Sunday, May 24, 2009

Asians on Screen

While flipping through the channels last weekend, I came across a riveting documentary on our local PBS station that chronicles the presence of people of Asian descent on television and in film. The film, The Slanted Screen, focuses specifically on the portrayal of Asian men on the small and silver screens. It gives insight into the long struggle that it has been for Asian filmmakers and actors to break through into mainstream success in American film and T.V.

From the website for the documentary:
"They call Hollywood a "dream factory." And it's an appropriate metaphor. Like dreams, the stories we watch in the dark express our fears and desires. But unlike dreams, they have a powerful and lasting effect on social reality. Movies and the mass media help form our worldview, shape our identities, and define our roles – on screen and off.

Unfortunately, these effects frequently work to the detriment of some groups – including Asian American men. Too often, film and television misrepresent the world they claim to reflect. Their stories revise history, and rationalize inequities. Rather than to portray three-dimension individuals, their characters often manifest prejudice and reinforce bigotry. Moreover, their ubiquitous and persistent messages encourage viewers to internalize confining definitions of identity and self-worth.

Ironically, film and television images extol our fundamental ideals of democracy and equality, and at the same time, betray them. Through interviews, voice-over narration, and a fascinating array of film and television clips, The Slanted Screen chronicles depictions of Asian American men and the culture that shapes them. The one-hour documentary presents film and television images from the turn of the century to the turn of the millennium. The Slanted Screen properly situates these images through historical narration, clips and photos."
In addition to The Slanted Screen, I also came across this article which mentions another documentary, Hollywood Chinese, which focuses on the portrayal of Chinese and Chinese Americans actors in film. Check your local listings for airings on PBS. Thanks to Racialicious for the tip.

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