Finishing the Game (2007, dir. Justin Lin, dist. IFC Films) is an indie mock-umentary of the re-casting of Bruce Lee’s unfinished film after his death in the 1970s. The auditions bring out Asians of all stripes — suave professionals, dreamers and actors of integrity — throwing kicks and emitting feline howls. It’s a light-hearted movie with lots of big hair, but in the subtexts are plentiful jabs at the movie industry’s racism and money-grubbing values.
Go see it!
I really liked the film. It’s funny and irreverent, and inherently Asian without being limited to Asian-ness, yet it touches on serious issues of race and representation. Plus there’s a token white guy! Come on! That’s hilarious! I hear the subtext, and it sounds like: You know where you can stick those quirky sidekick / comedic relief roles?!!
Finishing the Game just opened in the Bay Area. Haven’t heard of it? That’s because they don’t have a marketing budget.
But the upswing is that since the cast is involved in grassroots promotions, I caught a really eye-opening Q&A with some of the actors and producers. The discussion (which provided a classic example of who feels entitled to speak) kept coming back to the clash between representation and the movie industry, or art and business. I knew that Justin Lin’s first big feature film, Better Luck Tomorrow, was a “credit card film.” Talk about self-subsidizing (think six figures!) Its success was a miracle story. But actor Roger Fan (who stars in both films) explained that the popularity of BLT provided Hollywood studios with the hard evidence to take on movies with APA leads, and the result was that MTV became BLT’s distributor, and Harold and Kumar was green-lighted.
But here’s the sad news. Actor Sung Kang shared a maxim: people make indie films because they have to. The irony is that Lin originally wanted a Hollywood studio behind BLT at the start — and he had his chance — he was offered $2m to make BLT as long as the cast was not APA. So three cheers to Lin and BLT producers Julie Asato and Curtis Choy (yeah, the Curtis Choy who made The Fall of the I-Hotel. Uh huh!) for sticking to their guns. You can cite their integrity for the recent improvements in APA representation in American cinema. Cheers!
But Kang also pointed out that he’s just an actor: all he can do is be the best actor he can. What talks to studio execs is dollars, so, as cheesy as it sounds, support your independantly-produced APA film! Your ticket really means something.