"Forget about all this engineering business and write," a Asian-American filmmaker told sixty students yesterday in a lecture series sponsored by the Asian American Association (AAA).
"Asians are traditionally ignored in films," said Peter Wang, the 45-year-old director, actor and co-writer of "A Great Wall." Wang told an audience in the Lowell House Junior Common Room that he had quit a scientific career to work on films.
"It's our problem. We're too busy trying to win the Nobel Prize. The emphasis is all wrong," Wang said.
Wang said that he had wanted to be an actor since he was a child, but entered the University of Pennsylvania as a engineering student because his father preferred that he enter a profession with more financial stability.
"Contrary to what most people think about Asians--they don't know how to express themselves, their English sucks--I wanted to express myself," Wang said.
In 1976, although he had no prior experience in filmmaking, he made a documentary on the history of China. The film won a third prize at the International Chicago Film Festival.
"It is possible for a person who has never studied filmmaking but who has a strong idea in mind to make a film," Wang said.
Upon entering the filmmaking profession, Wang said he "strongly felt that Asian-Americans were either misrepresented or underrepresented" in films.
"We have to really go out there to tell those filmmakers that we want to present Asians like regular people," Wang said.
"We're not doing our own job of promoting," continued Wang. "I appointed myself as the man who would do these things."
Wang said that part of the reason that Asians were misrepresented is that Hollywood scriptwriters are non-Asian, and therefore tend to write about their own experiences.
Wang said his desire to promote cross-cultural awareness culminated in "A Great Wall," which was the first American feature film to be co-produced with the People's Republic of China. Released this summer, the comedy portrays a Chinese-American family from San Francisco, the Fangs, and the cultural conflicts that arise from their visit to their relatives in Peking, the Chaos.
According to Wang, the film has been the most successful of its kind. "The film is American enough to tell a Chinese story."
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