Month: October 2017

Short film “Cross” highlights San Fernando Valley’s Filipino and Latino communities

The indie film industry seems to be where it’s at when it comes to creating highly-inclusive stories, and Gerry Maravilla’s short film Cross is no exception.

The film, which was released last week, features a young man, Cross (Jason Sistona), who is lured into the San Fernando Valley’s world of backyard boxing in order to get enough money to save his mom’s life. It’s a 9-minute tale that quickly draws us into our protagonist’s life, which pits the urge to do whatever it takes to get his mom the life-saving medicine she needs against his reticence to become part of an underground boxing ring. At least he has someone looking out for him–Salvador (Daniel Edward Mora), his co-worker and friend.

Jason Sistona as Cross and Jing Sistona as Cross’ mother, Elvira. (Screencap)

One of the big draws to the film is Maravilla’s insistence that the film reflect his experiences growing up in the Valley.

“Growing up Mexican-American in the San Fernando Valley, I never really saw myself or my friends represented in the movies. I attended a high school that was predominantly Latino and Filipino,” said Maravilla in a statement. “Every other Tuesday we’d get out two hours earlier than normal. Kids would get together at a friend’s house to box without getting into trouble with deans, teachers or parents. While photographing my two closest friends sparring in the backyard, I snapped an image that grew into a larger story about trying to find your way into a profession that you have no connections to, while also balancing responsibilities to your family and culture. When it came to write the screenplay based on the image, it felt dishonest and unnecessary to change the races of the characters.”

Daniel Edward Mora as Salvador. (Screencap)

“I had a unique opportunity to craft a compelling narrative that looked at traditional ideas of masculinity found in both Filipino and Mexican culture,” he continued. “With the help of a talented cast and crew from all different backgrounds, we strived to honestly reflect the people who live in the Valley, people whom have never really been portrayed in film. There are more stories than the ones mainstream Hollywood chooses to focus on. By honing in on cultural specifics and exploring the social and family structures that affect these characters, universal themes and emotions emerge that will connect with audiences of all backgrounds.”

Maravilla said the film was shot as a cross between a noir and a western, but with the suburbs as the backdrop. Indeed, the decision to make this short film in a non-traditional setting and with inclusive characters makes Cross a fun film to lose yourself in. For a short while, you feel like you’ve entered a lived-in world. Since it is based on Maravilla’s childhood, it very much is a lived-in world, one we don’t see enough of on the big screen. It’s clear to see how Cross has touched a positive chord with viewers and film critics; it’s already acquired a slew of accolades.

“My team and I had an extraordinary opportunity to bring a story and characters to the screen that audiences have never seen before,” said Maravilla. “This story has the ability to expands viewer’s frame of reference for two unique cultures and humanize individuals that have seldom had a voice in independent film.”

You can watch Cross and learn more about the film at its website, its Seed and Spark page, and on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Kemal Pamuk: A “Downton Abbey” autopsy of the series’ first needless casualty

Apparently, there’s a special Downton Abbey surprise coming. According to Facebook:

According to Digital Spy, it could be the long-awaited, long-rumored Downton Abbey movie. Fans of the show, which ended in 2015, will probably thrilled. If you’ve followed me for a long time, then you’ll know that I was once a fan (and eventual hate-watcher) of Downton Abbey, so I’ve got my own two cents on the idea of a movie as well. But since it seems like Downton Abbey is about to come back into our lexicon, I’d like to push the conversation toward one long-forgotten character that didn’t get the time he deserved, nor the representation he needed. No, I’m not talking about Thomas, although he needs some love too. Who I’m talking about right now is Kemal Pamuk, the diplomat from Turkey.

The sad case of Kemal Pamuk

Pamuk dies in Mary’s bed. (Downton Abbey Wikia)

Introducing Pamuk into the first season story of Downton Abbey was, I thought at the time, going to provide some much needed drama to the entire Mary and Matthew dynamic. In fact, I was hoping Mary would have ended up with Pamuk since the alternative, Matthew, was her cousin. (Social mores might have been different back then, but if an episode of Poirot, “After the Funeral,” can discuss how bad it is to have an affair with your cousin, then maybe Downton Abbey shouldn’t have been pushing it so hard.)

However, Pamuk wasn’t meant to be around for long. In fact, he was meant to weirdly coerce Mary into having sex, have a heart attack in Mary’s bed from a “heart condition,” and then get stuffed in a broom closet, never to be seen again (or discovered as a mummy by one of the poor maids).

