Tag Archives: film

Is there a Bechdel test for race?

by Latoya Peterson

Today, I talked a bit about Vicky Cristina Barcelona and introduced the concept of the Bedchel Test. Here’s the original comic the test came from:

So, after rejoicing over how brilliant the test is in its simplicity, I started wondering – could we adapt the Bechdel test for race? And if so, what would the end result be?

I am interested in your thoughts on this.

(Image Credit: “The Rule,” originally published in Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel)

Summer Movies: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

by Latoya Peterson

Have you ever watched a movie, and then wished you could have seen it from another character’s perspective?

That was the feeling I got while watching Vicky Cristina Barcelona, the most recent Woody Allen film that is actually quite enjoyable – as long as you don’t mind having two dimensional female characters and you are fine with the whole foreign locale/exotic-natives as a backdrop for the growth of the white protagonist kind of thing.

So yeah, you have to swallow a lot to enjoy the film.

Then again, I watch films like Transformers. Obviously, I don’t have problems suspending disbelief.

I sat in the theater and allowed the story to wash over me. In broad strokes, the third party omniscient narrator explains the thoughts and travels of two friends – Vicky and Christina.

(Warning: After this point, there are spoilers.) Continue reading

Another Hollywood Remake: Oldboy

by Latoya Peterson

Director Chan-Wook Park shocked the hell out of South Korean audiences in 2003, with his theatrical release Oldboy, the second film in the disturbing The Vengence trilogy.

Now, dear readers, I hate horror movies but I love psychological thrillers. Hence, I watched Oldboy. And while I really enjoyed the movie, it is definitely *not* for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. So, imagine my surprise while perusing Dramabeans to see a post describing how Will Smith is going to star in the US remake.

Javabeans, main poster on the blog, is not pleased. Continue reading

Film Festival Pick: Irish Twins

by Latoya Peterson

Last night, I watched the best of the DC Shorts film festival, which featured a week of short films from around the globe.

The last film of the evening was called Irish Twins, written and directed by Ryder and Shiloh Strong.

The film’s synopsis reads:

Born within a year of each other, Michael and Seamus Sullivan have become very different men. On the eve of their father’s funeral, Seamus drags Michael to the local pub in their small, logging community of northern California.

He attempts to convince his brother that they must take their father’s ashes to Ireland in tribute.

Of course, it isn’t long before Seamus’ true intentions are revealed, when his involvement with a group of local drug dealers becomes impossible to avoid, and Michael must confront how much he is willing to sacrifice for his Irish twin.

But what compelled me most about the film (outside of great pacing and drama) was the discussion of Irish identity. (Warning: Mild dialogue spoilers ahead, explicit language.)

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Rendition humanizes Arabs

by guest contributor Manish, originally published at Ultrabrown

The new movie Rendition is more interesting for what it is than how it runs. It’s the first fictional film about the U.S. kidnapping-and-torture program, which began under Clinton but was expanded massively under Bush. It’s the first mainstream movie I’ve seen which gives Arabs and Arabic large amounts of humanizing screen time (the protagonist is an Egyptian-American who went to college in the States). And it’s the latest in this year’s wave of whistleblower movies against Dubya’s assault on American liberty.

Mired in noble savage stereotypes, the movie is more earnest than subtle. Moa Khouas, the Arab Romeo, looks like a brown James Franco, but most of the Arab characters are more archetypes than people.

The plot’s central Capulets and Montagues romantic coincidence is Rushdie-esque, a synthetic conceit for the sake of a more interesting story. It’s not a bad movie, just a slow and obvious one, never more so than in a scene where the magnetic Peter Sarsgaard needles CIA muckamuck Meryl Streep with the Constitution, and she responds with 9/11.

