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12.6.15

Movie: "Everything Before Us"


I am a long-time, loyal fan of Wong Fu Productions, an independent film production company started by Wesley Chan, Ted Fu, and Philip Wang, three University of California (San Diego) grads. Their YouTube has garnered more than two million followers through short films (my favorites), music videos and vlogs. What I appreciate most about their videos are the very typical yet thought-provoking moments that shine through in planning, dialogue, videography and plots of each short. Their stories are playful and serious, and each portrayal of emotion is deep and meaningful. (One of my favorites is "The Last," starring Kinna Grannis and Harry Shum, Jr. -- confession: I cried.)

This past semester, I enrolled in Asian American Experience (a sociology/religion and culture class). This class was unique: for the first time, I was talking openly about culture in both an academic and personal way. It opened a forum for discussion of race and culture in various contexts, one of them being media. As a Multimedia Journalism major and Asian American student, WongFu was of great interest to me and I decided to include it in my studies concerning media and Asian Americans (some broad points of study included "yellowface," "whitewashing," underrepresentation and misrepresentation). 

"We’re committed to portraying Asian Americans in a positive light," Chan said. "It’s important to represent the community as best as we can."

Wang adds, "It's important to show that we're going to build up our star power on our own so that Hollywood can't ignore that we have millions of followers."

In an industry with space for diversity (The Last Airbender, Pitch Perfect's Kimmy Jin and Lily, How I Met Your Mother and most recently, Aloha), WongFu's commitment to portraying Asian Americans fairly and accurately (and portraying them at all) is refreshing and encouraging for the future of Hollywood.

So when the WongFu team announced their plans to produce their very first full-length movie, Everything Before Us (2015), I was pretty excited. The movie's leads include Brittany IshibashiKi Hong LeeChris RiedellJoanna SotomuraRandall ParkVictoria ParkBrandon Soo Hoo and Aaron Yoo. The casting, which is almost entirely comprised of Asian American actors and actresses, was a conscious decision.

(Please take five minutes to watch this! It is honest, direct and refreshing.)



A product of their two and a half year journey, Wang explains that the team originally tried to produce a movie in 2008, but was denied by the movie industry because casting Asian actors was "not a good business choice" and "there was no market for it." When WongFu first started, Wang says they weren't trying to be "pioneers" for Asian Americans; they just wanted to tell good stories and happened to be Asian.

They addressed the question of casting perfectly on social media:



So as both a fan and supporter of the team and their beliefs, I watched the film on Vimeo for $4.99. Like always, their videography was stellar. Their plot dealt with emotions and how our lives revolve around them -- nothing is truly black and white. It was realistic, relatable and entertaining while existing as a purely fictional story. Throughout the film, there were thought-provoking moments and scenarios I reminded myself to reflect upon later and quotes that inspired me to think more deeply about my perspective.

As always, WongFu delivered a wonderfully entertaining, inspiring and moving film that was rich with quality and depth. Their art is a product that speaks for itself -- both in creative expression and in everything that they stand for.

Their film portrays an undeniable reality: that the human experience is one that transcends race.

(Watch the trailer below.)


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