Set in New York City’s Chinatown, Red Shoes is about Linda, a Chinese masseuse (Chiasui Chen) who tries to find a way to buy her daughter (actress/model Brenda Hom) a pair of red shoes, something they could not afford. A story of ethical decisions follows. The masseuse receives a proposition to earn money in return for sexual favors from a handsome client (Brian Yang). Linda decides to accept the proposition and a series of visits by the man. Linda was happy to earn the money for her daughter, until the girl sees the man with her mother and figures everything out. It is then that Linda realizes the impact of her decisions.
The directing was excellent. Within a small frame of time (10 minutes) the story was captured dramatically. As the actors described, they had little time to shoot and a cramped space to work with. They all admired Li-Anne’s ability to navigate and cope with the pressure. The film was made of intensely colorful and intimate shots. An essence of New York City life was also captured.
Director Li-Anne’s idea for the film was based on her fascination of the private moments in which people make decisions of moral compromise. She wanted to give the audience an idea that anyone can make difficult decisions out of desperation and love.
The director and actors were happy to comment on their experiences. I was able to catch up with them after the screening.
Li Anne Huang told about her experiences as a young woman filmmaker from Singapore. She said her films tell stories of people who happen to be Asian. It is an important part of identity, and she hopes to “inspire and enlighten about the values that Asians hold dear” such as family or parent-child relationships. One of her idols is Ang Lee, the brilliant Taiwanese director (Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.) She plans to make many more films in the future and was excited about Red Shoes’ premiere at Tribeca.
Her first film, Under the Manhattan Bridge (2003, 16mm, Color, 7min) screened at numerous festivals in the U.S. and internationally. Her second short film,Singapore Girl (2004, Super 16, Color, 19min) screened at over 35 film festivals worldwide and won a short film grant award from the Singapore Film
Commission. For Singapore Girl, director Li-Anne Huang was awarded Singapore Tatler’s Most Promising Young Filmmaker of the Year Award in 2004.
Li-Anne was awarded the Dean’s Fellowship and the Directing Fellowship for her MFA in Film at Columbia University. Prior to making films, she worked as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch, and has an MBA from Stanford Business School. Li-Anne grew up in Singapore and England and lives in New York City.
The actor Brian Yang is known for his appearance in the film Saving Face and described his work in Red Shoes. For him working with Li-Anne was definitely an enlightening experience because she is such an “actor’s director.” Yang described how Huang had studied acting herself and this helped her understand the human emotions of the characters and where they are coming from. According to him, Huang has a gift. In his opinion the shoot was easy but tough for him. In 4 days, they shot from 12am-8am. He wanted to go to sleep many times, but in the end it was worth it. They shot the film in the massage parlor which was not easy, because it was so cramped. Yang was cast on the spot by Huang after auditioning for her.
Brian also just completed filming a supporting role in Mike Kang’s (The Motel) West 32nd Street expected to hit theaters in 2007. His credits include: VIP, The Tonight Show, General Hospital, As the World Turns, Mafioso: The Father, the Son, Aura, IL and several short films produced at UCLA, USC, NYU, and Columbia (film & tv) and Free Country (theatre). Brian also works in commercials and print. He has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, at Berkeley.
Brenda Hom, the daughter in the film, is a cute young girl and is also a model. For her, the shoot was hard sometimes, as they had to work inside but still very much fun and worth it in the end.
Born in 1996, Brenda Hom has been featured in several films, television shows and commercials. Her film credits include Young Gigi (daughter to Midori Yakimori) in The Devil and Daniel Webster, directed by Alec Baldwin; and Hiroshima, directed by Peter Barton. She was the principal in two television episodes of Blues Clues and in several TV commercials (Lowe’s Home Improvement, Office Depot, Chex Cereal and Mattel).
In addition, she has done print work for Toys ‘r Us, Kmart,Neiman Marcus, Vogue Bambina and Allure. Brenda is a member of TADA Youth Ensemble. She dances (ballet, jazz, tap), swims and sings.
The Taiwanese actress Chiasui Chen had made a short film with Li-Anne Huang before. It was the ultimate experience and she said Li-Anne was fantastic. Chiasui was especially excited about more films for Asian Americans. She said Asian filmmaking would open the eyes of others to know more about different cultures.
Chiasui has also worked with the Golden Horse Award (The Academy Award in Taiwan) winner, director Chu-Chen Hsaio in short film, “Suspect Truth”. She also performed with the famous Godot Theater. Yearning to hone her acting craft, Chiasui decided to come to the United States to study at the renowed Herbert Berghof Studio in New York City. She has actively worked in theater, film and TV since then.
Chiasui won the Best Cameo of Spotlight On Award in 2005 for her portrayal of Sulis/Fairy in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. She was on sitcom “Starved” on the FX channel. She played the lead role in the short film, “Happy Anniversary”, which had been selected in eight film festivals world wide and has won the AEGIS and TELLY awards. Her recent works besides “Red Shoes”, include feature film, “The Child Within” about human trafficking, and short film, “Jinx”, which has been accepted to the Newfest film festival in New York.
For more information, please visit www.liannehuangfilms.com. Red Shoes will be shown next at The New York Asian American Film Festival in July 2007.