PARK CITY – The first Asian-American filmmakers panel discussion at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday was notable for several reasons.
* It was one of the funniest discussions I’ve heard at the Park City film event. So put away that notion that Asians are a stoic people with no sense of humor.
* There was free food, which never happens at a panel discussion. And it was pizza (in case you thought it was sushi or pork lo mein).
* Finally, after being surrounded by Asian Americans for a few hours, I know what it’s like to be a white guy living in Utah.
But more importantly, I learned that Hollywood – especially the film industry – has a long way to go in seeing beyond race in the stories it tells through mainstream movies. According to the panelists, studio execs still can’t see the value of backing a movie with an Asian lead unless it’s about something exotic like a geisha.
For six years, the Asian Pacific Filmmakers Experience in Park City has hosted a reception during Sundance for movie makers to promote work that focuses on Asian American communities and culture.
This was the first time the event also included a panel discussion about the future of Asian American filmmaking. Panelists were movie producer Janet Yang, whose “Dark Matter” premiered at Sundance; filmmaker Grace Lee; actress Suzy Nakamura (“Help Me Help You”); actor Sung