Asian-American Cinema Part IX - the 2000s

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 27, 2009 04:00pm | Post a Comment
The ninth of a nine part series on Asian-Americans in front of and behind the camera


The first efforts to combat negative racial stereotypes of Asians and Asian-Americans in film began in the silent era, when a few empowered figures attempted to create an alternative Asian-American Silent Cinema. After their efforts faltered, Hollywood provided most cinematic images of Asians in the '30s, 40s, 50s, and '60s. With the birth of Asian-American theater, Asian-American cinema was revived in the 1970s and began to take off as a viable independent cinema in the 1980s. By the '90s, the scope of Asian-American Cinema broadened considerably, a trend that continued in the 2000s.

In the 2000s, Asians became the fastest growing racial minority in the county. As of 2006, there were over thirteen million Americans of Asian descent (not counting Native people). Of the top ten languages spoken in American homes (English, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean, Italian and Russian), four are Asian.

         Yunjin Kim                    Daniel Dae Kim               Masi Oka                     Bobby Lee                    B.D. Wong


Despite the conspicous presence of Asians in America, in film and on TV Asian-American are still nearly invisible, aside from roles as doctors on ER, Grey’s Anatomy and House, or objects of ridicule (e.g. William Hung and Renaldo Lopez). Yunjin Kim, Daniel Dae Kim and Masi Oka, some of the few Asian-Americans on TV, all play foreigners. Bobby Lee of Mad TV and B. D. Wong on Law & Order: SVU are two of the few Asian-American male actors whose roles challenge stereotypes both directly and indirectly. My Life... Disoriented and A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila became only the fourth and fifth TV series with Asian Americans in starring roles.


In the 2000s, APA theatre continued to quickly grow with new groups like Amherst's New WORLD Theater; The Bay Area's Krea; Chicago's DueEast Theatre Company, Rasaka Theater Company, Silk Road Theatre Project and YAWP; Dallas's Diwa Theater Company; Hawaii's Kumu Kahua TheatreHouston's Shunya Theater; Los Angeles' Chinatown 90210 and Thumping Claw One Act Series; New York's Cuchipinoy Productions, Desipina & Company, Disha TheatreeyeBLINK Fluid Motion Theater, Mellow Yellow Theatre Company and SALAAM Theatre; San Diego's Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company; San Francisco's Locus Arts and Youth for Asian Theatre; Seattle's Pratidhwani Drama Wing, Sex in Seattle;SoCal's Here and Now Theatre Company;Tampa's Asian Pacific American Scene and Washington DC's Awaaz Theatre all joining the fray during the decade. New playwrights included A. Rey Pamatmat, Carla Ching, Edward Bok Lee, J.P. Chan, Lloyd Suh, Michael Golacmo and Qui Nguyen.


In the 2000s, there were finally recognized APA comics whose last names weren't "Cho." Aziz Ansari, Dat Phan, Bobby Lee, Dr. Ken, Steve Byrne, Susan Chuang, Kevin Shea, Joey Guila, Soonpoong Choi, Augustine Hong and Nakgyun Im may not be household names but have all received decent exposure. New comedy ensembles like Chicago's Taco Flavored Eggrolls and Los Angeles' Room to Improv also sprang up during the decade.


I'm the One That I Want
(2000), Notorious C.H.O. (2002), Revolution (2003), Assassin (2005), The Kims of Comedy, What's That Clickin' Noise (both 2006), Comedy Zen (2007), Happy Hour (2008)


2002's Better Luck Tomorrow ushered in a new era for Asian American filmmakers and actors after it became a surprise independent success. In Hollywood, John Cho and Kal Penn, in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, were quietly revolutionary by being the first two Asian-American male leads to co-star in a Hollywood film in forever. For the most part, however, Hollywood films like Memoirs of a Geisha, Mistress of Spices, Monsoon Wedding, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Wendy Wu - Homecoming Warrior continued to offer  familiar depictions. On the other hand,  for the first time, large numbers of APA films were made. A large percentage moved beyond the traditional focus on acculturation to explore a much greater variety of subject matter suggesting that Asian-American Cinema is now a healthy, viable movement if still a bit under the radar.


