I am spending the week here at the Toronto International Film Festival, and from the moment I landed I haven’t stopped going. The city is chock-a-block with stars, photographers, press, fans, films, filmmakers, film buyers, film sellers. Normally I dread industry events such as this. Everything is always inconvenient, overcrowded, underattended, with everyone vying for attention at the same time. However, this is my first time at this particular festival, and it doesn’t seem like that at all. I have been able to do everything that I wanted to, and then got some work done as well.
The gift bags have been interesting. Whenever you check into the festival or go to a party, you get a bag full of free samples and coupons. The big bag we got was a rolling suitcase, filled with makeup, hair product, thongs, a universal remote and coupons for a pair of Converse, a massage and plastic surgery. I don’t think that you should use a coupon when getting plastic surgery. That is not an area where I would skimp. Of course if you are getting a lot done, maybe a discount would be welcome, who knows?
I loved premiering Bam Bam and Celeste here. We had an amazing audience and they really enjoyed the film. It was tremendous to actually see it with other people who were laughing and getting into the film since mostly I’ve been seeing it with Lorene in a screening room. We still laugh, but we are way too close to it. I love watching it with fresh eyes.
I want to make films because I want to be visible. There are virtually no Asian American stars with the exception of Lucy Liu, who is wonderful, but we need more. There are amazing actors like Ziyi Zhang, but even her presence tends to reinforce the foreignness of our identity. Seeing her constantly, in beautiful films like “2046” makes me feel like I fucked up and shouldn’t have emigrated here. The racism that is a silent collaborator in practically the entire film world is hard to challenge because it isn’t intended to be offensive; it isn’t a slur or a slight. It’s just invisibility. How can you fight an enemy you can’t see? How can you fight an enemy others can’t see? When you point out the incredible non-existence of Asians in film, you get bombarded with names like Jackie Chan and Chow Yun Fat. They are great stars without question, but they aren’t what I am talking about. Even if I went to a Shaolin monastery today and then walked the earth like Cain from “Kung Fu” for the rest of my days, that would still not make me a film star.
There is something about the Asian American experience that film and television cannot seem to get around. Maybe we should attempt to dominate radio! I have been trying to break into all of it for a quarter of a century, and all I can do is encourage everyone to keep trying. I think things are getting better for queer cinema, but there is tremendous invisibility there too for lesbians and people of color. I hope “Bam Bam and Celeste” makes a difference. I think it will.