By Erin Chew, AsAmNews Staff Writer
The film Snakehead is a film about New York’s Chinatown Triads – international criminals who make their living by smuggling humans.
Directed by Evan Jackson Leong and starring big names such as Sung Kang, Celia Au, Shuya Chang and Jade Wu, it delves deeply into this world, but also has very layered and complex themes about immigration, leadership, protection of family and the journey of survival and finding one’s true self.
Jade Wu, plays the Matriarch Dai Mah, who is a cut throat, no nonsense leader of the Snakehead. On the surface, she is pure evil in how she conducts herself and her business, but as Wu explains, Dai Mah made this choice to create a path for her family.
“Just like in any other community there has to be a leader for it to survive. For Dai, her family is number one and she has to make the hard choice for her family to survive and to protect herself,” she said.
Dai Mah could easily be spun as a caricature representing the evils of the Chinese Triads, but Wu wants audiences to see her as someone who is human, flawed and has the capacity to care and have emotions.
“These type of characters, are usually depicted as one dimensional – and and evil. But with Dai Mah, there is more to it. She is human and her flaws makes her human,” said Wu. “But I do hope people watching can understand why she does what she does. She is brutal, and will kill by wielding a sword, but deep down she has a heart and cares deeply about her family and keeping her community cohesive.”
Director Evan Jackson Leong has been working on Snakehead for a decade and Wu has been involved in it for five years. It took a while for it to be released because as Wu explains, it was all about timing and finding the right time to release this film because it is one about illegal immigration and the perils and difficulties many communities in this situation face.
But, this story of human smuggling, illegal immigration and survival is not just a Chinese or Asian American story, it is one which can resonate with so many different communities who came to America in escaping from conflict and/or poverty and looking for better opportunities in a new land. What a timely release in this day and age, where immigration and debates over borders and refugees are always huge and hot topics on a national and global scale.
“It is completely relevant, that the film is finally released,” Wu says.
“Look at what is happening at the tenor of illegal immigration now, with all that is happening with different communities who are coming over to the US as refugees wanting to seek a better and safer life. This story is not just about Chinatown and the brutality of triads/snakehead, but it is also about immigration and what you need to do to survive.
“I think holding it back till now was a great decision because now it will make an impact and send a message about having the will to make it and survive,” she concluded.
Snakehead premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September this year, but will have a nationwide release on October 29, 2021 in both theaters and on digital.
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