Supposedly, Julian Fellowes, the man behind Downton Abbey, said Pamuk’s early death was inspired by real life. According to what he told an audience at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in 2011, Fellowes told the story of the man used as the inspiration for Pamuk (according to the Telegraph):

“I did enjoy the death of Pamuk because it was true. That story came from a friend of ours. He had a great house and he was looking through a great aunt’s diary in which he found an account of a visiting diplomat who died. In the house there was a passageway only to be used by single women to go to their rooms. One of them had smuggled this diplomat into her room and he died in the middle of doing it!

She was absolutely at her wits’ end–this was about 1890. She knocked on the next door and the blameless matron in there realise[d] at once that if this story came out it would touch them all and there would be a great scandal. To avoid it they woke up all the other single women in the passageway and this group of dowagers and debutantes lifted the corpse and carried it to his own bed.

Our friend looked up the diary of his great grandfather at the same period and in it he found a note simply saying ‘We had a tragedy-nice Mr. so and so was found dead in his bed.’ Those ladies got away with it! When I heard that story I thought, ‘One day this will come in handy…!”

I get that, as a bit of cheeky, macabre fun, the story of the dead diplomat is something that would work great in a show that wants to be a subversive take on the traditional costume drama. (Is Downton Abbey really subversive? You be the judge.) But wasn’t it also a waste of a character? When the episode aired, those of us new to Fellowes (like me) weren’t yet aware of how much Fellowes uses shortcuts disguised as cheek in his storytelling. In the latter seasons, the reliance on quick shock and tidy storytelling bows became an unfortunate part of the norm. Pamuk’s death is the first instance of shortcutting in Downton Abbey.

Pamuk and the “sexual exotic” stereotype

Valentino as the  sequel “The Sheik,” “The Son of The Sheik”. (Public Domain)

One of the things I’ve realized after the end of Downton Abbey is that Pamuk was basically a “hypersexual ethnic” role. Pamuk is the son of the Turkish sultan, and he does have a big role in the Turkish government. But none of that is focused on; instead, what’s the big focus is how he’s a primal, sexual character. Yes, Theo James is hot. But it’s really annoying that Pamuk’s only defining characteristic is that he’s horny.

According to the “Arabface” page of racist-stereotypes.com, Middle Eastern characters have often been seen as a multitude of negative stereotypes, including the sexually-crazed lech. “For centuries the Arab has played the role of villain, seducer, hustler and thief — the barbarian lurking at the gates of civilization,” states the site.

Arabs trying to abduct, rape, and or kill fair skinned Western maidens has been another very popular theme that dates to the earliest days of filmmaking. In Captured by Bedouins (1912) marauding tribesmen kidnap a Western girl, try to seduce her, and then demand a ransom for her return. Their plans are thwarted when the girl’s British officer fiancée sneaks into their camp and rescues her.

Several films with the same theme were popular in the 1980s; desert sheikhs abducting and threatening to rape Western maidens; Brook Shields in Sahara (1983), Goldie Hawn in Protocol (1984), Bo Derek in Bolero (1984), and Kim Basinger in Never Say Never Again (1986).

The idea of the exotic and sexual Middle Eastern man can also be used as sexual currency, or as Arabstereotypes.com so aptly describes it, as “dangerous romantic heroes.” This is seen in 1921’s The Sheik, in which the title character, played by 1920s heartthrob Valentino, saves the life of a white woman who was about to be raped by another sheik. Just so happens Valentino’s character isn’t actually Middle Eastern, but the rapist sheik actually is.

In the film, Valentino plays an Arab who kidnaps a white woman and holds her captive, waiting for her to fall in love with him. When she escapes and is kidnapped by another Arab sheik who plans to rape her, Valentino’s character becomes the romantic rescuer of women (who the storyline later reveals, is not in fact Arab).

The site also outlines how Harlequin novels also draw from the sheik stereotype to draw readers into the fantasy of a dangerous, exotic ideal.

Harlequin romance novels tend to have a common storyline of white women being abducted by Arab men and falling in love with them in the process. The Sheik, written by E.M. Hull in 1919, is the first known Harlequin novel based on a romance between a white woman and an Arab sheik, which initiated a genre that continues to the present. Many contemporary Harlequin novels revolve around the figure of the sheik as a domineering seducer and abductor of women who are either Arab or European, or Euro-American. In these storylines, Arab men are either threatening, or sites of romantic intrigue, and white men are often needed to rescue the damsel in distress.