                Aaron Takahashi                                Aaron Yoo                                                Aiko Tanaka 

          Alexander Agate                              Alexis Chang                                               An Nguyen     

  Angel Desai  
                        Angel Desai                                                  Angie Lieuw                                     Brenda Song

                        Camille Mana                                        Cat Ly                                                     Chil Kong                          

               Christina Stacey                                    Christopher Dinh                               Damien Nguyen  

                        David Huynh                                             David J. Lee                                  David Shih


                         Di Quon                                                    Dileep Rao                                             Eddie Shin     


                              Elizabeth Ho                                         Emily Ryan                                                Esther Chae            


                     Ewan Chung                                              Feodor Chin                                      Ganita Koonopakarn  

Hahn Cho
                       Grace Park                                              Hanh Cho                                               Hettienne Park

                  Hira Ambrosino                                             James Kyson Lee                                   Jane Kim       


                        Janet Linn                                               Jeff Lam                                              Jennifer Wu              


                        Joy Osmanski                                           Julia Ling                                              Justin Chon               

                   Karin Anna Cheung                                          Kathy Uyen                                              Kenzo Lee                                      

               Kevin Leung                                                Kylie Kim                                                       Lanny Joon   

                 Leonardo Nam                                                      Linda Park                                           Lynn Chen  


         Michael David Cheng                                           Migina Tsai                                                 Natasha Yi   

                     Richard Chiu                                     Samantha Futerman                                     Samson Fu       
                      Shelley Conn                                 Shin Koyamada                                                 Siu Ta           

Steph Song 
                    Smith Cho                                                   Steph Song                                                Tania Gunadi   


                      Tim Chiou                                       Tim Kang                                                          Tina Duong  

  Wayne Chang 
                       Valerie Tian                                      Wayne Chang                                                 Yoi Tanabe

Not pictured: Austin Lee, Christy Qin, Darwood Chung, Esther Song, Grace Fatkin, Hoon Lee, Jim Chu, Jimmy Lin, Kerry Wong, Mao Zhao, Ngoc Lam, Oliver Oguma, Ruth Zhang and Shawn Huang


Becoming an Actress in New York (2000), Being Hmong Means Being Free (2000)

Conscience and the Constitution (2000), Constructions (2000), 

Crossover (2000), Daughters of the Cloth (2000)

Days of Waiting (2000), Desi -  South Asians in New York (2000), Drift (2000)

First Person Plural (2000), Of Civil Wrongs and Rights (2000), Saanjh - As Night Falls (2000)


Sea in the Blood (2000), Snow Falling on Cedars (2000) 

Surplus (2000), T.L. Xmas (2000)

China 21 (2001), The Debut (2001)

Forced Out (2001), Forsaken Fields (2001), 

The Frog in the Well (2001), Ha Ha Shanghai (2001)

Hapa (2001), Harsh Canvas – The Art and Life of Henry Sugimoto (2001), Japanese Devils (2001)

Skate Manzanar  
(2001), Spirits Rising (2001)
Toyo Miyatake – Infinite Shades of Gray (2001), American Adobo (2001), Arirang (2001)

Better Luck Tomorrow
(2002), Bittersweet Roots The Chinese in California's Heartland (2002)

Charlotte Sometimes (2002), Daughter from Danang (2002), Face (2002),

Forbidden City, U.S.A (2002), The Good Son (2002)

Labor Women (2002), Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity (2002)

Look Forward and Carry on the Past - Stories from Philadelphia's Chinatown (2002), Robot Stories (2002)

 Scumrock (2002), Second Class Veterans (2002)

Sophie (2002), Words Weavings & Songs (2002), Death of a Shaman (2003)

The Flute Player (2003), Imelda (2003), Morning Sun (2003)

