Something really exciting happened this weekend: several members of the Crazy Rich Asians team gathered in LA to screen the film for the first time. Kevin Kwan, the author of the book series, shared a photo on Instagram. He called it “one of the most unforgettable nights of my life”. No doubt. Can’t imagine what that would be like – to see your words, your story, manifest into a major motion picture.
It must be a thrilling experience. And also an agonising wait! Six more months! Can we PLEASE get a trailer soon?
This movie, hopefully, will be an event. This movie, hopefully, will be supported by a well-strategised, well-executed marketing campaign by Warner Bros. Because we’ve seen lately, especially in the last two weeks, that people are not only open to diverse storytelling, they’re hungry for it. The audience is there for it. The audience is there for a romantic comedy featuring an all-Asian cast. The biggest movie of 2018 is already Black Panther, with its predominantly all-black cast and fully representative cast and crew in front of and behind the camera. Could the most successful rom-com in years come from an Asian-American filmmaker adapting a book by an Asian-American writer, with an Asian cast and crew?
On a related note, Buzzfeed published a piece this weekend written by Susan Cheng about how “Asian-American Women in Hollywood say it’s twice as hard for them to say #MeToo”. A 2015/16 study showed that Asian, South Asian, and Pacific Islanders continue to be more underrepresented on television than their black and Latin counterparts. Those from indigenous backgrounds are even less visible.
We are now 6 days away from the Oscars. One of the five nominated films for Best Documentary Feature Oscar this year is called Abacus: Small Enough To Jail, a play off the expression “too big to fail” that was introduced during the 2008 financial crisis. There was only ONE bank in the United States that was indicted during that time. It’s a bank with only ONE branch - Abacus Federal Savings Bank, a family-owned business serving the Chinatown community in New York City. At the time of the indictment, Abacus was the 2,531st largest bank in the US. To be clear, two thousand, five hundred, and thirty banks were BIGGER than Abacus during the financial crisis…and they were the only ones charged. Of course you’ll recall, all the big boys, the ones who were “too big to fail”, you know what they did, and you know what happened to them. What happened to Abacus was that their employees, most of them Chinese, were “herded like cattle” down the hallways, made to shuffle in shame out the door of their workplace, like a “chain gang”, in front of reporters who were deliberately called to cover the event, when the indictments came down.
The (hoped-for) success of Crazy Rich Asians does not guarantee that we will no longer see the system cherry-pick, across all industries, from banking to entertainment, who it works for and who it works against. Of course not. But it could be a beginning to acknowledging that people from different places, with different faces, who occupy different spaces, have stories too –and perhaps empathy can grow from there.
Abacus: Small Enough To Jail is available on Amazon and on iTunes now.
Yours in gossip,