Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Family Ties

The bonds of family are extremely strong in most Asian-American households. So it should be no surprise that many short films screened during CAAMFest offer unique perspectives on family relations.  Three shorts stand out among this year's crop.

Many people can point to an aunt or uncle who was always a bit odd, or danced to a different drummer. But for filmmaker Samantha Chan, the mystery of her 100-year-old great aunt's extensive film career was a mystery that needed to be solved.

Jane Chung dressed as an extra on the set of Hello, Dolly!

Many people may have noticed Jane Chung's cameo appearances in When Harry Met Sally, Chinatown, and The Birds. But as Chan documents in More Than a Face in the Crowd, her great aunt's screen career (which began at a time when acting was often equated with prostitution) led to roles in more than 50 films and several television series.

Jane and Walter Chung in the 1940s with
their two children, Sue Fawn and Joaquin

At a time when many Asian-Americans faced discrimination in the film industry, Jane Chung managed to keep getting bit roles and opportunities to appear as an extra in crowd scenes. Although a great deal of her work is uncredited, her face appears in episodes of M*A*S*H and I Love Lucy. In the following picture, taken in 2002, Jane posed for an ad for Ricoh.

Jane Chung posing for a photographer

Samantha Chan's loving video portrait of her great aunt is a touching tribute to a woman who loved to act, even toward the end of her life as she began to suffer from dementia. Chan's short is a rare treat.

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Jocelyn Saddi-Lenhardt's short entitled Mother and Child depicts a young Filipina woman living in Los Angeles who must suddenly prepare for the return of her traditional husband. While the film tries to show the emotional facades that the woman and her son rely on to get them through their daily lives, it also hints at the mystery of the husband who is always expected to return (but probably never will).

Short and tight, Mother and Child often feels like a ghost story. In the following clip, the filmmaker discusses what led to the creation of her poignant short film:

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Last, but by no means least, is a beautifully animated short by Michelle Ikemoto that was inspired by her grandmother's experience in one of the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. Ikemoto's well-plotted story speaks for itself.

The story takes place in the winter of 1943, after martial law had been imposed on the residents of the Tule Lake Camp. The following black-and-white animatic allows you to hear Jong Kim's beautiful original score:

The following trailer allows you to see how gorgeous the final rendering looks in color:

1 comment:

Michelle Ikemoto said...

Hi George! Thanks for the lovely post on "Tule Lake", the team really appreciated the mention in the HuffPo :)

Just a note on the original score--Jong Kim did indeed score the film, but it can only be heard in the actual film itself. The music you hear on the black and white animatic is actually the scratch soundtrack that I used to time it out, and is from the "Girl With the Pearl Earring" soundtrack by Alexandre Dumas.