Looking back at his death, it’s clear to me that Pamuk probably had a lot more he could have offered as a character instead of getting the short end of the stick with his awful storyline. At best, he could have been a viable threat to Matthew’s eventual love for Mary (because at the time Pamuk comes on the scene, Matthew could care less about Mary). However, he’s portrayed at his absolute worst. That is to say, he’s portrayed simply as a dick, in all senses of the word.

What about actual Turkish actors? 

(L) Theo James as Pamuk, (R) Turkish-Australian actor Deniz Akdeniz, who could have been a great Pamuk.

The stereotype Pamuk plays into is one thing. Add on top of that the fact that the character isn’t played by a Middle Eastern actor to begin with.

Theo James is British with Greek ancestry. While he might have more tan skin than the average Anglo-Saxon, a Middle Easterner darker skin doesn’t make.

It seems like his casting was consistent with lazy casting that figures that any person with a tan (natural or otherwise) can play any ethnicity and race. As I called it in my article about Henry Zaga being cast as Afro-Latinx X-Man Sunspot, being “white ethnic” grants you a specific set of privileges. In short, the amount of roles you could play are endless.

“As a white actor, Zaga could audition for–and land– as many leading roles as he wants. As a “white ethnic” actor, he can take not only traditionally white roles, but also those that call for non-white roles as well, such as Sunspot. Another example of this is Zach McGowan, a white actor who, because of his slightly darker “surfer boy” look, has been cast to play native Hawaiian historical figure Ben Kanahele in Ni’ihau.”

Granted, if a Turkish actor did portray Pamuk, the character itself would have to have been rewritten. It’d be useless to have proper representation only for the character to instantly die. But if Pamuk had a real storyline, the character could have been a great moment for Middle Eastern representation.

It’s not like Pamuk is going to come back in the Downton Abbey movie, so I’m not expecting anything great in the way of representation of any type. If Fellowes can’t bear to reprimand Mary for being a butt, then I doubt he’d bring in refreshing racial diversity or treat Thomas with any respect. But there are lessons we can learn from Pamuk and his characterization.

1) Pamuk’s death serves no purpose, therefore his character might not have even been warranted.

2) Pamuk’s characterization as a sly racial stereotype can give writers an instance of what not to do when creating layered Middle Eastern characters, even characters that only show up for one episode.

3) If you have to kill off a character, don’t stuff them in a broom closet.

2018 Fashion: How to walk into the “Black Panther” screening in style

Somewhere on Twitter, there’s someone saying how they’re going to show up to the movie theater once Black Panther is released. When the trailer dropped in June, everyone was talking about how they were going to be decked out in their finest threads to see Black Panther, as if the February 2018 release date will be Easter Sunday.

But what could go into the sartorial display folks might (and probably will) partake in once the film drops? How does one show up to the movie theater to watch the most anticipated, most-hyped, and most-loved history-making Marvel film of all time? Look no further than to the Black Panther trailer itself, which gives you looks and inspiration for days.

Mother Africa

Black Panther would be nothing without its adherence to pan-African tribal styles. Black Panther costume designer Ruth Carter said to Elle that she looked to several cultures for the look seen in the film.

“I’m looking at the whole continent and a wide range of people, like the Masai and the Suri. It all becomes a part of the framework of Wakanda. Most people who read the comic books know Wakanda is a mountainous area; it’s a secret place that’s not necessarily trading and interacting with the rest of the world. They’re a little bit more advanced in technology than other civilizations. We are creating that world, and trying to create a culture and pride that feels authentic to the specific location.”

Check out these scenes from the trailer juxtaposed with actual pictures of the Suri and the Masai people.

(photos by Rod Waddington and Dylan Waters [Flickr Creative Commons] and Wikipedia)

Now, I’m not suggesting you go to the film heavily appropriating cultures by wearing facepaint and Masai warrior tunics, because even though we’re black, we’re not of any of these tribes from a cultural standpoint (from a DNA standpoint, who knows). If you are from an African nation and you’ve got some stuff you want to pull out to roll up at the theater in, be my guest. For the rest of us black Americans, perhaps the best we can do is Kente cloth, which has become a part of African-American life ever since it was introduced to us back in the 1950s. As James Padilioni, Jr., of the the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)-run site Black Perspectives, writes:

Kente appeared on the radar of most African-Americans in 1958 when Kwame Nkrumah, the first prime minister of independent Ghana, wore the cloth to meet with President Eisenhower at the White House. Coinciding with the Civil Rights and African Decolonization Movements, Black Americans associated Kente cloth with Black politics and the dignity of the African heritage. By the early 1970s, the predominant garment featuring Kente in the United States was the dashiki, a long tunic-type shirt that grew increasingly popular and commodified by the fashion industry.  Kente’s appeal within Black Power waned, with Fred Hampton and other Panthers leadersderiding those who wore them. Nevertheless, Kente cloth and dashikis remained staples of urban Black life and received a new layer of significance when adopted by the Hip Hop community in the 1980s.

