Filmmakers in attendance.
This oft-used racial slur gets literal for Sasha Li (film/TV actress-comedienne-director and YouTube star Anna Akana), a spoiled LA trust fund baby and fashion school grad, forced to go back to the homeland after her toy factory owner father cuts her off in this delightful SXSW selected, follow-up to ALREADY TOMORROW IN HONG KONG.
On the heels of the CRAZY RICH ASIANS phenomenon of this past year, director Emily Ting’s sophomore feature taps into the rich AAPI talent pool working in the industry today from principal cast members, Akana, Lynn Chen, Richard Ng, Kelly Hu to supporting players that include Akemi Look, Jordyn Chang, and Michelle Lukes, among others. It expands on CRA’s showcasing of intergenerational AAPI star power – from veteran actress Michelle Yeoh to new discovery Henry Golding – to great effect in another mainstream, cross-culturally appealing family melodrama-comedy. With a story anchored in Tinseltown and playing upon all the stereotypes and clichés of a young woman’s coming-of-age journey and adulting like many Hollywood comedies (e.g. CLUELESS, LEGALLY BLONDE) in days of yore, we get the AAPI version of this familiar story done just as well proving to the mainstream, still white dominated Hollywood cinema that there is both room and hunger for these stories that more accurately reflect the global diversity of audience demographics and interests.
One year out of her fashion degree program at FIDM, Sasha Li (Anna Akana) is down on her luck with the job hunt. No one wants to hire her because she doesn’t have any work experience. None whatsoever. Having coasted by living off of her trust fund, she gets a harsh wake-up call from her no-nonsense, pragmatic father, Teddy (Richard Ng), a self-made businessman who owns a toy factory in Shenzhen, China. Planning to leave his business to his children, responsible older daughter Carol (Lynn Chen), who has been holding it down as her father’s right-hand, and the more flaky Sasha, he now coerces the younger one back home claiming that it is time for her to train in the family business and earn a real paycheck for a honest day’s work. The incentive for her return remains the reinstatement of her trust fund after one year on the job.
Once dispatched back to the homeland, Ting puts Sasha through the ringer with fish out of water hilarity. Taking for granted the convenience and freedoms of American culture, lifestyle, and society, Sasha initially fumbles in this much more constrained context, but true to genre conventions and expectations, this spoiled princess eventually learns the ropes and begins her path towards self-discovery and maturity. When pushed to perform, Sasha manages to apply her American chutzpah and genuine design skills to help her father’s company innovate product which centers on oh-so-cute stuffed animals in multi-colored shades of pastels. Along the way, she gets closer to her estranged and distant extended family including her Dad’s much younger, trophy wife and her half-siblings, Christian and Dior (yes, you read that right). She even learns some life lessons about privilege after slogging it out with Chinese factory employees, whose lives are so foreign to her own.
As we saw with CRA, there is genuine awareness and appreciation for the world-building of these global Asian characters and the richness of their reality translates to the big screen in an impactful way for screen representation. Semi-autobiographical in story (director Emily Ting did go back to the homeland to help out with her family business), it adds with genuine affection to the growing AAPI film canon of those in the global diaspora coming to terms with what home and the homeland mean to them. —Lindy Leong
Director, Writer: Emily Ting
Producer: Sophia Shek, Emily Ting, Frederick Thornton
Director of Photography: Josh Silfen
Editor: Anthony Rosc
Composer: Timo Chen
Cast: Anna Akana, Richard Ng, Lynn Chen, Kelly Hu