Wong Fu Productions Announces Principal Cast for Their First Movie

After crowd-funding over $300,000 and 3 months of intense pre-production planning, Wong Fu has finally announced the start of their principal photography and revealed the principal cast for their first feature film.

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Will Asians Ever Win the World Cup?

 Shinji Kagawa Soccer_Iran2_Photo

With the FIFA World Cup already underway, we can presume upon which teams look likely to make next round cuts and which do not.  In this year’s 2014 World Cup, the Asian teams include Iran, Japan, South Korea, and—debatably—Australia. Unfortunately, chances look dreary for these teams as their first couple matches have already taken place.  However, it’s never been easy for any Asian teams during the World Cup.

Australia and Iran simply aren’t consistent enough in football to be expected to do well in this year’s event.  Australia has already lost all their games and Iran has drawn a tie and a loss. Japan finished 9th in both the 2002 and 2010 World Cups. However, before 1998, Japan did not play in any World Cups because they failed to enter or qualify. This year, Japan has already lost their first game and ended up with a draw in their second.

The Asian team that has gone furthest in previous tournaments and has also proven to be the most consistent is South Korea.  The Korean national team placed 4th during their dreamlike run in the 2002 World Cup and has also qualified nine times in the tournament’s history.  However, 2002 was the first year that South Korea succeeded in scoring a goal. In Brazil, South Korea has a tie and a loss.

However, even with the statistics proving rather bleak, we must remember that this is the World Cup. Anything can happen. The defending champion—Spain—has failed to produce this year and already lost their chances of getting out after losing their second match. Historical evidence may exist, but so do statistical outliers. So, who knows? Perhaps this year, an Asian team will end up winning the whole tournament. All that we can do is hope as fans and trust the determination of our teams.

Qatar, South Korea, 2014 World Cup Soccer Soccer_Korea_Photo

Chin and Shaw Release “Star Wars” Parody with a Disney Twist

For the Star Wars purists out there who are worried about the franchise’s upcoming films becoming “disneyfied”, this fan-made Star Wars musical parody may be the manifestation of your worst nightmares.   For the rest of us, it’s comedy gold.

Originally released on YouTube on June 17th, Star Wars: The Musical retells the story of the first release of the epic saga A New Hope but in the form of a Disney musical.  Shot entirely on green screen with multi-plane, hand-painted backdrops in Disney’s traditional animation fashion, the musical parodies classic Disney songs from films including Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Peter Pan.

The spoof is a pop-culture overload with many Disney princess cameos (Mulan and Snow White played by Jane Lui and Sarah Ho respectively), Mickey Mouse ears, and inside Star Wars jokes; and it cheekily ends with the entire cast singing  “please buy more toys and DVDs, so Disney can make more movies for you and me.”

Star Wars: The Musical is a collaboration between director Jeffrey Gee Chin (Lil Tokyo Reporter) and executive producer/composer George Shaw (Agents of Secret Stuff, Hang Loose) who is a longtime supporter of Kollaboration and a former Kollaboration LA judge.  According to the film’s website, Star Wars: The Musical was a year and a half long project for Chin and Shaw with the purpose of creating “the ultimate love letter to their favorite fandoms.”

Be sure to watch “Star Wars: The Musical” and also check out the film’s official website for behind-the-scenes and updates on the upcoming musical episodes Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  You can also check out and download the music from the film as well.

And may the Force be with you.

Artists for APAture

Kearney Street Workshop is now looking for artist submissions from the San Francisco Bay Area for its 13th annual multidisciplinary arts festival, APAture. The festival—slated to run from September 26 to October 5 in the San Francisco-Oakland region—is designed to “produce, present, and promote art that empowers” the Asian-Pacific American (APA) community.

Kearney Street Workshop prides itself as being “the oldest Asian Pacific American multidisciplinary arts organization in the country.” Since its founding in 1972, it has offered classes and workshops while also producing exhibitions, readings, screenings, and performances in the hopes of creating a “more just society that fully incorporates [APA] historical roots, cultural values, and contemporary issues.”

The committee is looking for submissions to its book (comics, illustrations), literary (poems, spoken word), musical, performing, visual, and film arts categories until July 7. For more information, visit APAture ’14 or kearnystreet.org.