Refugee (2003), The Rise of the I-Hotel (2003)

When the Storm Came (2003), B is for Bomb (2004)

The Beautiful Country (2004), Calcutta Calling (2004)

Daughters of Everest (2004), The Departure (2004), Ethan Mao (2004)

Lumpia (2004), Monkey Dance (2004)

9066 TO 9/11 (2004), Punjabi Cab (2004) 

The Red String (2004), Saigon, USA (2004)

Saving Face (2004), Shanti (2004)

    Wet Sand - Voices from L.A
Take Out (2004), Wet Sand: Voices from L.A. (2004), Whose Children Are These? (2004)

Yellow Brotherhood (2004), American Fusion (2005)

Bruce Lee - The Immortal Dragon (2005), Citizen Tanouye (2005), Fishbowl (2005)

Floored By Love (2005), Fred’s Burqa (2005), From a Silk Cocoon (2005)

The Grace Lee Project (2005), In Between Days (2005), Journey from the Fall (2005)

Motel (2005), The Mushroom Club (2005), Resettlement to Redress (2005)

Sentenced Home
(2005), 62 Years and 6500 Miles Between (2005), The Spirit of the Taiko (2005)

     Take Me Home (2005), Time of Fear (2005), 

An Untold Triumph (2005), The War Within (2005)

What's Wrong with Frank Chin? (2005), Americanese (2006)

Asian Stories (Book 3) (2006), The Cats of Mirikitani (2006), A Chinatown Banquet (2006)

Going for Broke (2006), The Gymnast (2006), The Last Ghost of War (2006)

Mighty Warriors of Comedy (2006), My Name is Belle (2006)

Nina's Heavenly Delights (2006), Original Child Bomb (2006), Out of the Poison Tree (2006)

 Party (2006), Pilgrimage (2006)

Red Doors
(2006), Shonenko (2006), The Slanted Screen (2006)

Swimming in Air
(2006), Tibet Hope (2006)

Undoing (2006), Wendy… Uh… What’s Her Name (2006), Wendy Wu - Homecoming Warrior (2006)
American Pastime (2007), Campaign (2007), A Dream in Doubt (2007)

Elizabeth Ong is Missing (2007), Finishing the Game (2007), The First Battle (2007)

Hollywood Chinese (2007), Little Manila (2007), Most Honorable Son (2007)

Namesake (2007),0506HK (2007) Passing Poston (2007)

Shanghai Kiss (2007), A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila (2007), Watada, Resister (2007)

 West 32nd (2007), Baby (2008), Blueberry (2008)

Dark Matter
(2008), Dim Sum Funeral (2008), Gran Torino (2008)

(2008), Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanomo (2008), Long Story Short (2008)

Manilatown is in the Heart
(2008), Never Forever (2008)

Ping Pong Playa
(2008), Sikhs in America (2008)

Slant 1
(2008), Year of the Fish (2008), Children of Invention (2009)

The People I’ve Slept With
(2009), White on Rice (2009)


Not pictured: The Bracelet, Dear Miss Breed, Eye to Eye – Asian Pacific American Arts and Artists, Home, Interactions, School Daze and Top of Their Game (all 2000), A Beautiful Blend and My Journey Home, (both 2004), Random Check, Tanforan - Race Track to Assembly Center (all 2005), The Time is Right for Mee (2006), The Last Temple, Time's [Not] Up and Wendy Wu - Homecoming Warrior 2 (all 2009)

As always, any corrections and/or additions are encouraged!
Become a fan of Eric's Blog on Facebook!

Relevant Tags

Television (50), Vietnamese-americans (13), Asian-americans (40), Hollywood (86), Asian-american Cinema (12), Minorities (6), Japanese-americans (14), Asian-american Comedy (2), Chinese-american (3), Asian-american Theater (4), 2000s (40), Independent Film (5), Filipino-americans (8), Asian-american Cinema History (10), Korean-americans (16), 1990s (46), Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (58)