While this is still a little bit of appropriation, the Kente cloth has taken on a very American-specific identity along with its traditional identity. At some point, many a black person has owned an item of clothing made from Kente cloth. Even I, as a kindergartner, made a cardboard doll wearing a Kente cloth dashiki and hat. I’m no sartorial police, but if you happen to have a Kente cloth shirt, hat, or even a scrunchie, wearing it to the Black Panther screening might be one of the best times you could put that item to some use.

Coming to America

The film referred to the most when writing about Black Panther on Twitter is Coming to America. The comparisons are coming even heavier now that there’s official news there will be a Coming to America sequel. It makes sense–both films are about fictional African nations, both films act as uplifting and positive portrayals of Africa, and both films have become cultural touchtones to black American pop culture (even though Black Panther hasn’t even come out yet).

Fashion-wise, does it make sense to connect Black Panther to Coming to America? Sort of. The two films have different tones they’re trying to accomplish with their costuming. However, the common thread is the goal of making an African nation look like the ultimate African nation–regal, luxurious, sophisticated, and welcoming.

Upon taking apart each film’s costumes, it becomes surprisingly apparent that there are some similar elements in the costuming for Coming to America and Black Panther, such as the Dora Milaje wearing red, which is similar to how the royal handmaidens wear red. There’s also a certain use of furs, bright colors, and headdresses that convey the idea that these nations are not to be trifled with because they will outspend you and out-culture you.

Granted, the connective tissue between these two films is small–the main reason people are drawing parallels to the film is because Coming to America is the only film black Americans have that depict an African nation as thriving, rich, culturally-independent, and on-par with (or exceeding beyond) the European status quo. This gets into a representation issue–if there were more films about Africa that didn’t depict the continent as poor and backwards, then we’d have more films to choose from when discussing the place Black Panther has in Hollywood’s film legacy.

It also doesn’t hurt that Lupita Nyong’o had a Coming to America-themed birthday party, officially crossing the streams between Black Panther and Coming to America.

Queen-To-Be & The Lady-In-Waiting. #WakandansInZamunda @danaigurira

A post shared by Lupita Nyong’o (@lupitanyongo) on

#WakandansInZamunda birthday partay! Fet. @chadwickboseman as Rev. Brown

A post shared by Lupita Nyong’o (@lupitanyongo) on

“Let them WAIT!” #WakandansInZamunda @michaelbjordan @janellemonae @mykalmonroe @carlulysses #latergram

A post shared by Lupita Nyong’o (@lupitanyongo) on

Me and my director. #RyanCoogler #WakandansInZamunda #latergram

A post shared by Lupita Nyong’o (@lupitanyongo) on

I would love to see folks at the theater in Coming to America cosplay. Usually, I hate seeing cosplay when I’m at the movie theater, but for this, I would pull out my phone for to take some pictures. Especially if someone decided to show up wearing a fake lion stole.

Ikire Jones

If you’re planning on going to the Black Panther premiere in supreme style, then you need to get yourself some Ikire Jones. The brand, led by creative director Walé Oyéjidé and head tailor Sam Hubler, weaves together African textiles and modern, urbane chicness into some of the most fabulous scarves and garments I’ve seen in a while. To quote the brand’s website:

We use design as a vehicle to tell stories that illuminate the nuanced lives of marginalized people. We do so without reproach or pity. But instead, by showing that elegance is not exclusive to any particular culture, hue, or country.

It seems natural, then, for Ikire Jones to be showcased in Black Panther as part of T’Challa’s regal wardrobe. As Oyéjidé said to OkayAfrica, the film will give audience members a gateway into thinking about Africa in a new way.

