In 2001, I was asked to write a short essay about Wayne Wang's CHAN IS MISSING and in it, I make the following statement:
- "As a teacher, film festival junkie and general consumer of culture, I’ve sat through more Asian American shorts and features than I care to remember and practically all of them are forced to measure themselves besides Wang’s inaugural achievement. Most fail.
Documentary work by Asian American filmmakers continues to get better; it has long been our community's strong point and the younger generation that have followed in the footsteps of Arthur Dong, Steven Okazaki, Loni Ding, Spencer Nakasako and Renee Tajima (just to name a few) have not disappointed. Likewise, those lucky enough to see shorts programs by Asian American filmmakers get to see some incredibly promising examples of up-and-coming talent.
But narrative features have been a different story. I've often wondered why, as we're celebrating the 25th anniversary of CHAN, it hasn't been knocked off its perch yet. Certainly, CHAN is an excellent piece of filmmaking - creative, daring, thoughtful and entertaining - but its long reign is also reflective of how challenging it's been to create good Asian American narratives with interesting characters, intelligent scripts, compelling storytelling, etc.
This isn't to say that the last quarter century has been bereft of talent besides Wayne Wang. Filmmakers from Justin Lin to Romeo Candido, Alice Wu to Ian Gomazon, Grace Lee to Greg Pak, Eric Byler to Jon Moritsugu - just to name a few - have turned out exceptional work...
...none of it has managed to dislodge the singular achievement of CHAN. True, the production quality gets better, the look slicker, the treatments more ambitious but somehow, the basics of visual storytelling and scripting haven't gelled in such a way to raise the proverbial bar. There have been many good movies, a handful of great movies, but it still hasn't been enough.
I created Chasing Chan as both a love letter to Asian American cinema as well as a forum for critique and engagement. I love Asian American filmmaking as a creative form, for its potential, for its imagination. But at the same time, I find myself, time and time again, wanting more from it, expecting something beyond qualifiers such as "that's wasn't bad for an Asian American film" (and let's be honest: we've all said that at some point).
The site catalogs most of the interviews, reviews and features I've written on Asian American film over the years and will fold in new pieces as they come out. I, by no means, am suggesting that I am a definitive expert on the subject or that I contain a vast, encyclopedic knowledge of the topic. There are far, far more capable Asian American film scholars and writers than I.
However, even though my body of cultural criticism is typically associated with music, Asian American film is something I've spent a great deal of time thinking and musing about and given the general paucity of information on Asian American cinema out there (aside from the sites I link in the sidebar), I wanted to collect what I have done and make it available as well as use the site to push some of my own thinking and encourage engagement (both my own and that of the readers') with the ever-growing body of Asian American filmmaking out there. Hopefully, I can be candid and forthright, as well as insightful and enjoyable, in tackling this broad creative practice.
My hope is to build this into a site that will prove to be both informative and provocative as Asian American filmmaking matures past its quarter century mark. After all, the grand desire is not in documenting the chase after CHAN, but in finding the work that might yet overtake it.