THE SLANTED SCREEN (Jeff Adachi). 61 minutes. Tonight (Thursday, February 22) at the NFB. See Indie & Rep Film, page 83. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Like a lot of Asian guys, I cringe whenever I hear the name Long Duk Dong. That was Gedde Watanabe's foreign exchange student character in the John Hughes comedy Sixteen Candles. You know, the one who asks Molly Ringwald, "Wassa happening, hot stuff?"
In Jeff Adachi's brief, competent documentary The Slanted Screen, Dong and his geeky celluloid brethren join other Asian male stereotypes like the evil Fu Manchu villain (great moustache, guys), the kung fu master and the emasculated servant who fumbles your order at the Chinese restaurant.
Adachi, a novice filmmaker and writer, fails to put many of these types in a proper social context, and strangely avoids contrasting how Asian women were portrayed at the same time.
He relies instead on a series of interviews with Asian actors, directors and producers - most of whom repeat the same things. We need more Asian writers, directors, film execs to ensure more balanced portrayals. Oh, and once there's a big hit, expect more, because the film industry is all about money. Duh.
Still, there are some great clips (more of film than TV), at least one juicy quote about casting Caucasian David Carradine as the lead in Kung Fu and a fascinating overview of the career of the Oscar-nominated actor Sessue Hayakawa, who was a Hollywood matinee idol in the 1910s. Who knew?
Video store, here I come.