An Asian American basketball phenom playing point guard for Harvard
breaks racial boundaries and scoring records. Sound familiar?
Melissa Johnson's No Look Pass has acquired added relevance in this age of Linsanity. This documentary follows basketball star Emily Tay as she graduates from Harvard and transitions to playing professionally in Germany, all the while struggling to conceal the fact that she's a lesbian from her traditional Burmese immigrant parents.
Johnson manages to juggle these many plot points deftly, and although she has a tendency to tell (or, rather, have her interviewees tell) rather than show, the film holds your attention the entire way. While Tay may not be the most articulate Harvard graduate, she is often thoughtful and ebullient, not to mention easy on the eyes, impressive on the court, and in possession of a charmingly magnetic personality. You’re rooting for her the entire time.
Although the game scenes could have been more exciting, and I wished for more intimate moments with her friends and family (instead of just static interviews) as well as a more satisfying conclusion, the film delivers in offering a rare and singular portrait of an Asian American female star athlete, trying hard to reconcile her sexuality with her sense of familial loyalty.
[Full disclosure: Hyphen's Features Editor Momo Chang is a juror for this year's documentary selection at SFIAAFF.]