Asian-Americans were tagged years ago as the “new Jews” because of their disproportionate degree of academic success and their prominence in the medical profession. But one area of American life where Asian-Americans have not successfully followed in the footsteps of their Jewish peers is the film industry. As Neal Gabler memorably documented in An Empire of their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, Jewish immigrants largely created the American film industry, by starting studios like Universal, 20th Century Fox, and Paramount.
Whereas, not all that long ago, Hua Hsu described Wayne Wang’s 1982 film Chan Is Missing as “still the pinnacle of Asian-American filmmaking.” Attending Sundance this year I saw nothing likely to unseat it.
But there was, at least, Linsanity, a documentary that is itself about a sort of Asian-American exception. Sundance documentaries tend to range from serious (Pandora’s Promise) to depressing (The World According to Dick Cheney) to seriously depressing (Salma, a film about a Muslim woman whose parents locked her in the basement for 25 years). Evan Jackson Leong’s heart-warming Linsanity is one of exactly two feel-good documentaries at Sundance this year. It’s a winning mixture of sports drama and immigrant-made-good story.
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