Jon M. Chu Curates Fandango Playlist of Influential Films From Asian-American Filmmakers

Jon M. Chu Curates Fandango Playlist of Influential Films From Asian-American Filmmakers

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is in full swing, and with so many of us at home, now is an ideal time to discover movies you may have missed, including cinematic gems from Asian-American filmmakers. Fandango has teamed up with director Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, In the Heights) to share his personal list of influential films from Asian-American auteurs, with personal essays on why each of these projects are so meaningful to him.

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The full list of Chu’s influential movies from Asian-American filmmakers include (in no particular order): 

Better Luck Tomorrow (Justin Lin)

“Justin Lin’s debut feature is a knockout punch on stereotypes of Asian-Americans in cinema. It literally blew my mind when I saw it as a sophomore in college. I took the long drive from the University of Southern California to Park City, Utah to check out films and stood in line for hours to get into Better Luck Tomorrow. I had no idea what I was in for, and after being in awe of the ferocity, confidence and flat-out rebellion of its depiction of Asian-American youth, I became a Justin Lin fan for life. More young people need to see this movie right now.”

Short Term 12 (Destin Daniel Cretton)

“So much honesty in this movie. I have never felt more emotionally present in a movie than Destin Daniel Cretton’s feature. This cast is incredible. Each one pouring it all onto the screen as stars are literally born in front of your eyes. Not to mention I am in awe of Destin’s ability to paint messy truths in the most beautiful way possible.”

The Joy Luck Club (Wayne Wang)

“I’ll never forget my father gathering my mother, me and my four siblings into a mini van on a Sunday morning and heading to the small movie theater playing this film. I was young, maybe 7th grade, and we had no idea what we were about to watch. But by the end of the film, we were in awe of how much it reflected our family. The complicated relationships, the way they talked to each other, what they were eating … it all felt so familiar to us, yet seeing it on the big screen made us feel incredibly special, like we were the movie stars. We talked about the film and quoted it for years after. Wayne Wang and his team gave us so much life, and for me who at that time was figuring out my own cultural identity crisis it meant everything.”

Saving Face (Alice Wu)

“Alice Wu shook me in this movie. How could a movie exist in a movie theater like this? It felt so unique and yet so familiar. A Chinese-American woman and her mother fighting through generations of expectations and traditions as they confront the most basic human yearning for love. It was about such complicated ideas but, like Alice’s most recent film The Half Of It [on Netflix], deals with these issues in the most elegantly simple and honest manner. The cast and this film was so ahead of the time … but then again, more likely, it paved the way for this time.”

RELATED: In The Heights Director Jon M. Chu Opens Up About Delay

Life of Pi (Ang Lee)

“I love this movie and I love Ang Lee. Of course I could recommend The Wedding Banquet or Eat Drink Man Woman or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon but then this list would include JUST Ang Lee movies … and, by the way, you should watch them all. But Life of Pi was special for me because I read the book and had no idea how someone would make a movie out of it. So, in a way, it was a masterclass in filmmaking as I saw how the movie unfolded and how Ang and his team crafted a beautiful, meditative story, but with wonder and spectacle of what it felt like to be on Pi’s inner journey. It’s an incredible piece of cinema that should be seen on the big screen and the box office numbers reflect that. What an amazing accomplishment. No one could have pulled this off but director Ang Lee.” 

The Farewell (Lulu Wang)

“I met Lulu Wang at the SNL after party when Awkwafina hosted the show. I didn’t know anybody other than Awkwafina and she was busy talking to Lorne [Michaels] but guess who came up to me? Yup, the brilliant and incredibly warm Lulu Wang. She told me about the movie she was in post on with Awkwafina, and while I totally believed her I had NO IDEA that she would be my inspiration for the rest of the year. She has such force in her presence, even at an SNL after party, and I could feel that powerful undertow in The Farewell. This is such an achievement and the beautifully restrained performance of Awkwafina, Shuzhen Zhao, Tzi Ma and the rest of the cast, it brings me to tears thinking about it. Like Lulu making me feel at home at that party that night, this movie will make you feel seen.”

Meru (Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi)

“I love Free Solo more than the next guy, but Meru will have you on the floor. Emotional, devastating, triumphant … it has all the pieces that make it an incredible and exhausting adventure. Then you add on HOW Jimmy Chin and [codirector] Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi shot it and you can’t believe it. This team has obviously so many amazing movies ahead of them but Meru, to me, was the sign of things to come.”

The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan)

 “You’ve watched it, I’m sure. But watch it again. M. Night’s genius will amaze you again. It’s very close to a perfect movie. Every visual choice, every word used and edit cut is a deliberate choice like a master sculpture carving your emotions into a form. I love that he’s been prolific because we need more M. Night in our life. He is the epitome of the storyteller and I aspire to have that kind of mastery of the frame.”

Searching (Aneesh Chaganty)

“Aneesh Chaganty went to my alma mater USC and he is the future. I love that he made #StarringJohnCho a reality and I love that his confidence of technology and suspense and, most importantly, community can be felt in each of his creations. Most people make technology the enemy or don’t understand it enough to use it in a way of how Hitchcock would have used it, but Aneesh does. And he does it with moxie. Can’t wait to see what he brings to the table in the next ten years. I promise you he will be a significant presence.”

Tigertail (Alan Yang) – available on Netflix

“Alan Yang has one of the most distinct voices in his writing, and his first feature doesn’t disappoint. I am always so moved by his combination of heart/humor/visual prowess/music mastery and yet grounded storytelling. I am not sure I have recommended a movie more to my mom than this one (I just couldn’t help with how to make the internet work faster for her #moms). Anyway, Alan Yang bridges a cultural and generational gap that very few filmmakers are able to do and he might be the best of them. Plus, he’s just so dang cool and his work is so relevant and accessible — this will be the movie that people look back on and say it’s where it all started.”

Gook (Justin Chon)

“Justin Chon is the man. For years, I didn’t know him as a director, only as an actor, but he has become one of the most important and exciting voices in the filmmaker community. He doesn’t just leave his heart on the screen, but also his guts. This movie explores some of the most important and unexplored moments in Los Angeles history and does it with no apologies.”


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