HomeAAPI ActorsAn AANHPI woman faces judgments and manipulations in ‘Chaperone’
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An AANHPI woman faces judgments and manipulations in ‘Chaperone’

by Erin Chew

Not everyone has the ambition bone and not everyone has major goals in life to achieve. Some people are just content living a mundane life and are happy where they are at. In her debut feature film, writer/director Zoe Eisenberg’s drama, Chaperone, the main protagonist Misha Miyamoto, played by Mitzi Akaha (Herd, Archive 81, Bashira) is just like that – twenty-nine years old, holding onto the same job since high school, and living alone in the house her grandmother left her.

The problem is, she struggles with the judgments and disappointments from her family and friends – they do not understand why she is fine living in mediocrity. Feeling alienated by the pressures around her, Misha begins to seek comfort in Jake, played by Laird Akeo (7000 Miles, Paradise City) – an earnest 18-year-old who accidentally mistakes her for a high school student.

Finding solace in Jake’s lack of expectations and teenage antics, their relationship grows- and there begins the risky and taboo relationship and changes in Misha’s once mundane life. With a riveting storyline where emotions will rise from nought to ten, this film will not only raise eyebrows, but also provide a taste of the unknown. For Eisenberg, this movie idea was conceptualized very loosely off a personal experience she had, where she was asked out on a date by a high school kid.

“As embarrassing as it sounds, the story behind Chaperone started when I was working at the gym, and a high school kid came up to me and we started to chat. By the end of the conversation he invited me out to a house party, and I realized he mistook me as someone who was also still in high school. I was like ummm, no – I am thirty years old and married. I became obsessed with wondering whether other women would have said yes and be destructive in their choices,” Eisenberg recently told AsAmNews.

Set in Hawaii, and featuring an entirely AANHPI (Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander) cast, Chaperone cleverly juxtaposes the allure of carefree living with the inherent risks, while weaving a tale that delves into the consequences of seeking refuge in unconventional connections. The storyline is authentic storyline, pushing the boundaries and at the same time preserving the importance of representation without deriving any tokenism or racial stereotypes. It was this sentiment that resonated with Akaha, and having the opportunity to play Misha allowed her to understand this at a deeper level.

“The opportunity Zoe created for all of us as AANHPI and for showcasing Hawaii is so important for me because growing up I hardly saw people who looked like me on TV. I have always wanted to act, but I never considered it as a viable career. I am half Japanese ( my father) and half white ( my mother), and even she tried to tell me this as that was her way of protecting me. Being in this film has allowed me and all of us feel heard and not be seen as an object to fetishize and/or just be invisible,” she said.

For Akeo, playing Jake and being the “taboo love” is a role he never imagined someone who looked like him could ever play. Being of both Native Hawaiian and Asian descent, Akeo grew up thinking men who looked like him were not seen as sexual and attractive, and he hopes with this film will contribute in changing that narrative and put Hawaii on the map.

“I am both Native Hawaiian and Asian American, so I grew up not seeing my cultures represented and being a male, it was even worse in terms of what Hollywood portrayed us as. There has always been many films made in Hawaii, which only shows the seas and sandy beaches, but there hasn’t been many films that doesn’t accessorize and fetishize our cultures. After reading this script, I knew I wanted this part, and I wanted an authentic storyline that shows more than just Hawaii as an ideal and one which allows my cultures, skin color and being an AANHPI man be love interests and just regular dudes,” Akeo stated.

Finally, with Chaperone having its World Premiere at Slamdance – one of the main events organized by Sundance which showcases emerging artists, Eisenberg and Kanoa Goo, who plays Vik in the film reminisce on some of the things they both hope audiences take away after watching Chaperone.

“I am interested in choices. I wrote and directed this film to also ask the question of what makes us as people make the decisions we make and what would the ripple effect be when a particular decision is made. Because, when we make one decision, it will impact on the community around us- and this is what happens to Misha. I know it sounds so philosophical, but I do hope audiences will think about this,” Eisenberg discussed.

“I would like people to watch this and walk away with being curious and not judgmental. As one of the supporting characters in the film, I can say that Misha gets judged in her life, for not doing anything and then for taking on a risk. I want audiences to understand her more and probably have empathy. I also want audiences to open their minds to stories like Chaperone and one which shows a different side of Hawaii and features people from our cultures,” Goo mentioned.

Chaperone won the Slamdance Grand Jury Award for the Breakouts Feature Grand Jury Prize.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on Facebook, X, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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