The upcoming release of Better Luck Tomorrow has critics and cultural scholars buzzing. A drama wealthy, Ivy League-poised Asian American teenagers who descend into crime, the film is sparking debate about how Asian Americans are supposed to be perceived. Some feel it's great, finally a way to get people seeing Asians as something else besides the model minority, while others are offended that Asians are being shown in an unflattering matter. At 2002's Sundance Film Festival, there was a heated argument about the film. Roger Ebert wrote about it and his participation:
The man in the audience was angry. "How could you," he asked the director, his voice trembling with sincerity, "despite your talented cast and great production values, make such a bleak, negative, amoral film? What kind of a portrait is this of Asian Americans? Don't you have a responsibility to paint a more positive and helpful portrait of your community?"
[Writer-director] Justin Lin, whose "Better Luck Tomorrow" had just played to an enthusiastic reception at the Sundance Film Festival, replied that he had made the film he wanted to make, the way he had wanted to make it. He felt it depicted a reality among teenagers of any race.
I usually don't speak during the Q&A sessions after screenings, but I couldn't restrain myself. I told the man I thought he was being condescending: "You would never make a comment like that to a white filmmaker."
I agree with Ebert's attitude. Sure, it is nice to be seen in a positive light, but it also gives people the wrong idea of who you are, unrealistic expectations. I am especially excited about the all Asian cast. One of the actors, Parry Shen, has his own site. I hope there will be more opportunities for "mainstream" Asian films and Asian actors to play something other than the Chinese food delivery boy or Suzy Wong.
The official Better Luck Tomorrow site
More about the film from New York Times and L.A. Times. Jeffrey Wells worries about the test screenings for Better Luck Tomorrow and comments on the controversy.
Better Luck tomorrow opens on Friday.