The movie is A Mighty Heart in reverse, where the kidnappers are the U.S. government rather than Al Qaeda terrorists. You’ve got the same pretty, pregnant wife embedded in a labyrinthine search for her handsome, intelligent husband. Reese Witherspoon isn’t given much screen direction beyond playing a grieving wife. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character may be suffering from post-traumatic stress sufferer, but the actor sleepwalks through the movie.

This movie was directed by Gavin Hood, the South African who did Tsotsi. The plotting uses the now-familiar Rashomon device of connecting subplots via a single climactic event. One of the subplots is unexpectedly time-shifted, which is great fun.

But the real-life issue is far more significant than the film: the president claims he can legally kidnap anyone around the world, jail him forever without trial, witness or evidence, and have him tortured. It shocks the conscience. Here’s an actual Dubya quote. I can’t figure out whether it’s duplicitous or just feeble-minded:

Q: What’s your definition of the word ‘torture’?

Dubya: That’s defined in U.S. law, and we don’t torture.

Q: Can you give me your version of it, sir?

Dubya: Whatever the law says. [Link]

With no sunlight and no trial, mistakes are inevitable:

  • We had Maher Arar wrongly arrested and tortured. We refuse to apologize. We refuse to take him off the no-fly list.
  • We had Khaled al-Masri wrongly arrested and tortured. We refuse to apologize. We refuse to pay him compensation.
  • We threatened to have the innocent Abdallah Higazy’s family tortured in Egypt:

… [The FBI agent] told him that he should cooperate, and explained that if Higazy did not cooperate, the FBI would make his brother “live in scrutiny” and would “make sure that Egyptian security gives [his] family hell.” … [The agent] knew how the Egyptian security forces operated: “that they had a security service, that their laws are different than ours, that they are probably allowed to do things in that country… probably about torture, sure…” [Higazy said:] “Saddam’s security force–as they later on were called his henchmen–a lot of them learned their methods and techniques in Egypt; torture, rape…” [Link]

And to think America was founded precisely because of this kind of limp-dickery.

Scapegoating or Community Empowerment? The Flipside of the “Korean Takeover of the Black Haircare Industry” Debate

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

After Latoya wrote the excellent article “Know Your Place, Woman: BET’s Meet the Faith on Black Marriage,” I decided to do a little additional research by checking out the BET site for the show with the all the questionable content. I ended up reading very little on Meet the Faith. In fact, the one thing that stood out to me about the site was actually a random distraction . . .

Toward the bottom of the page regarding a segment on black beauty, I noticed a survey entitled “Korean or Black Owned?” The caption read:

For the most part, Black haircare products didn’t exist until Madame C.J. Walker introduced her Wonderful Hair Grower in the early 1900s. Today, there are still very few products and equipment made for or sold by Blacks.

For such a loaded topic, there were only two simple questions:

1. There are two beauty supply stores next to each other. One is Korean-owned and sells your shampoo for $10. The other is Black-owned and sells your shampoo for $12. Where would you buy your shampoo? The Black-Owned Store or The Korean-Owned Store?

2. If the Korean-owned shop sold items $2 to $3 higher, where do you think the average Korean customer would shop? The Black-Owned Store or The Korean-Owned Store?

I immediately felt the urge to look into what had compelled this very basic set of questions and find some answers. Carmen raised a question of her own back in December, “Do Korean-Americans Control the Black Hair Market?” prompting readers to check out Aron Ranen’s documentary Black Hair and leaving them to render their own judgment on the issue. Half a year later, however, I find myself asking less about the prospect of Korean market dominance in the black haircare industry, and more about the process of seeking an answer to the inquiry itself. What methods have we used to publicly examine this market dominance and what effect have they had on the respective communities involved?

First and foremost, there is the film by Ranen. Black Hair is a documentary created to bring attention to the plight of people of African descent who attempt to manufacture and/or distribute black hair care products within the black community as they face considerable adversity in a market now controlled by Korean immigrants and their families. While some, including members of the Black Owned Beauty Supply Association (BOBSA), see the film, as absolute truth, I find that it could be quite easily interpreted as an open attack on Koreans. I understand quite clearly that the film is a powerful form of advocacy for keeping money spent and earned by African-Americans in the black community, but I question the need for Ranen’s clear manipulation of an already troubled case of ethnic disunity between American blacks and Korean immigrants as a means to push the “buy black” agenda.