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(Photo source: www.kearnystreet.org)

Kollaboration Los Angeles to Rock the Troubadour for 15th Anniversary

On Thursday, June 26, Kollaboration Los Angeles will be celebrating its 15th anniversary at the historic Troubadour in Hollywood. Over the past 14 years, Kollaboration has served as a platform for countless aspiring entertainers in the Asian-American community to showcase their talent to the world. This year will certainly be no different.

Demonstrating the diverse talents in the Asian-American community, this year’s group of finalists are muscians from a variety of genres.

R&B group The Primaries will captivate the audience with their unconventional soul, while singer-songwriter and American Idol semi-finalist Julianne Manalo will bring with her the experience of opening for Grammy Award-winner Macklemore. Fresh off their win in UCI’s Soulstice Talent Competition and the LA Regional Harmony Sweepstakes, #FOURTY4B will be serving up a sweet dish of a capella realness. Meanwhile, Julynn Kim will show the crowd why she was scouted by Universal, Warner Brothers, AND Sony Records; and pianist and humanitarian Phanith Sovann will showcase her musical talents and her inner strength, which she developed while living in a Thai refugee camp during the Cambodian genocide.

This year’s event will also feature guest performers Anderson .Paak, whose unique and avant-garde PBR&B sound has taken the music world by storm; and of course The Rhee Brothers, whose soothing blend of indie-rock and acoustic music will remind the audience of their deserving win at last year’s event .

Following the performances, the night will continue with the show’s official after-party where performers, celebrity guests, and attendees will mingle and party to the beats of DJ Kero One.

Tickets to Kollaboration LA are currently on sale at bit.ly/KollaborationLosAngeles2014 for the early-bird price of $10. Pre-sale price will increase to $15 soon and double to $20 at the door. Ticket includes entry to both the event itself and the after-party.

From Far East Movement to Run River North to David Choi—Kollaboration is proud and honored to have been a part of so many artists’ journey to success and stardom. Your support will help us continue with our mission of “empowerment through entertainment.”  We hope to see you there!

Turn Up the Love and Turn Down the Hate for Psy’s New Music Video

In case you haven’t heard, Psy and Snoop Dogg released the music video for their new song “Hangover” this Monday—a feat which has already amassed close to 40 million views in just two days. Like “Gangnam Style” and “Gentleman”, the video is characterized by Psy’s over-the-top antics to mainstream pop music, which, as usual, has inspired an outpour of negative feedback from Internet users.

From a Korean’s perspective, watching Snoop Dogg eat triangular gimbap, do a loveshot with soju, and dance with an ahjumma (an elderly Korean woman) may have been one of the most amusing things I have ever seen. Why do I find this amusing? Because this literally never happens in mainstream media. The juxtaposition is the strangest of strange visuals: a well-known American hip hop figure, not only chilling with a Korean, but also engaging in part of his Asian culture. While others can cringe at the weirdness, I raise a toast to Psy–congrats on raising awareness of Korean culture, even if it is through your own quirky way.

Sure the video may not offer an accurate portrayal of all Koreans. Not all Koreans drink and party insanely. There’s more to our culture than that. But Psy also makes a more conscious effort to incorporate staples of Korean culture unseen in his former music videos. While Americans might see the music video as random compilations, scenes like ramen-eating at local delis, the disco pang pang ride, the appearance of k-pop stars, and gangster fighting scenes are all authentic aspects to Korean society that deviate from the stereotypical representations of Asians that we see in America. Even the focus on drinking is not terribly inappropriate to talk about since Koreans outdrink most countries in the world. While Psy’s quasi-fetishizing of our culture is something to worry about to some, it is also important to acknowledge that he is tapping into a mass proportion of people who can barely differentiate Koreans from other Asians.

So before you post your yappy YouTube comments, Twitter statuses, Facebook links, or whatever, trash-talking the ridiculousness of Psy’s new music video, go watch the millions of other music videos (I suggest Turn Down for What or anything Katy Perry/Lady Gaga), and realize that Psy’s shock tactics come from following successful American mainstream pop. For me, there is real value to Psy’s music, at least to the Asian-American community, and at the end of the day, if a voluntary click of a url and willingness to sit through a 5-minute video, is another step to expanding diversity, then I’m proud to rep Psy as my fellow Korean.

Check out the video here!

