HomeBad Ass AsiansSF Intl Film Festival Corrects Mistake 35 Years Later. Honoring Wayne Wang
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SF Intl Film Festival Corrects Mistake 35 Years Later. Honoring Wayne Wang

Wayne Wang and Michael Chin on the Set of Chan is Missing
Wayne Wang (R) and Michael Chin (L) on the set of Chan is Missing. Photo by Nancy Wong

 

By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent

Flash back to 1982: Wayne Wang is an unknown independent director. His only film at that time was his directorial debut , A Man, A Woman and a Killer, a largely forgotten 1975 movie which opened to poor reviews.

Armed with a budget of $22,000, Wang wrote, produced and directed his second film, Chan Is Missing. The ambitious young director nervously submitted his film to the San Francisco International Film Festival.

He anxiously called the festival’s producers to learn the fate of his film noir about two men (Wood Moy and Mark Hayashi) and their search for the missing Chan through San Francisco’s Chinatown. The black and white film ingeniously revealed the various layers of a community and the people that live there.

“’We didn’t accept the film,”’ Wang recalls hearing from the Festival. “I went to pick up the film. It was a brand new copy. My only copy. It hadn’t even been looked at.”

Chan is Missing went on to be widely considered as the first Asian American-themed film to gain critical acclaim and theatrical distribution.

Fast Forward to 2018: The same festival that refused to even consider his now legendary film is honoring Wang with a retrospective of his career and a screening of Smoke– a recently remastered 1995 movie starring Harvey Keitel, William Hurt, Victor Argo, Forest Whitaker, Ashley Judd, Stockard Channing and Harold Perrineau Jr.

Best known for the film adaptation of Amy Tan’s best selling novel, The Joy Luck Club , Wang chose the screening of Smoke to represent his career.

“It’s different,” explained Wang. “ Everyone expected me to choose Chan Is Missing or Joy Luck Club. It (Smoke) is special to me. I recently redid and recolored the film. It’s beautiful. It’s kind of about cross culture relationship and conflicts. It’s a good film to represent. “

Wayne Wang, Dim Sum, A Little Bit of Heart
Wayne Wang with the cast of Dim Sum, A Little Bit of Heart. Photo by Nancy Wong

The retrospective will take place this Saturday night at 7:30 at the Dolby Theater in San Francisco. In addition to Smoke, a highlight reel of Wang’s work will be shown and  will include his many Asian American films as well as his biggest studio film, Maid in Manhattan, starring Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson.

Wang will also participate in a conversation with writer-director H.P. Mendoza. (Colma: The Musical) prior to the screening.

The audience can expect Wang to address the irony of being honored by a film festival which 35 years earlier wouldn’t even look at his film.

“Life is always good and bad, love and hate, ying and yang. The irony has always been with me and my personality and hopefully that comes through. Like my films, studio films indie films, comedy drama, everything is always double sided,” Wang said.

If there’s bitterness about being rejected by the San Francisco International Film Festival, Wang isn’t letting on. He emphasized that the people who rejected his film in 1982 are not the same people who chose to honor him in 2018.

Wayne Wang
Photo by Nancy Wong

“It’s a film about Chinese Americans that people at that time didn’t think was interesting,” he said. “Chinese at that time were portrayed as Fu Man Chu, Susie Wong and laundrymen. “

He also recognizes the narrative in the film was challenging “on all fronts.”

“Different staff and different time. Interesting that now I have a tribute.”
Wayne Wang
Many Asian American film directors have followed Wang including Justin Lin (Fast & Furious, Tokyo Drift), Benson Lee (Seoul Searching), Cary Fukinaga (Beast of No Nation), and M Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense).
Wang says he’s really interested in seeing the future of Justin Chon (Gook).

“I truly truly respect what he’s trying to do. He’s doing a low budget indie film. He’s really taking some risks. He cares about stories and character. I really really am enthusiastic about something like that.”

Tickets for the Wayne Wang retrospective and Smoke are available on the festival web site. 

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