The X1 Asian American Film & TV destination will feature “The Last Tip” and “Confucius Plaza,” written and directed by Patrick Chen. You can find the short story films in the Lunar New Year movies collection this February. We had the chance to ask Patrick about how his love of domestic and international movies, especially Hong Kong films, and growing up in a tri-lingual household shaped his identity as a filmmaker.
Tell us about your film featured on X1 this month!
Patrick Chen: “The Last Tip” and “Confucius Plaza” are two short stories that display the essence of a modern day Chinatown in New York. I wanted to exhibit Cantonese culture in both films because Cantonese is fading away in today’s Chinese society. “The Last Tip” is about food, reminiscing, and gentrification. “Confucius Plaza” explores intimacy, dialect, and heritage. It also gave me a chance to collaborate with talented actors Celia Au (“Wu Assassins”), Geoff Lee, and Shing Ka (“Revenge of the Green Dragons”), who also are dear friends of mine.
How did you get into filmmaking?
PC: Film has been a big part of my life! My father took my sister and I as kids to the movie theater practically every month. He didn’t take us to movies that we wanted to see. Instead we saw “Aliens,” “Terminator 2” and whatever blockbuster film of that summer. Later it led to renting Hong Kong VHS tapes and even working at Blockbuster Video when I was a teenager! In my third year of college I took an Asian American Studies course and the professor gave us an option to turn in a 15-page term paper or present a 10-minute video assignment. It was a no-brainer for me. I then bought myself a MacBook Pro and 3CCD camcorder and began my journey as a filmmaker.
What are some films and/or filmmakers that have inspired you?
PC: I love and hate this question, only because I have watched so many domestic and international films. I usually break it down into two groups.
American Filmmakers: John Hughes and Kevin Smith for their writing. Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock for their directing style.
Hong Kong Directors: Wong Kar Wai and Johnnie To for their cinematic approach. Ann Hui for capturing natural character emotions.
Do you have a favorite Asian and/or Asian American film?
PC: A majority of Stephen Chow’s films, because he and Ng Man-tat always put a smile on my face with their shenanigans. One particular AsAm film that stood out for me was “Shanghai Kiss” (2007), featuring Ken Leung and Kelly Hu. It’s a sincere and witty film with an odd love story. Ken’s performance as Liam was amazing because his character was refreshing and genuine. I think most Asian Americans find themselves in the same predicament as Liam when it comes to discovering their identity and heritage. It truly speaks to me deep down as a person and to inspire me to go visit China.
How does your Asian heritage influence your work?
PC: I'm fortunate to understand Mandarin and Cantonese as an American. Having a diverse background and being raised by immigrant parents inspired my creativity, which is why I was able to produce my films in Chinese. It's a voice I am most proud of. Without it I don't think I could be honest with myself to accurately represent Chinese-Americans on screen. I feel responsible to depict, not just Chinese-Americans, but Asian-Americans in their true form of nature.
What is your outlook on the state of Asian American cinema?
PC: That is the question we have been asking ourselves for decades. The fact is that we have not witnessed Asian Americans behind or in front of the camera until recently. This evidently all changed thanks to social media and online streaming platforms. Asian Americans are now able to address their concerns publicly, showcase their work, and form a sense of unity amongst each other. After witnessing the success of “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Searching” with hashtags like #GoldOpen, APA TV/cinema are the new interest of investment. This is just the first step, and we need to continue to support one another and other people of color with their works as well. Only then will the opportunities be limitless.
What’s next for you?
PC: I'm currently focused writing my first feature film based off of these two titled short films. When I am not writing, I'm usually producing other projects with colleagues. One of these projects is adapting a book series into a pitch. Hopefully it will be ready for production by mid-Spring.
Come back each month when you want to know what to watch. Remember, if you’re unsure, just say “Asian American” into your X1 Voice Remote to discover more Asian American content. There’s more entertainment waiting for you!
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