4 Asian Horror Films Without Creepy, Long-Haired Ghost Girls

The 2000’s saw an influx of Asian horror films being introduced to the Western audience. This is thanks in large part to Hollywood remaking one Asian horror film after another to capitalize on the success of The Ring (a remake of the Japanese film Ringu). But like most things in Hollywood, success inspires imitation. Later remakes such as The Grudge and Dark Water successfully turned the creepy girl ghost with long black hair into an iconic figure, masking Asian horror’s more diverse offerings. In honour of Friday the 13th, I present to you four brilliantly bizarre  and well-made Asian horror films that steer clear of the girl ghost trope.

Dumplings (Hong Kong, 2004)

Every so often, a horror movie comes along that is so good and so horrifying because it forces us to hold up a mirror against ourselves and think about the ailments that pervade our society. Its impact stays with us long after the film is over, and we’re left with genuine feelings of uneasiness, disgust, and terror. This is what Dumplings did to me.

Dumplings is the brainchild of acclaimed director Fruit Chan, who is well known for portraying the everyday struggles of Hong Kong people in his films. The story follows aging former TV actress Mrs. Li, whose quest to turn back the clock leads her to Aunt Mei—famous for her youth-rejuvenating dumplings. These are no ordinary dumplings; they contain a very special secret ingredient. Wanna take a guess? Hint: it’s not shark fin or abalone.

What the film lacks in gore, it more than makes up for it with its disturbing premise, thought-provoking dialogue, and beautiful cinematography. Not to mention the bone-chilling sound effects of Mrs. Li enjoying the dumplings. Watch out for the ending, though. It may just turn you off dumplings forever.

Tokyo Gore Police (Japan, 2008)

Forget what you think you know about Japanese horror movies, this ain’t no slow-paced story about ghost girls with long black hair. Nope! Whatever you’re expecting from a film with the title Tokyo Gore Police, multiply it by 100, and you might be close to matching the film’s insanity.

Tokyo Gore Police takes place in a dystopic future where Japan is infested by engineers, who are criminal mutants that can turn any of their wounded body parts into deadly weapons such as chainsaws, samurai swords, machine guns, and man-eating creatures. Hunting these mutants down is Ruka, an engineer-hunter on a mission to avenge her father’s murder. Ruka doesn’t smile or talk much. She’s a total BAMF who’s ruthless when it comes to cutting up mutants. Oh yeah, the only way to kill these mutants is to cut them up so bad that you can remove the small implant in them that makes them what they are.

To say that Tokyo Gore Police makes generous use of special effects is probably the understatement of the century. However, unlike films like Hostel or Saw, the gore here is used so abundantly that I found myself doing more laughing than cringing. This is a true wet dream for lovers of blood and gore.

The Wicked City (Hong Kong, 1992)

Perhaps the most imaginative movie on this list, The Wicked City is one of the first horror movies I watched. Massively underrated, it is a live-action adaptation of a Japanese anime based on a novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi, who’s most well-known for the classic anime Vampire Hunter D.

Bearing a few similarities to Tokyo Gore Police, The Wicked City also takes place in a distant future in which humans live alongside an alien species known as the reptoids. Masked as humans in appearance, these reptoids’ superhuman intelligence and powers have helped them gain control of most aspects of the human race. With the ultimate goal of enslaving all humans and taking over the earth, the reptoids are suspected of being the mastermind behind a new powerful street drug called “happiness,” used to subjugate humans. To stop these reptoids, a special police squad engages in suspenseful and action-packed battle sequences.

With its graphic displays of sex and violence, and wild demonic transformations that include a humanoid pinball sex machine and an elevator reimagined as the insides of a reptoid, The Wicked City blew my 9-year old mind when I first watched it. Though I had a hard time following the plot, repeated viewings of the film when I got older have solidified my belief that this is a fun and imaginative masterpiece that was ahead of its time.

A Tale of Two Sisters (South Korea, 2003)

As a fan of horror movies, something I’ve always disliked about the genre is that a lot of the films have weak plots, preferring to focus on style over substance. This is not the case with Kim Ji-woon’s highly original 2003 film, A Tale of Two Sisters.

Based on a traditional Korean folklore, the story follows two sisters named Su-Yeon and Su-Mi, who, upon returning home after a stay at a mental institution must deal with a disturbed stepmother, an overly easygoing father, and a house haunted by poltergeists. But things are not as they seem. Halfway through the film, the audience’s world is flipped upside down when the direction suddenly switches from a calm but disturbing family drama to something much darker and more sinister.