During an interview with NPR, Ranen is asked whether or not his film creates “an environment that shows Korean proprietors as the enemy.” In defense of his work, he answers simply that he does not want to be a “hater,” but instead he wants to be a “motivator.” Yet I can’t help but consider his attempt to “motivate” the black community suspect. By publicly picking at old wounds between Koreans and African-Americans, Ranen has tapped into an increasingly lucrative market for the press: inter-ethnic conflict. The American media can’t get enough of it. Stories about people of color fighting other people of color, even if their initial disagreement has little to do with race or ethnic background, always make headline news, often yielding skewed and/or distorted results. Asian-American activist Helen Zia discusses this phenomenon in her book Asian American Dreams with regard to the L.A. Riots: Continue reading

Tell a funny story about your parents to win 2 great DVDs!

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Asian-American parenting blogs Kimchi Mamas and Rice Daddies have teamed up for a special contest giveaway. You can win one of five super prize packs that includes one copy of The Motel DVD and a poster signed by its cast and one copy of Red Doors with accompanying poster.

What do you have to do? Pick one of these two things:

1) Share your funniest story about your dad in the comments section of this Kimchi Mamas post. Be sure to include your email address, and they’ll enter you in a drawing.


2) Share your funniest story about your mom in the comments section of this Rice Daddies post. Be sure to include your email address, and they’ll enter you in a drawing.

The contests will be open until Saturday, February 3, 2007 at 12:01am PST. Check back on Monday to find out who won. Let the fun begin!!

Needless to say, you don’t have to have an Asian parent to enter the contest.

Time machine: October 2005

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Here’s another installment of our Time Machine series… when we take a look back at what we were blogging about a year ago this month.

Terrence Howard’s real-life “Crash” moment

crashWhen Oprah interviewed the cast of Crash, she asked each person to tell their own “real-life Crash moment.” No, not a moment in which they were embroiled in a completely unrealistic situation with two-dimensional Asian caricatures and absurd dialogue, but a moment in which they personally experienced the effects of racism.

Terrence Howard told the story of how his father got into a fight that ultimately put him in jail and landed his family in poverty. But according to some of the comments that were left in response to our post, some believe he took a bit of artistic license in his interpretation of the story. Here’s the beginning of Terrence’s story:

“I’m the product of a mixed marriage: My father’s actually mixed and my mother is mixed but my father looks more white than my mom,” Terrence explains. “We’re at a department store in 1972, right before Christmas, and my mom’s taking us all around to go get clothes and my dad’s standing in the Santa Claus line. … My dad is 5-foot-8, weighs 125 pounds. There’s a guy standing behind him [who is] 6′-4″, weighs about 260. The man said, ‘Why did you let those niggers cut you?’ And my daddy said, ‘This is my wife.’ … The man turned around and my father turned back to talk to us…

National survey on interracial relationships leaves out Asians

yellow missing piece of the puzzleAsians? What are those? I guess we were all too busy getting good grades and doing kung fu to take time to talk to The Gallup Poll about interracial relationships:

The Gallup Poll published their findings from their annual Minority Rights and Relations poll. Part of the survey questioned Americans on how they feel about interracial relationships — specifically between blacks and whites. Not surprisingly, they didn’t bother to survey people’s attitudes on any other couple configurations! :| Next, they surveyed people on their own dating trends. Apparently, Asians and Native Americans (if we are going by the usual 5 category “racial” breakdown) are not important enough to figure into any of this. The survey asked white, latino and black correspondents whether or not they had ever dated other races, including Asian, interestingly enough. But then Asians were not included in the questioning at all. Strange to say the least.

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