By Erin Chew, AsAmNews Staff Writer
Film genres such as sci-fi and horror/ghost stories, are interesting when they have depth and inject personal experiences. Two films which really peaked my interest at this year’s Visual Communication Los Angeles Asian Film Festival (LAAPFF) come from these two genres.
Sci-fi film Silent River and horror/ghost story I Was A Simple Man move beyond films focusing only on being Asian and the Asian identity, but delve into other issues such as journeys, losing control, reconciling the past with the present and dealing with grief. The creativity and the complexities required to create films of these genres demonstrate the skills and reflect the experience of the filmmakers, actors and crew.
Silent River is a film written, directed and produced by Chris Chan Lee, and it focuses on what it feels like to lose control and how to reconcile issues to reach some sort of normalcy. It is a very layered film with many themes such as discerning what is real and what is not real and one which are relatable today in terms of how the lives of everyone has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chris Chan Lee spoke with AsAmNews about these similarities,
“The tone of the film revolves around this supernatural reality of what is real and what is not, and it also facilitates the idea that there is more to life than we feel ourselves to be,” Lee said. “Isn’t this the same reality all of us are facing today – discerning what is real and what is not with the current pandemic?
Lead actress for the film Amy Tsang highlighted how the film will make audiences stop and reflect on prioritizing life and to just focus on what is important.
“Silent River will make audiences question what it means to be living this life, what is important and once we lose our identity and sense of who we are, how do we get that back,”Tsang said. “For me, I pondered all of these things as I went through lockdowns and changing my life due to the pandemic.”
The sci-fi/supernatural genre is not one which is regularly seen in Asian American films, so it is interesting that Lee chose this genre to present his story. Lee pointed out that it is time Asian American filmmakers experiment more with different genres and tell stories which are beyond just being about our Asian identity.
“I tackled making films about identity issues early on in my career, and I think identity type films are a common starting point for many Asian American filmmakers,” said Lee. “But I do think it is time as artists, that we allow our imagination and creativity to flow and go in different directions, and have our individual freedoms to write what we want and not be pigeon holed into working on films of certain genres/stories only.“
Silent River will be doing the film festival tour, so please check out their website on upcoming screening dates and locations.
I Was A Simple Man was a hit when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Written, directed and produced by Christopher Makoto Yogi, the film is about an elderly man facing death and being haunted by ghosts from his past in O’ahu Hawaii. More importantly, the film is based off the personal experiences of Yogi, who ten year ago went through significant grief and loss in his own family.
“The film was inspired by my own personal experience of death in the family,” he said.
Yogi lost his grandfather who he says raised him while he grew up in Hawaii 10 years ago.
“I had a very complicated relationship with him, and because I was still young then, I didn’t have the tools to deal with the grief. I remember on his death bed, he would yell phrases randomly in Japanese and that totally terrified me, so I Was A Simple Man was written to honor my grandfather.”
I Was A Simple Man, gives off the feel of being influenced by Japanese horror/ghost stories, because of how creatively haunting it was. Yogi discussed how prior to making the film him and the film crew spent time watching many old Japanese horror classic films from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and how he intertwined the Japanese horror influence in his film.
“In Hawaii, there is a vibrant ghost story culture which is a unique mix of Japanese stories and Native Hawaiian stories. This interconnected ghost story culture was what we really tapped into when making I Was A Simple Man.“
I Was A Simple Man, will continue doing the film festival tour scene, and will be picked up for public distribution for a 2022 release.
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