Loaded with metaphors and symbolisms, this narrative-driven psychological horror seamlessly blends the characters’ mental instability with supernatural elements to create a dark and moody atmosphere that I actually found to be more satisfying than the film’s main twist reveal. This film is for those who appreciate a beautifully complex and haunting story with very little gore or jump scares. The twist is just the icing.

Keeping the Revolution Alive: Remembering Yuri Kochiyama

Yuri Kochiyama, who passed away last Sunday, June 1st, was known for her radical social activism during the 1960s in the course of the Civil Rights Movement and also for her prolonged dedication to the fight against racial injustice.

We should remember and honor Yuri by carrying on her legacy and applying the life lessons she left us with. The issues of inequality and injustice that she fought so strongly against are still very much with us today, perhaps not in the same shape or form, but in the ways they affect our communities.

As members of the communities that Kochiyama revolutionized, it is our duty to continue her work and, thereby, keep the revolution alive.

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(Photo source: bknation.org)

Preserve and protect your roots 

Kochiyama was dedicated to the preservation of her Japanese-American identity and pushed for others to foster the same cultural selfhood. Having experienced the atrocities of internment camps in the wake of Executive Order 9066, Kochiyama first-handedly witnessed the abhorrent treatment of her ethnic community and zealously strove to resist anything that disrespected or threatened her culture.

In 1988, Kochiyama’s attempts to alleviate the cruelties of World War II and the internment camps proved to be successful through the signing of the Civil Liberties Act, which granted reparations to Japanese Americans who had been imprisoned by the U.S. government. She also demonstrated this commitment to the preservation of her culture through her fight for ethnic studies departments in colleges.

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(Photo source: revcom.us)

Others are key

Kochiyama once stated: “Life is not what you alone make it. Life is the input of everyone who touched your life and every experience that entered it.” In the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, Kochiyama knew that collective action was necessary to realize success. Noticing the similarities between the discriminatory treatment of Japanese Americans and African Americans, she practiced intersectional camaraderie by standing in solidarity with other ethnic communities. She involved herself in the fight for Puerto Rican independence, acquainted herself with the goals of the Black Panther Party, and recognized that the struggles of all minority groups were connected.

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(Photo source: kalamu.com)

Be conscious

Yuri coined the famous saying: “Consciousness is power.” She knew that the first step to any movement of change was to become aware, which would foster “trust and goodwill”. Kochiyama continuously raised awareness, not only during the 60s through her activism in social movements, but also through delivering speeches throughout her lifetime, urging people to mobilize against inequity.

In addition, Kochiyama saw consciousness as “the perfect vehicle for students” to implement change and served as a strong advocate for student voices. Many believed that Kochiyama was almost hyper-aware and “ahead of her time”.

Stay open-minded and compassionate

Although Kochiyama knew the importance of being critical, she also knew that narrow-mindedness, bitterness, and violence crippled the heart of revolutions. Her compassion was actualized both on a nationwide scale through her support of nuclear disarmament and on a personal scale through her services as a pen pal to political prisoners.

Importantly, her friendship with Malcolm X also showed that she valued interpersonal relations amidst intense social change. Kochiyama’s compassion for Malcolm was famously documented by TIME Magazine, in a photograph that captured Kochiyama by his side at the time of his death.

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(Photo source: bwg-lectures.com)

Never settle

Yuri’s prolonged efforts to question the quality of social and racial systems show us that change is constant, and because society is persistently changing, we must continue to challenge the inherent disparities that come along with it.

Yuri Kochiyama never settled for anything less than equality, so in her honor, we must carry on the revolution and keep her legacy alive. The Blue Scholars’ song, titled “Yuri Kochiyama” proclaims: “Revolutionaries die, but the revolution won’t.”

Thank you, Yuri Kochiyama, for being the revolution.

Discussing Baldies and Dystopia with Author Peter Tieryas Liu

In Peter Tieryas Liu’s debut novel, Bald New World, the world declines into a dystopia that leaves everyone mysteriously bald.  We’ve previously mentioned Liu as one of our 3 Asian American Authors on the Rise and recently got the chance to interview him via email about his new novel.

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