By Erin Chew, AsAmNews Staff Writer
A simple, yet entertaining film, Bao Tran’s The Paper Tigers tells the story of 3 middle aged men trying to relive their glory days of being teenage Kung-Fu aficionados. The film featured at this year’s San Diego Asian Film Festival (SDAFF), which went fully virtual due to COVID-19 Pandemic.
The film revolves around ‘Danny’ ( Alain Uy and Yoshi Sudarso (teen Danny)), ‘Hing’ (Ron Yuan and Peter Adrian Sudarso (teen Hing)) and ‘Jim’ (Mykel Shannon Jenkins and Gui DaSilva-Greene (teen Jim)), who lived and breathed Kung-Fu and would train every waking hour they could as teenagers with ‘Sifu Cheung’ (Roger Yuan). A situation involving a training trip to Japan fragmented the friendship and strong brotherhood, with the 3 boys giving up the craft for the next 15 years.
Now out of shape 30 somethings, Danny, Hing and Jim must work through their relationship woes, reunite and bring honor. The Paper Tigers is a nice, non complicated story line, but one which transcends beyond a stereotypical Kung-Fu/martial arts film. As writer and director Bao Tran tells AsAmNews, The Paper Tigers is more about the journey than actual fight scenes and the film is essentially a homage to the films he grew up watching.
“This film was very much inspired and is a love letter to the Kung-Fu films. It is also a personal reflection on myself growing up doing Kung-Fu and falling in and out of love with it. I wanted this story to be authentic and this is why it was important to tell it from my own personal view and experiences
“I wanted to make a martial arts film that was very much rounded to the characters I grew up knowing and pay tribute to the legends, so it wasn’t just about a fight fest, which isn’t bad but for me. I knew I had to be honest with my own experiences and show a side that martial arts can also be about relationships, brotherhood and falling out”
It’s also an honest story coming from Tran’s heart-one with a lot of pain, heartache, and obstacles in getting the project up. So much so, it took almost 10 years to raise the funds to make and complete this film project. Despite Tran being experienced working in the film industry, The Paper Tigers was his first feature film and in addition to the difficulties of getting the project up and finished, he also had to knock back offers from studios and distributors who wanted to tell his story but ‘whitewash‘ all the characters.
“If you ask me about working on this ‘love letter’ film project, I would call it difficult and painful, but rewarding once we got it off the ground. As you know with independent films, it takes a long time ( for us almost 10 years) to get the funds and put everything together to get to a spot where we can actually film and produce it. Thankfully, we got it all completed before the pandemic hit.”
“I am a person of principles and I wanted to tell this personal story in the most raw and honest way. The main cast of our film are Asian American, Black American and many other various races and backgrounds. We wanted to keep it that way. We had an offer from a studio who showed interest in our film project, but they wanted to change the character to be White because that was apparently more bankable and castable. Within the industry itself, this is a very common occurrence, so we braced ourselves that we would come across this. To be honest, it was not a difficult decision for me to say no and move on. Although, it is very disappointing.”
‘The Paper Tigers’ is still playing at this years San Diego Asian Film Festival which has gone fully virtual, so you can still purchase tickets and check it out. The film has also been picked up by Well Go USA for a North America theatrical release which has been slated for Spring 2021.
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