Opening night of the 25th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival was star-studded, with everyone from Cook Islands Survivor winner Yul Kwon acting as MC for the night and the venerable MC Hammer mingling with the masses.
Justin Lin’s Finishing the Game seemed to be a real crowd-pleaser, getting a good amount of laughs from the audience in all the right places. The movie, about the search for the studio search for a Bruce Lee replacement after he dies during the making of Game of Death in 1973, looked amazing. Lin managed to get the retro look and sound down wonderfully, erring on the side of the ridiculous. It was fun to see the likes of Sung Kang, Roger Fan and even relatively unknown South Asian actor Mousa Kraish flex their comedic skills. (MC Hammer plays a Hollywood agent representing only the best of the “colored” people.) Afterwards, Lin admitted that this film was a theraputic release about some of the bullshit he has had to deal with in Hollywood and that it was an opportunity to make a film starring all his friends. That lent a real feel-good sense to the movie.
Definitely in the vein of a Christopher Guest mockumentary, the movie I kept comparing it to was Mario Van Peebles 2003 film Baadasssss, or How to Get the Man’s Foot Out of Your Ass, about the making of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song – his father’s revolutionary early Blacksploitation film in 1971. Whereas Peebles’ film – in which he played his father – was more meta-fictional and dramatic than Lin’s, since Sweet Sweetback was actually an independent movie (one of the first) because the studio dropped it for it’s outrageous and revolutionary nature, it was also a period piece, with a multicultural cast that dealt very much with race in Hollywood. I learned a lot in Peebles' film about the film industry and the role of people of color in it. Even though Lin and his entourage talked about how the film was both light and “deep” in the Q&A after the film, most people I talked to had a hard time finding the “deep.”
Otherwise, the great thing about the festival is that you do get to engage with the filmmakers and actors and each other after seeing the film, as opposed as when I watch my Netflix movies in my bedroom in the middle of the night. My favorite parts from the Q&A were when Kraish says that he was most excited about the Finishing the Game – where he plays a doctor turned actor-wannabe – because it was a job and especially one where he didn’t have to play someone with “a bomb strapped to my chest.” Otherwise, I felt like MC Hammer’s presence on stage surrounded by Asian Americans and his comments about the importance of a multicultural cast – he spoke about how we all face racism as minorities and need to come together – was a perfect ending to the Kenneth Eng/AsianWeek debacle. That’s it. Let Hammer have the last word, because really – you can’t touch this.