Right now, the Asians on film have to exist for Asian reasons. Usually when you see Asian faces they're Asian for a reason, whether they're tourists or kung fu masters.
I don't think it's racism. That's just the mind-set that exists in these rooms the reality of it is, when you go in these casting offices and when they cast, it's usually black and white. I think it's going to take filmmakers to go in and say, "I want the casting to be color-blind." Even getting Asian American actors in to meet heads of casting is important you may not get the job, but they can see your work. These are little baby steps. No one talks about it or knows about it.
SFBG How do you feel about Bruce Lee?
JL As a kid, I had a push-pull relationship with Bruce Lee, who was empowered, sexy, and cool and everything wrapped into one. At the same time, you're walking down the street, and they're expecting you to know kung fu and doing his yell at you.
But his screen presence and fearlessness made him so great. At the time I was totally confused I saw Game of Death and didn't know the backstory that 80 percent of it was made with a fake stand-in. As the idea evolved, all these other issues came up. There's a made-up scenario of a casting process to replace him and, especially in the last five years, issues of identity and what it means to be in the film industry and society as a whole and the politics and agendas that go into it. In Asian American cinema too, I think it's time for us to laugh at ourselves, even.
FINISHING THE GAME
Thurs/15, 7 p.m., $40 opening night gala screening, $60 screening and Asian Art Museum reception
429 Castro, SF