Cultural critic Jeff Yang is slated to discuss Asian representation in the movies and his new book The Golden Screen with documentary filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña at the Burbank Public Library on Thursday evening, November 9.
The Golden Screen looks at the history of Asian representation in the movies, and particularly by Hollywood. Noting that the past decade has been monumental in a shift towards how Asians and Asian Americans are portrayed on the silver screen, Yang looks not only at recent triumphs such as Crazy Rich Asians and Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, but also at the films that came before, including many missteps and lost opportunities, in this comprehensive book which is peppered with comments from famous actors, writers and directors.
“Burbank is so deeply associated with cinema in Los Angeles, as the home to multiple studios. Disney — the studio behind Joy Luck Club, Mulan, Up, Bao and so many more films — is right around the corner. WB [Warner Bros.], the studio that greenlit Crazy Rich Asians, which unleashed a transformation in Hollywood, is too,” commented Yang. “So we’re having this conversation in proximity to Hollywood power, with all that entails, good and bad, at a time when writers just came off strike and actors are still on strike.”
“And Burbank itself has a deep Asian American connection — it was one of the locations selected to provide temporary housing for Japanese Americans returning from incarceration during the war,” he added. “At this moment in our community’s evolution — and in the nation’s continuous growth and change — we think it’s a particularly important time to be looking back at history of how we’ve been represented on screen, and how that has impacted us as a people.”
“I’ve spent a lot of time in Burbank, not for myself, but for my son, Hudson Yang, who — playing the irrepressible Eddie Huang on ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat for six seasons on TV — is a ‘Disney Kid’ of sorts himself, and frequently came up to the mothership for meetings, auditions and in the process of pitching and developing a TV series of his own, a food competition show called Disney’s Great Food Mashup — which never got to air due to the pandemic, but led to a different food show he hosts, Order Up With Hudson Yang, that is airing currently on a global basis (and hopefully will air in the U.S. after the actor’s strike ends!),” Yang went on to say.
“Hudson being on TV has allowed me to see the shift in Asian American screen image in real time, in person, both from the vantage point of being a cultural critic and author and from the vantage point of being a proud dad, sitting in the wings. And Burbank has been a big part of that change.”
Academy-award nominated Tajima-Peña is currently adapting The Golden Screen as a series for television. Tajima-Peña is Professor of Asian American Studies, the Director of the Center for EthnoCommunications and the holder of the Alumni and Friends of Japanese American Ancestry Endowed Chair at UCLA. Her films include Who Killed Vincent Chin?, My America… or Honk if You Love Buddha, Calavera Highway, Skate Manzanar, Labor Women and No Más Bebés. She was also series producer/showrunner of the ground-breaking PBS docuseries Asian Americans.
The Golden Screen features over 100 photographs and movie stills along with original artwork from nine talented Asian illustrators, including Toma Nguyen, barbarian flower, Jun Cen, Cryssy Cheung, Cliff Chiang, Yu-Ming Huang, JiYeun Kang, Ashraf Omar and Zi Xu.
“This event is a celebration of the triumphs of recent movies featuring Asian Americans, movies that have presented Asian Americans — at long last — in more relatable and fully dimensional roles,” commented Librarian Hubert Kozak. “It is also, however, a reminder about the great power of film to create enduring stereotypes about immigrants and marginalized populations of Americans. You will hear about the long struggle to overcome those, about the importance of inclusion and representation in the industry, and about how film can be an important medium through which a group defines its own identity and explores its relationship to others in America.”
Copies of The Golden Screen will be available for purchase at the event, which runs from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and is presented by Friends of the Burbank Public Library. Yang will sign books after the conversation with Tajima-Peña.
The Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library is located at 300 N. Buena Vista Street in Burbank. There is plenty of free parking available on site. For more information and to register a seat for the event, visit the Library’s webpage.