and overlook the details that create multilayered people.

All of these ideas reminded me that I need to be living the SDAFF mission--"to connect and transform audiences with the human experience through the Pan Asian media arts". I think it's important to reach continually for this idea, and what better way to do that than to try to get to know the people around me at the next SDAFF function? So, if someone nervously sidles up to you and introduces herself, it might be me (please be nice--I'm still working on my shyness)! I hope to see you at the Amigo Quarterly Screening on August 5th, or at one of the August Cinema in the Sun films in Carmel Valley! I'm looking forward to getting to know you better!

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