“I think the beauty of Black Panther, is that even though it’s fantastical, it at least opens people’s minds to the idea that people of African descent can be villains, they can be superheroes, they can be rich they can be poor. They can be whole, complicated humans and nuanced, just as people are from other heritages. So, it really is just about cracking open the door and seeing us as equal to everybody else. I think that’s what a lot of us are trying to do with our art in different ways. It happens to be a film, I happen to be a person who makes clothes, but uses clothes as a vehicle to talk about these things. We’re all basically working on the same issue, just in different ways.”

Screencap/Marvel Studios

Here’s more Ikire Jones to whet your whistle:

“Awake & At Home In America” 📸 @joshuakissi

A post shared by Ikiré Jones (@ikirejones) on

Squad. 📸 @joshuakissi

A post shared by Ikiré Jones (@ikirejones) on

“Awake & At Home In America” 📸 @joshuakissi

A post shared by Ikiré Jones (@ikirejones) on

Now available at IkireJones.com

A post shared by Ikiré Jones (@ikirejones) on

“Awake & At Home In America” 📸 @joshuakissi

A post shared by Ikiré Jones (@ikirejones) on

“After Migration” FW16.

A post shared by Ikiré Jones (@ikirejones) on

Jidenna and Black Dandyism

It’s not really in the trailer much, but there is one moment where black dandyism comes to play. That’s when the elder wearing the green suit shows up.

Screencap/Marvel Studios

This moment made me think of one of the foremost people in black dandyism in pop culture, Jidenna.

The power of black dandyism comes from taking the colonizers’ clothes and culture and turning it into yet another tool to subvert white control and re-establish black humanity.

Shantrelle P. Lewis, the artistic curator behind Dandy Lion, an international exhibition and platform showcasing the world of contemporary black dandyism, wrote for How To Get Next about the relationship blackness has with fashion, both as a cultural artifact and as a political weapon.

Black people’s relationship to the sartorial, or sewing and tailoring, actualy predates contact with Europeans. We were some of the first, if not the first group of humans, to sew…So, when African tailors came into contact with European fashions, the blending of styles and culture gave way to a new look.
…Over the past couple hundred years, this art of mixing and matching is a skill that many Black men have manipulated to their own advantage to subvert mainstream racist images. Defiant dressing and oppositional fashion, or using fashion and style to subvert social-political norms, have a long history among Black people in the West–we’ve been using it as an instrument of resistance for 400 years.”

That power can certainly be seen in the elder’s sartorial choices–mixing brightly-colored, tailored pieces with a traditional, yet matching, lip plate. The same type of suiting can be seen on Jidenna, carrying the tradition of black dandyism into a new generation of “Classic Men.”

Jidenna’s black dandyism also makes sure to weave in African textiles and patterns, reflecting Jidenna’s Nigerian background. If you want to arrive in style at the Black Panther screening, try the dandy route and wear classic cuts mixed with traditional prints and statement colors.

More examples of contemporary black dandyism:

How do you plan on dressing to attend once Black Panther premieres?

Happy Pantone Spring 2018 colors get creepy in “Annihilation” teaser trailer

The teaser trailer for the 2018 sci-fi thriller Annihilation has made its mark, hyping up Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez fans even more than they have been ever since the first pictures of the two in character came out earlier this year.

I have to say, Natalie Portman looks quite dead in this trailer, and I’m sure that’s by design, but it’s also unnerving. Portman’s dead face isn’t what this article is about, though. This article, is in fact, a color theory article. Did you know that Annihilation does have something in common with some of the Pantone Spring 2018 colors? And why does that matter to you? Because these colors are responsible for that uneasy feeling you had while watching some of these scenes!

Let’s take a look at this moodboard of the planet our lady explorers are visiting, Area X.

You’ll notice that throughout this set of photos, particularly the second and fourth ones, there are muted pink, purple, light blue, teal, and dark blue tones. These colors set the tone for most of the trailer, and it would seem they set the tone for most of the film.

In Annihilation, these colors are beautiful, yet clearly ominous. However, in another application, these colors are actually happy tones.

Six of Pantone’s Spring 2018 colors feature many of these exact colors, but in their vibrant, normal applications. These in particular are colors that play right into Annihilation‘s color scheme.

Reading the descriptions of these colors, you can see several key words–“soft,” “romantic,” “soothing,” “quiescence,” “subtly alluring,” “distinctive,” “complex,” “reassures,” “bold,” “fascinates,” and “intrigues.” These descriptions convey a feeling of contemplation, mystery, and beauty. As an aside, these colors also showcase a hint of nostalgia–the description of Arcadia, for instance, states the color is “hinting at retro yet at the same time modern.” These colors were probably their most popular during the ’80s and early ’90s, when everything was Miami Vice and Art Deco. For so many of us in our adulthood now, that was the time of our childhoods. It’s interesting that this colorful thread of nostalgia finds its way into Annihilation.

