As visibility of the Asian-American experience increases, Randall Park takes a great deal of responsibility on his shoulders in his feature film directorial debut.
Randall Park has been enjoying a moment as of late, most recently through a beloved appearance on WandaVision, but when taking the reins Defects, the director of feature films for the first time will have his hands full to know the broader cultural moment. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, anti-Asian rhetoric has taken hold of the United States, leading to violent attacks that have resulted in serious injury and even death. With recent efforts in the media to increase the visibility of the Asian-American experience, Park’s upcoming project carries an ethical and cultural weight beyond the usual expectations for a directorial debut. But armed with years of experience telling exclusively Asian-American narratives, he seems up to the task.
Originally a graphic novel by Adrian Tomine, Defects tells the story of three Bay Area urbanites as they navigate interpersonal relationships and search across the country for the perfect connection, as reported by Term. At first Tomine was reluctant to adapt his graphic novel into a film, but Park and his fellow producers under their Imminent Collision banner convinced him with their passion for this heralded contemporary work. Park himself has already explored the Asian-American experience through his starring role in comedy. Just arrived by boat. This next step in his film career comes at a time when the visibility of Asian Americans is of the utmost importance.
After a year of hate speech directed at the Asian and Asian American community by prominent American leadership figures, a mass shooting recently claimed the lives of eight people in Atlanta, six of whom were Asian women. Meanwhile, the 2021 Academy Award nominations included Chloé Zhao, a Chinese-American filmmaker, topping the Best Director class, while Threatening, a film that directly confronts the experience of Asian immigrants, received a nomination for Best Film and Director, among others. Asian Americans are increasingly finding footholds in American culture, yet intolerance and xenophobia remain dangerously present in the United States. Through Defects, Park and company have the opportunity to tell a story about how to escape ideological prisons without getting too clichéd.
The film will follow in the footsteps of recent developments in increasing the visibility of AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) in the prominent media. Crazy Rich Asians (2018) was a box office success, while the following year, The farewell (2019) garnered widespread critical acclaim. Threatening (2020) garnered six Academy Award nominations, including four of the “Big 5.” Raya and the last dragon (2021) represents Disney’s first foray into Southeast Asian culture and despite some cultural shortcomings, it is a four-quadrant film with an extensive Asian main cast that will expose young people to this iconography for years to come.
Although it is still in the early stages, no doubt, Defects it is an exciting and highly anticipated project. Park hopes to build on his recent surge in popularity as Jimmy Woo in a successful directorial debut, while the material tackles issues that the Asian-American community is currently facing head-on. The responsibility that comes with this comedic drama is not only greater than usual, but also exactly the challenge that attracted Park and his team in the first place.
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