By Erin Chew, AsAmNews Staff Writer
Imagine the unrealized ideals of romance in heterosexual romcoms getting a queer take that challenges hard truths on morality, sexuality and friendship? Andrew Ahn’s new film Fire Island does just that.
Starring comedians Bowen Yang (Howie), Joel Kim Booster (Noah) who also was the writer for the film, Margaret Cho ( Erin) and Conrad Ricamora (Will) among many others, the film is about a group of friends that embark on a weeklong vacation to Fire Island and together experience cheap champagne moments, meet attractive people, rendezvous for casual sex, make good friends and endure conflicts.
Ahn has cleverly intertwined a very simple storyline with complex themes that demonstrates how gritty, deep and multi-layered his work is. More importantly, as Ahn explains he directed this film as a celebration of friendship, finding joy and being at peace with one’s own self and identity;
“I really wanted to make this film, as it shows queer Asian American friends connecting, arguing and celebrating finding joy which to me is hard to find in film and TV these days”, he said to AsAmNews.
“I really love that in this romcom the central relationship of the film is not romantic but plutonic between all the characters, who go on a physical vacation but in reality they are on a spiritual vacation of understanding who they are as individuals, friends and lovers.”
Cho plays “Erin” in the film, a character who befriends a younger group of gay men because she has burnt bridges with many friends of her age and finds herself in a more comedic “motherly” role. This is another of the many complex relationships featured in the film. The role was initially written for a male, and it was Cho who called up Joel Kim-Booster to state her claim that she wanted to be a part of this film.
“When I found out that “Fire Island” was happening, I said to myself that I have to be in this, so I reached out and in a way forced my way into the film,” Cho said to AsAmnews. “I only asked for a cameo, but the role of “Erin” worked out well, despite the fact it was originally written for a man. I stepped into the character and did it and it actually didn’t require many changes to cater for “Erin”.”
Fire Island could have just been a simple rom-com that focused on queer relationships and squabbles that didn’t delve into the deeper, multi-layered themes of being queer and Asian as well as challenge sexual norms. But Ahn with his past work wanted audiences to get something more out of the film than just cheap laughs and jokes. He wanted them to walk away with an understanding of hard truths about queerness, love and friendship.
“The multi-layered parts of the film is that each of the Asian American queer characters are all different from each other and all have a different relationship and understanding of their own queerness. I think this is one of the important things I wanted to show audiences, that we are not just all cookie cutter Asian queers”.
Cho, echoed the sentiments which Ahn expressed, and added that when playing “Erin” she wanted to add extra layers to the deep themes that despite facing different forms of discrimination, being Asian and/or queer doesn’t mean we don’t perpetuate the same forms of discrimination on other minorities and marginalized groups. She hopes audiences who watch Fire Island will understand this and learn to check their own biases.
“I think it is very important that even though we are Asian and/or gay that doesn’t make us immune to being racist, sexist or homophobic. Sometimes we use our identities to hide our biases, and that is a realization I hope audiences can take away from my character “Erin'” performance,” Cho said.
Finally, talking about the current climate of anti-Asian hate in America, Ahn feels that creating films that show the visibility of Asians that tackles deep identity and social issues is a way to engage with the community and can encourage the community to be more aware and more involved with important social issues.
“I think that film and art in general is important to create social change, and indirectly community with the broader audience that issues such as anti-Asian hate and other issues like homophobia etc are still things which happen on a daily basis and I hope the film can encourage others to start being more aware and be more involved,” Ahn said.
Cho took a different perspective and said her commitment and passion for acting and comedy highlighting social issues is to show hope and provide an outlet for people to cope with trauma and tragedy. She hopes Fire Island can provide audiences that outlet, after all American society currently is one that centralizes on feeling the fear of violence and different types of discrimination.
“All the anti-Asian attacks we hear about and the shootings which have happened proves that racism is a big part of our reality and humor is a solution to make sense of what is happening and forms part of the healing process to find a reason to carry on with our lives,” she said.
Fire Island is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and can be viewed on the Hulu streaming service.
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