It’s not clear if nostalgia will play a part into the film, if at all–it seems like some of the scenes with Oscar Isaac are flashbacks to the “adventure,” if you will, that landed him in the hospital–but what is clear is that the soothing, soft, alluring, and even romantic qualities of these Pantone colors are being turned on their heads and used in their most disturbing forms.

Ars Technica’s tech culture editor Annalee Newitz gave a succinct and accurate description of the look of the Annihilation trailer:

“Somehow, director Alex Garland (Ex Machina) has evoked that same sense of dreamy, horrifying awe [from Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach novel trilogy], in the first trailer for the film…[W]e see the bizarre features of Area X seething around her as if the entire ecosystem is somehow haunted.”

In essence, the Pantone colors featured in Annihilation work exactly as they’re supposed to work–they titillate the senses, they weirdly reassure by alluring you into believing you’re seeing something dazzling. They are, as Newitz wrote, dreamy colors, befitting the psychological horrorscape that the original novel immerses the reader in. However, that alluring quality is just a setup–the entire planet is a trap, and the way these colors show up–in the mysterious plants, the dusky sky, and most especially in that filmy excretion-like stuff–make it clear that the planet is using these colors, much like a Venus flytrap, as the sweet nectar that baits its next victims.

Take a look at some more moodboards from the Annihilation trailer, which, of course, includes many of the Pantone colors listed here and at Pantone.

Orange and yellow are big themes for many 2018 films, which I’ve discussed at my 2018 film forecast article.

There’s a lot of atmospheric stuff going on in this trailer. Overall, this planet looks like the last place you want to be.

Annihilation comes out February 23, 2018.

New webseries alert: “Munkey in the City” starring “The Long Road Home” star Kenny Leu

Here’s a webseries that’s been simmering for a while–it’s finally ready for viewers to see, especially if you’ve been following the career of Kenny Leu, who’s starring in National Geographic’s upcoming miniseries The Long Road Home. The webseries? Munkey in the City. 

Munkey in the City, created and developed by Michael T. Nguyen, stars Leu as an aspiring writer who wants to make it big in New York City, while having tons of misadventures and growing pains along the way.

Check out the trailer:

A few years ago, I spoke with Nguyen about Munkey in the City. He told me the webseries is partially based on his own experiences as a writer in a big city.

Munkey in The City is actually based on my real life experiences living in San Francisco. I had moved here in 2010 hoping to start a new life for myself, but two years after, I was still confused about the direction I was headed in. I was busy working a job I was unhappy going to, and as a result, found myself delving deeper into alcohol as an escape. I had just dropped out of film school so I could focus on paying my overpriced rent, and I felt like I couldn’t do anything right or connect with anyone. My life was going nowhere and I realized I needed a change. Then, I decided to channel my energies into something more creative. I wrote my experiences down and decided I could use them to help me further my career as a filmmaker. Munkey in The City is really a story about my struggle with adulthood and the real world, while trying to achieve my dreams in a vast new place.

I happened to name the main character Munkey, because “Monkey” is actually a nickname I’ve acquired over the years for various reasons. And I added the fact that San Franciscans simply call San Francisco “THE City.” Thus, Munkey in The City was born. Now I’m determined to bring this story to life, not just for me, but also to share it with anyone striving for their own dreams as well.

Nguyen also laid into Hollywood’s reticence to casting Asian actors for big parts, particularly leading male roles.

Compelling movie and television characters just aren’t written for Asian American males. That, combined with the industry’s unwillingness to take chances on them, for fear that audiences won’t fork over time and money to see them, equals very few opportunities outside the martial arts genre. The industry happens to run on a very basic premise: if you can bring in money, you can be on screen. But even with John Cho’s huge success with the Harold and Kumar franchise, the industry still hesitates to put him into leading roles. So there has to be something else at work here. And I can call it bias and racism all I want, but the industry will just call it a poor business decision.

The fact is that it’s going to take a lot more work by a lot of people to fight for that opportunity from Hollywood, and to sway audiences into accepting an Asian American as a dynamic leading man. But the foundation is being laid, for sure.

Munkey in the City debuts on YouTube, Vimeo, and its official website October 18.