Wow. Wow. Wow. It’s a triple play. It’s a hat trick. It’s an Asian American trinity, sort of.
Erin and I have booked three killer guests for our visualizAsian.com series of interviews in the AAPI Empowerment Series:
Next Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 6 pm PT we’ll speak to filmmaker Lane Nishikawa of “Only the Brave,” an independent movie about the Japanese American soldiers who fought during World War II that will be released nationwide on Veteran’s Day;
On Tuesday, Nov. 10, we’ll spend an hour getting to know Phil Yu, the man behind the must-read news site about Asian Americans, AngryAsianMan.com;
And on Tuesday, Nov. 17, we’ll meet Lac Su, the author of a powerful new memoir, “I Love Yous Are for White People.”
We’ll be talking to Lane next Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 6 pm PT. Register here for the interview, which will be over a conference call and free webcast.
Lane is a filmmaker whom we met several years ago, when he was shooting “Only the Brave,” a powerful movie he had written about the Japanese American soldiers of the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team. The film is a fictional depiction of a famous battle towards the end of World War II when the 100th/442nd rescued the “Lost Texas Battalion,” who were surrounded by Nazis in the forests of France. The JA soldiers suffered over 800 casualties to rescue the 200 Texans. The 100th/442nd remains to this day the most highly decorated combat unit for its size and length of service in US military history.
“Only the Brave” weaves in the emotional plot line of the lead character, played by Lane, and flashes back and forth between the war and scenes of all the character’s pre-war lives. It also stars Tamlyn Tomita, Pat Morita, Jason Scott Lee, Mark Dacascos (who you might know now from either “Dancing with the Stars” or as the Chairman on “Iron Chef America”), Kenny Choi and Yuji Okumoto, among other Asian American pacific Islanders.
Erin and I were fortunate to spend time on the production, hanging out on the set at Universal Studios’ back lot, which had been transformed into a bombed-out French town. We served as volunteer production assistants and did odd jobs, driving people to and from the parking lot to the set, and then at the end of the production, we organized the wrap party for everyone. It was a great introduction to the workings of Hollywood, and to a slew of talented AAPI artists and performers, led by Lane’s amazing talent.
Lane’s body of work has focused on AAPIs. He is Sansei (third generation Japanese American) and his work often deals with Asian American history and identity issues. He’s widely known for a series of one-man shows, including “Life in the Fast Lane,” “I’m on a Mission From Buddha,” “Mifune” and Me and others.
Before “Only the Brave, Lane wrote and directed two short films about World War II veterans, “Forgotten Valor” and “When We Were Warriors” which started the trilogy, which is a tribute to his uncles who served in the 100th/442nd.
Lane has a long history in Asian American theater, having served as artistic director for the Asian American Theater Company in San Francisco for 10 seasons. He was also co-artistic director of the Eureka Theatre and resident director at the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival.
Among his stage productions, “The Gate of Heavenâ€ portrayed the unlikely lifelong friendship between a Japanese American soldier and the Jewish survivor he liberates from the Dachau concentration camp â€“ and the racial injustices both have endured.
â€œI write pieces that give an inside view, a sense of the truth about the Asian-American experience â€“ what itâ€™s like to breathe in my skin. I write for change, so that one day I might walk down any American street and not have someone look at me and try to guess which country Iâ€™m from,â€ Nishikawa says.
We’re especially happy to speak with Lane now because after four years of work and independently funding screenings of “Only the Brave” across the country, as well as DVD sales, he has finally signed a distribution deal to get the movie on DVD and in stores nationally, and is planning a television premiere for the future. The DVD releases officially on Veteran’s Day — and apt launch for such a heartfelt tribute to veterans.
Here’s the trailer:
People may not know the name Phil Yu, but anyone who’s interested in Asian America knows the name Angry Asian Man. The website AngryAsianMan.com is required reading for me and thousands of others, because Phil, the man behind the site, is so damned diligent about chronicling anything and everything that happens that happens to or involving or affecting Asian American Pacific Islanders.
Sign up for our talk with Phil here.
Seriously, the man never rests. It’s hard to imagine that he has a day job, much less a social life, with all the news and links he posts to his website.
Phil has been building a steady, loyal readership since launching his site way back in 2001, and even the Washington Post has called AngryAsianMan.com “a daily must-read for the media-savvy, socially conscious, pop-cultured Asian American.”
Mixing humor with criticism, Phil’s commentary has been featured and quoted in stories for the Post, Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, USA Today, MSNBC, Newsday, CBS News and SF Gate. And oh yeah, also by NikkeiView.com!
Phil worked previously at the Center for Asian American Media in San Francisco and has served as a programmer for the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.
He’s a young leader in our community, and we’re honored that he’s taking the time to speak with us.
Here’s a two-part interview with Phil:
Lac Su and his book are worthy of a separate blog post, and in fact I was going to do just that, but we were suddenly blessed with his OK to do a visualizAsian.com interview, so I’ll write about him here.
Register here for our conversation with Lac.
During the day, Lac is an executive for TalentSmart, a global think tank and management consulting firm, and a husband, a father, a painter, a photographer, and a writer after 5 p.m. and on the weekends. He was born in Danang-Vietnam, grew up in Los Angeles, and now resides in San Diego. “I Love Yous Are for White People” is his first bookâ€”a memoir.
I’d been reading on AAPI blogs about “I Love Yous Are for White People,” and finally figured I better run out to Barnes & Noble and get it. In Denver, not surprisingly, the downtown B&N stocked only one copy, but I hope they’ll get more soon. I ripped through it in one day, and handed it over to Erin, who did the same the next day. It was so fast not because it’s a short book, but because it’s so compelling and gripping and well-written that you want to keep going and you’re disappointed when it’s over.
The book opens at a breakneck pace with the memories of his family’s escape from Vietnam, and segues into the family’s introduction to life as refugees in Los Angeles. Lac’s father is authoritarian and abusive, and as the years go by, the entire family lives in fear of his temper.
The lack of affection and support from his father — the book’s title refers to the idyllic loving families the young Lac saw on American television shows and movies, and at his school friends’ homes — eventually lead Lac into the world of gang thuggery to seek an alternative family acceptance and a sense of belonging.
The book is structured as a series of vignettes, based on journals Lac wrote throughout his youth. It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like to re-live those memories to write the chapters for this book.
It’s an amazing tumble of a read, and one that lives up to the cliche, “you can’t put it down.”
We can only hope that Lac publishes other vignettes in a sequel, or follows his life beyond the teen-aged years. But then, those stories may not have the same gripping drama of his childhood. He went on to a magnet high school and on to college, and now has a doctorate.
It’s a testament to his strong spirit that he survived the tumult of his early life and then captured it so vividly.
Here’s an interview with Lac by filmmaker Steve Nguyen:
The Making of a Memoir from Steve Nguyen on Vimeo.
By the way, if you’re in the LA area, Lac is organizing an event called BANANA, a first-ever gathering and roundtable discussion/panel of Asian American Pacific Islander bloggers (including yours truly and Erin Yoshimura, who dreamed up visualizAsian.com). The event will be held Nov. 21. I’ll keep you posted here and via Twitter and Facebook.
Maybe we’ll see you there!